JOHN FOURIE aka JOHN CAREL FOURIE. Born 18th may 1937. Place:  Postmasberg. South Africa.




The spot was first known by the Tswana people as Tsantsibane and Sibilung, and by the Afrikaans speaking people as Blinkklip. In 1892 a town was proclaimed for the local farming community. In 1918 diamonds were found and mined until 1935. Postmasburg became a municipality in 1936.
Postmasburg is named after Dirk Postma, one of the founders of the Reformed Church (i.e. Hervormde Kerk, or Doppers)
Mining: manganese Farming: Livestock: sheep, goats, cattle.



                                            John at 7 years of age 


Raised on the family farm in Postmasburg, Johnny's earliest recollections of any musical influences in his life include his mother, who played accordian, and his uncle Frik, who played guitar and accompanied her. There was no radio on the farm, so most of  the music he heard would be live, the people making music for themselves. Oh, and I understand there was one of these, a wind -up gramophone. This was war years.
But, as I say, most of the music was created in the community.  John's uncle Frik was a big musical influence in John's life, but guitars were very precious, as were all instruments, so John had a hard time getting his hands on a guitar, and he actually attempted to build one himself, this was when he was still a kid. So you can see that the guitar bug was biting from the word go.  It took some years before he actually acquired his first guitar but, as we all know now, acquire it he did . His family moved to Benoni when John was nine, and he can remember seeing the following cowboy stars at the the cinema.
                                                       Roy Rogers Comic Books 
This would still be in the 1940's. Every kid loves cowboys. But these two were big on creating sweet music in their movies. Songs like "Tumbling Tumbleweeds. "  Roy Rogers with the Sons of The Pioneers, and Gene Autrey with " You Are My Sunshine." Just two of the many hits these guys rung up. And.... they played guitars.  Gene Autrey also turned this gentleman  on to guitar.

Joe Pass. He saw a picture of Gene Autrey in a magazine and just fell for the look of the guitar............ and the sound of it.

At the age of fifteen John Fourie moved to Johannesburg and stayed with Flippy Van Vuuren's family. Flippy was a wonderful accordianist and he was also a big influence on John. When John discovered Barney Kessel, that really turned him on, and when he heard Tal Farlow  he went dilly.





Barney Kessel (L) and  Tal Farlowe

From there John's musical advancement really took off. His progress through the music business in South Africa was quite meteoric. He worked with all the musicians of note in Johannesburg and just kept playing, searching, making progress , and was soon the name in South Africa, with his eye on the musical ball all the time. Eventally he secured a gig on a cruise from South africa to the UK and managed to spend a few days in London. That was a spark for him and when he returned to SA he packed his bags and left for London again with his wife and baby. That was the right move at the right time. As with all musicians who venture into new territory, John had to struggle to get established, in fact his first gig was at a restaurant accompanying a violinist who played czardas and Hungarian type tunes. The aforementioned violinist was dressed as RobinHood and John was his assistant ! Hey, you have to eat man.

John's first real break came with the Ray Ellington quartet. John's mate Gilbey Carno was roadie for Ray's band and when the guitar chair became vacant Gilbey suggested John for the Job. So, John joined the Ray Ellington quartet.
A hard reading gig to crack but he cracked it . He toured  with Ray Ellington and started doing broadcasts for the BBC.   Ronnie Scott heard one of the broadcasts and immediately phoned John to invite him to take his own trio into his nightclub, the World famous Ronnie Scott's Jazz club in Frith Street, Soho, London.  Hey, that's a big jump. John's trio consisted of Jeff Klein on bass, Benny Goodman on drums and, of course, himself. John was resident at Ronnie's from 1962 through 1964.  A nice gig to hold down and of course having his own spot between the guest artists from overseas was a wonderful showcase for him.

