John Hawken (born John Christopher Hawken) is a British keyboard player. He studied classical piano between the ages of four and eighteen at which point he succumbed to the lure of rock and roll. Hawken's first band was the Cruisers Rock Combo (1960 to 1962) but he is possibly best known for his contributions to various versions of The Nashville Teens (1962 to 1968). He was then a founding member of Renaissance in 1969. He also played in Spooky Tooth, Third World War, Vinegar Joe, Strawbs and Illusion, as well as being a session musician.
In late 1968 former Yardbird Chris Dreja, John Hawken and steel player Brian (B.J.) Cole were going to form a country rock band, to be managed by Peter Grant and produced by Mickey Most, but they never got beyond the rehearsal stage. Dreja, aware that his former Yardbirds colleagues Jim McCarty and Keith Relf were putting together a new band, suggested Hawken as a possible member. In early 1969 Hawken got a telephone call from McCarty asking if he was interested in the new project. Hawken turned up at McCartys' house in Thames Ditton, along with bass player Louis Cennamo, Dreja and Cole. Cole and Dreja subsequently dropped out of the project: Cole went on to become a session musician heard on many recordings in the 1970s.
A short time later Jane Relf joined on vocals and Renaissance was born, with a line-up of Keith and Jane Relf, McCarty, Hawken and Cennamo. Live gigs included a tour of the US and work in Europe. This line-up recorded two albums, produced by another former Yardbird, Paul Samwell-Smith. Circumstances brought changes in the band, with Keith Relf, McCarty and Cennamo departing, followed soon after by Jane Relf. Hawken helped recruit replacements and, by the summer of 1970, the line-up consisted of himself with Neil Korner (the Teens' second bass player) on bass guitar, Michael Dunford (Cruisers and Teens) on guitar, Terry Crowe (from the early Teens) and Annemarie "Binky" Cullum as vocalists and Terry Slade on drums.
Hawken was ready for a change when Spooky Tooth contacted him in October 1970 for a three-month tour of Europe on the strength of their hit record "I Am the Walrus" from their "Last Puff" album.
In 1971, Hawken joined Third World War. Their singer-songwriter was Terry Stamp. The group recorded one album (the band's second release). The group also included John Knightsbridge (lead guitar) and Craig Collinge (drums). Hawken has recently started collaborating with Stamp and Avery. After a brief spell with Vinegar Joe, whom he left in September 1972, Hawken joined Strawbs in 1973.
At his audition for the Strawbs, Dave Cousins introduced Hawken to the mellotron. The band consisted of Cousins (singer/songwriter), Dave Lambert (guitar), Chas Cronk (bass), Rod Coombes (drums) and Hawken on keyboards. Tours included the US, Japan and Europe. During Hawken's tenure with the band (1973–1975) they released two albums, "Hero and Heroine" and "Ghosts".
In 1977, the original Renaissance re-formed with Jim McCarty, Jane Relf, Louis Cennamo and Hawken. Unable, for legal reasons, to use the name Renaissance, they chose "Illusion" - which had been the title of their second album as Renaissance.
In November, 1979, the Hawken family moved to the United States, and Hawken began playing with The Rocketmen in New Jersey. In 2001, the surviving members of the original Renaissance - Jim McCarty, Jane Relf, Louis Cennamo and John Hawken - recorded and released "Through the Fire" under the band name Renaissance Illusion.
In 2004 the "Hero and Heroine" Strawbs line-up reunited, and undertook a number of tours both in the US and Europe, recording a new album "Deja Fou".
Hawken appeared briefly in the David Essex film, "That'll Be The Day" (1973) as the keyboard player in the band led by Stormy Tempest (Billy Fury), which also featured Keith Moon on drums.
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