John Renbourn‘s name and that of his band, Pentangle, were always there in the back ground as I grew up in Frimley Green in Surrey. John’s parents were friends with my parents and as my interest in music and playing guitar grew, my Dad would often mention Pentangle. The first time I heard them was when I played Dad’s old copy of ‘Basket of Light‘. I’ll be honest, the complex guitar interplay of Bert and John fell on musically immature ears of this 13 year old. I was just getting into The Jam and The Undertones and Pentangle would have to remain on the back burner for a few more years.
Dad wrote to John and said his daughter wanted to be in a band and did he have any advice. He very kindly wrote back suggesting I listen to my favourite records and see if I could work out the guitar parts. He enclosed some copies of ‘Guitarist’ magazine for me.
Years go by.
I’m living in Highbury with Danny and we form a band called J.D. & Bob and start listening to folk. People who I was aware of but had never really delved deeply into, until now. Nick Drake, John Martyn.
Danny and I befriend The Beta Band and end up recording ‘Lank Haired Girl To Bearded Boy‘ as It’s Jo and Danny.
We move to Wales and listen to more folk. I play Pentangle for this first time since I was 13. Wow! bloody hell, that blew my mind.
We started the Green Man Festival in 2003 and Bob Stanley wrote this wonderful, full page in The Times the weekend before the first festival took place. ‘Now’t As Queer As Folk’. He mentions Nick Drake, John Martyn and Pentangle.
Stephen Cracknell from The Memory Band, who played that first ever Green Man, sampled the first notes from ‘The Pentangle’ album on his wonderful 7″ single released on Hungry Hill.
A scene was developing and Pentangle were a huge part of it. Folk was hip again, not least because of the second hand vinyl that could be picked up of classic folk recordings adding rarity and collectability to the scene. Avoiding the Cambridge Folk of middled aged real ale drinking men and adding samples and modern production to a world of DADGAD tuning and double basses. Green Man grew by word of mouth.
Pentangle’s classic line up had split in the early ’70s and we were told relationships between the individual musicians were strained to say the least.
Danny and I had a dream that one day we would get them back together and they would play our festival.
I got John Renbourn‘s address from my Dad and wrote to him. I told him that it had taken a while, but at last Pentangle’s music had blown my mind. All stuff he’d heard many times before I’m sure. I told him about Green Man and invited him to come and play. It took a few years to come together but in 2006 we had both John Renbourn and Bert Jansch play Green Man. On different days.
The 2,000 capacity tent was packed when John played. My Dad, now in his 80s had come along and was delighted to see his daughter and son in law host this John Renbourn moment. Dad and I went to see John after his performance and they laughed and shared memories, Dad in his wellies, possibly the oldest person on site.
And so, the folk rejuvenation continued with pace and by 2008 the original Pentangle line up had reformed. I spoke to John a few days before they were due to play the BBC Folk Awards – their highly anticipated return – and he said they hadn’t rehearsed yet, but were due to get together over the weekend!
Danny and I were so proud when we at last booked Pentangle to headline the Sunday night of the 2008 Green Man Festival. Our dream of five years previously had come true. Our desire to mix and match the folk boundary pushing artists from the ’60s and ’70s with the new generation from both sides of the Atlantic was growing every year under our Green Man moniker. 2008 also saw The National, Iron and Wine, Caribou, Richard Thompson, Laura Marling, and a very early slot for Mumford and Sons all on the bill along side Wales’s own Super Furry Animals.
Rest In Peace John. Thanks very much for being a part of my family’s life musically and personally. You helped make some of my dreams come true and gave the world such wonderful, wonderful music.