When John joined the Tubby Hayes quartet he got a heavy initiation.  
            Tubby Hayes.
Counting the first number in, at a very fast tempo, Tubby played the head then walked off the stage and left John to it. And he cracked it. Initiation by fire John called it. Now, by this time Mr Maclaughlin was making his presence felt in London, and John had already met him when Johnny Mac was working at Selmer's music store in Charing Cross Rd. Of course the two became inseparable and spent a lot of time together, booting ideas around, jamming, and John helped Johnny Mac into the Ray Ellington chair whilst he made the move to Ronnie's. So things were going nicely for Mr Fourie, and all the time he was searching, learning, gaining hard experience in the music world. Paying his dues. John Fourie cracked a lot of work in the following  years. He worked all the major studios eg : Pye, EMI, Decca, Phillips etc.  and worked with musical luminaries such as Jack Parnell.

       Roger Webb quartet. 
John was resident on the TV series 5 0 clock club with  Roger Webb, a nice gig to secure. many of the top pop artists of the 60's appeared on that show including Gerry and the Pacemakers and the Moody Blues.
The show was hosted by Muriel Young with Ollie Beak. Everyone loved this show.
Muriel Young & Ollie Beak.
Muriel Young with Ollie Beak

John McLaughlin with John Fourie

Around this time Mr MacLaughlin was ringing the changes with his album "Extrapolation." An album which he was finding hard to get off the ground, but it was having an incredible effect on the Jazz Musicians in London, even though it hadn't been released through a major company yet. Amazing. Let me pick up the story from around that time. The following is from a live interview with John  ( quote verbatim) :
"I also did a fair amount of tv work as I told you. I did the five o clock club for about two years, that paid a nice little salary. I also did various things with Johnny Hawksworth, he liked using me quite a lot, and I did various things . Commercial gigs, I went to Malta, with Brian Odges on bass. ( Brian was on Extrapolation )That was quite a revelation. He was lovely. I was just trying to keep heart and mind together to exact this change into fusion and Mr macMaughlin   was now playing  the music for me -"Extrapolation"- and he was coming round to my house every afternoon and showing off, hurting me. Hurting me, 'cause he was playing this crazy music, and it just turned me upside down, and I just couldn't read this music you know ? And I was jamming with him, he was on fire, and it was beautiful. It was incredible. He was just pumping, but he was scaring me, so I had to go. I had to go. I had to stop playing be-bop. I had to know what this new thing was you know and, ah, after a year, London was not so nice for me. I wanted more privacy, so I came back to Johannesburg and I played with the Hennie Bekker band. This was for two years, and this was 1970. That was brilliant for me ,'cause we played a lot of fusion stuff  and pop music, you know , we played stuff by 'The Association'  - - top bands like 'Chicago' , you know, good pop music, which was another way of seeing the guitar, and then on Sundays we'd play jazz with a lot of fusion, and so it was really a good gig for me.  It really got me into using the fuzz box and going out there.   I really got involved in playing free music by myself. I was searching. Crazy stuff I played, but it was all part of the search. Then about 1972 I went to new York. I thought now's the time to go and play, because now I was deeply involved with Miles Davis, Bitches Brew,  Weather Report etc - I was ready to play that stuff.  So I went to New York. Bad News, not the right place, at the right time, this time. I was an illegal alien after three weeks of holidays, but I decided to stay there. I stayed around for about  two and a half years in new York as an illegal alien, but I played plenty and I learned plenty. I joined up with a band, a band which I hoped would get me to a green card eventually. A band called "Atmospheres."  Clive Stevens" - he's a well known record producer these days, and he had a band which included Steve Gadd, Johnny Abercrombie, you know, two of the top players of our times. They were young New York dudes then, and Abercrombie needed to be replaced. I had done a session that John McLauglin had put me into. Billy Cobham was the drummer and he recommended me to this lot and I joined  and stayed with them for the best part of a year, but they never got a record contract. But it was good experience and I was learning. I was jamming and I was doing lots of gigs, under the counter, you know. I was surviving beautifully, I was doing nicely. But one thing I didn't want to do, was fall back on standards. Funnily enough, the very first week, I went to a club, and saw the bass player from Miles' band advertised - Ron Carter, so great, I went in there and what the hell was he playing ? He was playing with a trio and they were  playing " Satin Doll." ! (laughs) It was a bit of a shock. Anyway, what happened was that after about two years, one Friday, I got back to the loft and the phone rang. I answered, and a voice said" Johnny Fourie" ? and I said " Yes, speaking" and the guy said " This is Chick Corea. "  I said " Yeah, pull the other one."  