Artist Details

Jan Akkerman

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See also:
German tribute site
Official Jan Akkerman website

One of the best and most influential guitarists in the world. Jan Akkerman not only holds this position because of the fact that he was once chosen as best guitarist in the world by UK rock magazine Melody Maker but also because of his ever daring and inventive way of playing his instrument and the urge to develop himself.

The albums he has released, not only as a solo act but also with his bands Johnny & the Cellar Rockers, the Hunters, Brainbox and Focus, underline this.

1946 - 1960
Jan Akkerman is born on December 24, 1946 in Amsterdam. He starts taking classical guitar lessons at the age of five. Soon after that he forms his first bands.

With his band Johnny & the Cellar Rockers Akkerman records his first single: Melody In F Rock/Exodus. He starts working as a session musician for people like Aart Brouwer and Karin Kent. In the meantime, Johnny & the Cellar Rockers (with Pierre van der Linden on drums) keep recording new songs.

Akkerman scores his first hit with his band the Hunters: A cover of the Bob Dylan song Mr. Tambourine Man.

Akkerman becomes legendary when playing a fabulous guitar lick on the Hunters' track Russian Spy And I.

The Hunters fail to score any more hits and Jan records his first solo album Talent For Sale. For the larger part the albums contains covers of soul and R&B tracks.

1969 - 1970
Akkerman forms Brainbox. Singer of this band is Kaz Lux. Akkerman's career in Brainbox is short-lived, however: He leaves the within in a year. According to Akkerman the band's manager has kicked him out. Next he joins the Thijs van Leer Trio, which later will become supergroup Focus. Initially the trio acts as backing group in the musical Hair. Following that the threesome records a single with cabaret duo Neerlands Hoop and some tracks with pop singer Bojoura. Their full-length debut comes with the release of the album In And Out Of Focus. Although the track House Of The King becomes a hit, the album sounds very differently from the music with which Focus will become famous.

Some severe measures have to be taken in order to achieve international fame: Drummer Hans Cleuver is kicked out of the band and is replaced by Pierre van der Linden (ex-Brainbox) and Martin Dresden is replaced by Cyril Havermans. With this line-up the band records its second album, Moving Waves. The album not only contains the track Eruption (which takes up one entire side of the album), but also the chart topper Hocus Pocus.

1972 - 1973
The innovative musical style brings Focus international success. But Akkerman also records several solo albums. On the first album, Profile, he gets help from his Focus collegues Pierre van der Linden and Bert Ruiter. The second album, Tabernakel, is recorded with the American rhythm section of Carmine Appice and Tim Bogart. Akkerman also causes great uproar when walking off stage during the Grand Gala Du Disque event, at the time the most prominent awards show domestically. His comment: 'People were talking through my music.'

1974 - 1976
The (international) success and the pressures that go with it put their mark on the band's line-up. Drummers come and go and the relationship between Akkerman and Van Leer has reached its lowest point. Akkerman then decides to leave the band. He records the album Eli with former Brainbox singer Kaz Lux. Eli is one of the few examples in the history of pop music that good reviews and good sales sometimes do go together very well.

A UK tour with Kaz Lux ends up fairly disastrous because the crowd, not familiar with the album Eli, doesn't take too kindly to Lux. For Akkerman this is cause to step out of the spotlight and settle himself in the province of Friesland, in the north of the Netherlands.

1978 - 1979
The high recording costs, Akkerman often makes use of entire orchestras on his albums, and the relatively bad sales of the albums, make record company Atlantic decide to terminate Akkerman's contract.

Akkerman records the album Oil In The Family. The album is based upon an Arabic concept, supplemented with disco rhythms. The album enters the album charts, but Akkerman's rock fans are disappointed.

1982 - 1984
The search for new styles and a new fan base has started. Akkerman experiments with guitar synthesizers and computers and always manages to find a record company that is wiling to release one of his albums. On From The Basement Akkerman's rock roots slowly re-surface.

