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JOHN HAWKEN

Updated September 2005

Experienced keyboard player John Hawken joined the Hero And Heroine line-up on keyboards - an interesting parallel with Blue Weaver and Amen Corner, Hawken had been in the Nashville Teens during their hit singles period (Blue had Amen Corner), but had gone on to play in the first line-up of Renaissance with Keith Relf (Blu went prog with Fairweather) and latterly had turned in some pretty convincing rock'n'roll with Elkie Brooks, Robert Palmer, Pete Gage et al. in Vinegar Joe.

He started playing in bands at grammar school in the North of England, later moving Weybridge in Surrey. Via an ad in the local paper he joined a local dance band and subsequently a rock and roll band - the Cruisers' Rock Combo. The Combo later merged with the Nashville Teens - and soon went pro, playing the usual rounds in Germany - Top Ten Club Hamburg, Star Club Hamburg, Frankfurt, Cologne. Legendary manager Don Arden spotted them at the Kingston Jazz Cellar as a potential backing band for Chuck Berry's first tour of Britain. He signed them, organised a session with producer Mickey Most and the hit single Tobacco Road steamed up the charts, putting the Nashville Teens firmly on the map. Tobacco Road gave them a good three or four years of playing in top class gigs - all over Europe, a mini tour of America in 1965, going behind the Iron Curtain to Hungary, the first band to play there - but, without a follow-up hit, the band eventually folded sometime in late 1968.

Hawken next joined Keith Relf and Jim McCarty in the original Renaissance - just out of the Yardbirds and wanting to do something very different - along with Louis Cennamo and Jane Relf, Keith's sister, completing the line-up. After a first album for Island Records, pressure on Keith Relf and McCarty as the main songwriters increased, causing McCarty and Relf to decide to come off the road, Cennamo and Jane Relf following suit after a while, leaving Hawken as the only original member, teaching incoming members the older numbers. This situation palled after a while and Hawken jumped ship to join a four month European tour with a late incarnation of Spooky Tooth, with Mike Kellie, Luther Grosvenor and Mike Harrison.

Hawken next joined Third World War, whose main songwriter, Terry Stamp, according to Hawken - a natural, was an ex-truck driver. The band was very loud and very punkish, definitely anti-establishment and lasted for about a year. A period in Vinegar Joe with Elkie Brooks and Robert Palmer followed - short and according to Hawken, certainly not sweet.

Cousins and Lambert came down to see Hawken play with pick-up band Frankie Reed and the Power House. Liking what they saw, they invited Hawken to join them for auditions near Chalk Farm Roundhouse, where Hawken was introduced to the mellotron for the first time. At those auditions, Hawken played "Where Do You Go" and, with Chas Cronk, a much longer more intricate version of "Shine On Silver Sun", with an unreleased opening section and the whole of the material that would subsequently become the song "Words of Wisdom" on Deadlines sandwiched between the final verse and the closing choruses.

Hawken stayed with the band through two of its classic albums, Hero And Heroine and Ghosts. On leaving he regrouped with his old mates from the original Renaissance and produced a few more albums under the name of Illusion. But the onset of punk proved fatal to this type of music and they gave up the ghost in the late 70s, with Hawken relocating to the US, where he lives to this day. He has kept his hand in playing in various bands for fun, his latest being The Rocket Menm a rock, blues and rockabilly band.

He guested once with Acoustic Strawbs when they played near his New Jersey home. That paved the way for the revival of the Hero And Heroine band which toured to great delight in the US and Canada in 2004, and in the UK in 2005, and recorded a new album in 2004, for which Hawken is reputed to have come up with the name, Deja Fou.

Photo by Dick Greener


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