But it really was Chick Corea. He was ready to form the return to Forever Band, to compete with the Mahavishnu Orchestra and do tha big stadum thing, you know, he wanted to do that big thing, and would I come the next day, a Saturday for a try out. He had a list of names he said he was trying out and I was on the list. I felt honoured but I didn't expect it to come so quick, to happen so soon. Like, I didn't expect it to happen for another two or three years. I had to run around looking for an amp, the amp I had was totally inadequate. so I got an amp and stuff and I did go down on the Saturday morning and there were Chick and Stanley Clarke, and Steve Gadd, and they put me through my paces. I had to play three songs with them. So they put a song up in front of me and they didn't make me play the head, just let me play solos. There was " Spain' and  'Matrix" somethings that I had sort of just heard, and I loved them. And of course I didn't get the job. That went to "Bill' ?  He was beautifully prepared. He had all thequipment and he was playing that sound. He only lasted about three or four weeks and was replaced by Al DeMaeola, for whatever reasons. He was brilliant this guy. But anyway that was Al DeMaeola's gig, and, at the same time, Steve Gadd was replaced by Lenny White, and that was then the band that became the thing. But I was taken aback to be just considered by these giants, I mean I was there to play, but I didn't quite expect it to come so quickly, you know. And then I thought I'd better do something about my legal status, I thought I can't let these things happen, I was illegal. So my daughter and her husband, who were living in Toronto, they suggested I come to Toronto, and maybe get Canadian papers. So I duly went to Toronto only to find it was even harder to get legality and after about three or four months in Toronto, I finally was discovered hitch-hiking on the highway up into the lake district, where I was headed. I had a back pack and I had a book called "Thesaurus of scales and Melodic patterns' * by Slonimski, 'cause up to this time I was an ear-man and now I'm ready to find out what's cooking. And I had a book by David Baker called 'The Lydian Chromatic Concept" and I was going to woodshed for a year.  Then they caught me on the highway.  You're not allowed to hitchhike on the highway. I didn't know that. The Highway Police, yeah. So they checked my accent and asked where I came from. Well, when I said South Africa the cat was out the bag. But they were very nice to me and eventually the immigration told me I had to go back home and make an application from the outside. "You'll be ok, but that's what you have to do." So, they gave me three months to get my shit together and return home, and I came back to Johannesburg and the rest is legend, I never left South Afica again.. but I studied for the last thirty years like you can't believe. Studied what music was all about, went all the way back to where I started."  ( end of interview.) Full circle. There are hundreds, nay, thousands, of  SA musicians who are most happy that John made the decision to remain in South Africa.  It turned their lives around. John Fourie - The Fountainhead of South african music indeed.

 John has taught and lectured at the major universities in South Africa and was resident Guitar lecturer at Pretoria Teknikon. He has also formed and experimented with various lineups and played all the major jazz festivals. 
                                                                       John and Herb Ellis
He's busy making music to this day.  His latest cd - 'Once Upon A time' - is a sheer delight of pure musical expression. Everyone can enjoy this wonderful music. For guitar players it's a must. God bless John Fourie and his music.

 article (c) joemoretti. All photos of J. Fourie (c) John Fourie.

Moretti and Fourie. Guitars for peace mid 80's. We had a very successful duo going at this time. Plenty gigs. TV and radio. 

 *John introduced me to Slonimski's Thesaurus and the Lydian concept  in the mid 1980's. Something for which I'll be eternally grateful.
all articles (c) JoeMoretti music International

    KZN - South Africa