Time for a Focus reunion. Well, sort of. Akkerman and Thijs van Leer record a new album and also perform together, but not for long, however, because they still can't stand the sight of each other. After only one album and a couple of gigs the reunion is called off.

1986 - 1987
Akkerman performs on a regular basis accompanied by drummer Ton Dijkman and bassist Michael Peet. Akkerman's self-released album Skydancer comes out.

Sting manager Miles Copeland asks Akkerman to join his Night Of The Guitar tour. The invitation also results in the album Noise Of Art, which is released on a sub label of Copeland's IRS label that specializes in instrumental rock music. The album brings Akkerman back into the album charts.

1990 - 1991
Akkerman works as a session musician for people like André Hazes and B.B. Queen. He also performs again with Focus.

Jan is seriously injured in a car accident. He is bedridden for months.

Exactly one year after the accident Akkerman gets married. He also releases the album Puccini's Café, which is reasonably successful. In the memory of concert promoter Paul Acket, Akkerman and Van Leer perform together one more time at the North Sea Jazz Festival.

1994 - 1998
The CD Blues Hearts is released, but without much success. Live, however, Akkerman still tops the bill. He releases the live album 10.000 Clowns On A Rainy Day. Several compilation albums with old material come out.

Akkerman concentrates on playing in theatres accompanied by double bass player Wilbrand Meischker and bassist Manuel Hugas. The album Passion consists of acoustic improvisations, which are recorded during the soundchecks of his concerts. The album receives positive reviews. Akkerman also takes part in Five Great Guitars, a project with fellow guitarists Jan Kuiper, Eric Vaarzon Morel, Leonardo Amuedo and the Groningen Gitaarduo.

Akkerman tours the country with Ton Dijkman (drums) and Wilbrand Meischker (double bass).

In May Akkerman travels to the UK for several concerts. In June he is special guest at a BB King concert in the Netherlands. Early July he records some material with Paul Michiels in Antwerp, Belgium. He starts writing a column for magazine Gitaar ('Guitar') Plus and in November his Dutch Jazzah Tour kicks off.

The album Jazzah featuring drummer Ton Dijkman is released.

Jeroen Rietbergen, Michel van Schie en Ronald Molendijk from Soulvation produce Jan Akkerman's new album. In July Akkerman goes to the US for his first tour in 28 years. The CD and DVD C.U. are released in October and include concerts, which were recorded in Germany.

The book 'In & Out Of Focus: The Music Of Jan Akkerman' is an unauthorised biography by British writer David Randall. Akkerman's son Waling studies computer/DJ at Leeuwarden-based Academy for Pop Culture.

On February 16 Jan Akkerman wins a Golden Harp at the Harpen Gala in Bussum. Akkerman and band perform at the North Sea Jazz festival in The Hague. In October he kicks off his Dutch theatre tour Fromage à Trois, a tribute to Django Reinhardt and his Hot Club De France.

From January 16 Akkerman guest stars in the Queen In Concert tour which also includes singer Bert Heerink (ex-Vandenberg). The guitarist plays on two tracks on the album It's Alright by blues band Phil Bee and The Buzztones. Film director Hans Hylkema works the entire year on an Akkerman documentary. Amongst others he films a guest appearance of Akkerman at a New Cool Collective Big Band show. As of December 2006 Akkerman embarks on a theatre tour, dubbed Live In Concert. He picks out of his wide repertoire, including ballads, blues, rock and swing. Bassist Wilbrand Meischke, keyboardist Coen Molenaar and drummer Marijn van den Berg accompany him.

On Sunday April 15 pubcaster NPS broadcasts Hans Hylkema's documentary Jan Akkerman: Portret Met Gitaar uit ('Portrait with the guitar switched off'). The guitarist plays various times in the UK this year: in May with his own band, and in July supporting Gareth Pearson. In August he's at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and in October at the Ullapool Guitar Festival.

Jan Akkerman continues to tour and make concerts. In july he releases the double DVD/CD set "Live in Concert - The Hague 2007" - recorded during the Hague Jazz in May 2007. A vinyl LP from this event is also released.

Source: Dutch Rock & Pop Institute