John James (guitarist)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
John James
James on stage in Greenwich, England, 1982
James on stage in Greenwich, England, 1982
Background information
Born1947 (age 72–73)
Lampeter, Wales
GenresFolk, pop, rock, jazz
Years active1968–present
LabelsTransatlantic, Kicking Mule

John James is a fingerstyle guitarist,composer and entertainer. His popular appeal is attributed to his ability to entertain with humour & musicianship,a blend of presentation and performance that has brought the art of the fingerstyle guitar from the dedicated guitar fans to the appeal of a wider audience.


James learned the rudiments of music at the piano, switching to the guitar at the age of 12. He played in pop and R&B bands before concentrating on solo acoustic guitar. In 1968 he made a name for himself in the folk clubs of the U.K., playing his own songs & arrangements of blues, jazz, and ragtime pieces (by composers such as Scott Joplin, and Reverend Gary Davis). Critics dubbed him the "Welsh Guitar Wizard".[1]

He recorded several albums for Transatlantic in the early 1970s, including an album of duets with guitarist Pete Berryman[2] called Sky in My Pie. His contemporaries on the label included Pentangle, Gerry Rafferty, Ralph McTell, Gordon Giltrap, Paul Brady, and Steve Tilston. He was one of the first guitarists in the UK to arrange and record the music of Scott Joplin.[citation needed] In the mid 1970s he signed with Kicking Mule Records and in 1976 released an album of fingerpicking guitar solos and duets called Descriptive Guitar Instrumentals. This album included guitarists John Renbourn and Duck Baker. According to Stefan Grossman, James's compositions were written in musical form without the aid of the guitar, enabling him to develop ideas without being limited by his technique.[citation needed]

With a career spanning over four decades, James has recorded over 15 albums and toured extensively, playing with Jools Holland, Ralph McTell, John Martyn, Led Zeppelin, Happy Traum, Eddie Walker and Dick Heckstall-Smith (famed for playing in the jazz rock band Colosseum), John Mayall, and Jack Bruce. He was a guest on the last tour by Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry of the UK in 1976. He has performed at Royal Albert Hall, Paris Olympia, Edinburgh and Cambridge Folk Festivals.

His compositions have appeared in method books by Stefan Grossman. He was a columnist for Guitar International magazine and produced best-selling guitar tuition cassettes[3] and videos.[4] He has appeared on many UK radio and TV shows, including presenting the BBC TV series Broadsides.

James has played a variety of different acoustic guitars over the years: Levin Goliath, Gibson LG1, Fylde Oberon, Fylde nine-string acoustic, and Martin M36.


  • Morning Brings the Light (Transatlantic, 1970)
  • John James (Transatlantic, 1971)
  • Sky in My Pie (Transatlantic, 1972)
  • Head in the Clouds (Transatlantic, 1975)
  • Descriptive Guitar Instrumentals (Kicking Mule, 1976)
  • Live in Concert (Kicking Mule, 1978)
  • With a Suitcase Shaped Like That (12th Street Records, 1981)
  • Acoustia Eclectica (Stoptime, 1984)
  • Guitar Music (Stoptime, 1988)
  • Carolina Shout (Stoptime 1989) with Eddie Walker
  • Side Steppin' (Stoptime 1993) with Eddie Walker
  • Guitar Greats: John James (Stoptime, 2009)
  • Cafe Vienna (Stoptime 2013)
  • John James (BGO 2017) CD reissue of Transatlantic LP's.


  • Advanced Fingerpicking Guitar, Ragtime and More! (2004). Homespun Tapes (CDJAMRG99).
  • Jools Holland's Music Makers - The Guitar With John James DVD (2001). Beckmann Visual Publishing.
  • Grossman, Stefan (Ed.) Contemporary Fingerpicking Guitar Workshop (Almo Publications, 1981).
  • Grossman, Stefan (Ed.) Fingerpicking Guitar Solos (Chappell Music Ltd., 1979)


  1. ^ Grossman, Stefan. Fingerpicking Guitar Solos, pp 4-5.
  2. ^ "Pete Berryman". peteberryman. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  3. ^ "Home - Homespun". Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  4. ^ such as "Masters of British Guitar" (1995) and "Jools Holland's Music Makers - The Guitar With John James" ("Virgin Vision", 2001).

External links[edit]