John James (guitarist)

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John James
John James (musician) on stage at Greenwich, U.K., 1982.jpg
John James on stage in Greenwich, England, 1982
Background information
Born1947 (age 71–72)
Lampeter, Wales
GenresFolk, pop, rock, jazz
Years active1968–present
LabelsTransatlantic, Kicking Mule

John James (born 1947) is a Welsh fingerstyle guitarist and songwriter. He is best known for his compositions for the guitar and of blues, folk, ragtime, jazz, and classical tunes.


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 arrangements of blues, jazz, and ragtime songs (by composers such as Scott Joplin, and Reverend Gary Davis). Critics dubbed him the "Welsh Ragtime 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 became the first guitarist 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)
  • Guitar Jump (Kicking Mule, 1977)
  • Live in Concert (Kicking Mule, 1978)
  • With a Suitcase Shaped Like That (Kicking Mule, 1981)
  • Acoustia Eclectica (Stoptime, 1984)
  • Guitar Music (Stoptime, 1988)
  • Guitar Greats: John James (Stoptime, 2009)


  • 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).

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