General News

Bert Jansch RIP

Gordon Giltrap Bert Jansch Rob Armstrong
It is with deep personal sadness that I heard of the passing of my dear friend Bert Jansch on the morning of Wednesday October 5th 2011.

His music changed my life as a young man, and his friendship enriched it as I grew older. I looked on him with awe, almost like the older brother that I never had. His music was almost a part of my DNA.I longed for his approval, and when I did receive it, it meant more than words can tell.

With his passing, my life and the thousands who shared the love of his art will never be the same again.

Let history tell of our friendship, and the highest regard I had for this towering genius.

My 10th Oct Birmingham concert was dedicated to the memory of my dear friend Bert


This is SO difficult to do because my friendship goes back so far with Bert I cannot for the life of me remember our first meeting. I remember Bert saying that he felt we had known each other all our lives!

I was reading the wonderfully eloquent and heartfelt tribute that Ralph McTell wrote for Bert on his website, and it very much mirrors my own memories of this extraordinary human being!

Yes, we got drunk together, did the odd gig together, but remember only one occasion where we actually played together, but again I can’t remember the details. All the memories great and small mean a great deal to me. Those wonderful instrumentals, those beautiful haunting songs, that unique vocal delivery that you either loved or hated. There was no middle ground. You either got it or you didn’t.

When I was invited to appear on the Ken Bruce show and his ‘Tracks of my Years’ segment I chose Dreams of Love from the first album as one of my chosen tracks, such was the impact of his music on my young life way back in 65/66. I remember the first time I saw him play at Les Cousins in Greek Street. It was a revelation to me, yet again another life changing experience. I doubt I heard him play better since. As good but not better. He turned up looking very sharp, wearing a grey suit, shirt and tie and had a beautiful blond on his arm who I believe was Nicola from the album of the same name. He spent much of the evening making sure she was OK; in fact much of his attention was directed more towards her than us in the audience!

Me being me, I just had to speak to him, and I asked a typical anorak question about the make of his guitar, he was a bit off hand with me which was fair enough as he obviously wanted to get away with the lovely Nicola, but he did tell me it was made by John Bailey. Within two years I would have a JB guitar, but that’s another story. There was also an occasion where I nearly bought his John Bailey guitar. I can’t remember why he was selling it. It was after a Pentangle gig, and I had arranged to see him after the show. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough cash at the time. Can you imagine what that guitar would mean to the world now? Its worth would be priceless! I think that guitar may have been stolen during a Pentangle tour of the States.

I remember bumping into Bert on the platform of a London Railway station. This would have been around 1972/73. He had just returned from a solo gig somewhere. I was on the way to the recording studio for a mixing session and invited Bert along, but before then we decided to go for a drink! We ended up in a pub in Cambridge Circus downing numerous pints of bitter and then falling into a cab heading for Wimbledon. What a great time that was for me, drinking with my hero! There were to be many times after that where I shared an evening in a pub with dear Bert. On one occasion I even took my dear old Dad along to a pub in Putney to join in with an evening’s drinking. My Dad by then had become a huge fan of the man who had changed his son’s life with his amazing music. Bert was great and made him most welcome and told him not to be so daft when my father said he couldn’t believe he was in the company of Bert Jansch! I’m so pleased to have been able to create that memory for my late Dad.

During that time in 1981 my personal life was in disarray and I found myself spending a lot of time with Bert and his then lady Charlotte. I stayed over one night and was brought a mug of tea by Bert the following morning. I remarked that he was up bright and early. He said he preferred to be up and doing things as it stopped him from thinking too much. I can only read in to that comment that here was indeed a tortured soul. Shortly after that I managed to secure an endorsement deal for Bert with Yamaha. He had been using their guitars for years on stage and in the studio and they just suited him. Later on of course he would be using Rob Armstrong guitars as well, but in the main his main road guitar would be a Yamaha. Through the endorsement deal and monthly retainer from the company he was able to secure a bank loan and open the Bert Jansch Guitar shop. We did a couple of shows for Yamaha, and Bert suggested we do some gigs together. Sadly this never happened. Maybe I instinctively shied away from it because of his drinking, or maybe life with all its twists and turns stopped it from happening. Either way it was nice that he asked.

As an overview of Bert’s life I believe that he should have been wealthy enough not to worry about where the next penny came from, after all he was Bert Jansch, the man who influenced a generation of guitar players right across the world with his enigmatic and unique original approach to the guitar. Let us not forget the disgraceful way he was treated over Blackwaterside and a certain guitarist who lifted his superb arrangement, changed the title and made it his own! I was round Bert and Loren’s place only two years ago and we were having that very conversation. I think Bert was weary of the whole thing by then as this had been like a black cloud over his head for many years.

It is a difficult one for me because a few years back, whilst attending a memorial service for John Entwistle, I was quite happy to have my picture taken with this said guitarist who in all truth should have made sure that a substantial sum was given over to Bert, and full acknowledgement given. I personally couldn’t sleep at night knowing I had ripped someone off to such a degree, but hey ho that’s life I guess.  What I should have done was to have had the bottle to tell him what I really thought. If the circumstances had been different maybe I would have. There’s still time!

A few years ago it gave me deep satisfaction to record my own personal tribute to Bert in the form of my Janschology six track CD. It gave me enormous pleasure to invite Bert, Loren and Loren’s folks to a Ray Burley / Gordon Giltrap concert at the Purcell Rooms where I launched the CD. It was on another occasion at the same venue that I invited Bert to be my special guest. He played well and the audience love it. Bert, bless him sent his fee back with a covering note (which I still have) saying that it was a pleasure playing for me and to do it for a mate! THAT was the kind of guy Bert was. He was the personification of kindness and generosity. Money didn’t figure that much in Bert’s life.

Not many people know that apart from his obvious musical gifts that Bert was a skilled carpenter. He made many pieces of furniture for his London home. I even asked him if he fancied making me something! I would pay him of course....he just smiled that special BJ smile.

His knowledge of working with computers was astounding, and I know his favourite reading matter was Sound on Sound magazine. His newly built studio in the garden was wonderful, and his knowledge of recording was vast. He was also a gifted artist, and did that line drawing of a fiddler on the Jack Orion album. Bert was truly the Renaissance man!

Here is an amusing story relating to another time I was at Bert’s place. He had just acquired a new Yamaha acoustic. I asked him if I could have a play on it. He said “yeah go ahead”. I was playing it and it sounded fine, and Bert had done a superb job of setting it up UNTIL I started playing above the 12th fret where the strings were virtually on the frets and totally chocking out. I said” hey Bert this guitar’s unplayable above the 12 fret”... Bert’s reply... “I don’t play up there”   I’m smiling as I recall this because he was in my book one of THE greats of the guitar, but didn’t bother playing above the 12th fret. Obviously all he needed to say was BELOW the 12thfret. A lovely memory and one I have started sharing with my audiences!

Since Bert’s illness I have been ringing Ralph McTell on a fairly regular basis to find out the state of play, not really wanting to bother Bert and Loren with phone calls. This was a good way for Ralph and I to keep in touch and to chat generally about our shared friendship. Of all the people on this planet that I would seek approval from it would be Bert. I continued to be in awe of him. Ralph said he felt the same and that in many ways it was right and proper that we should feel that way. Ralph said if you were looking for approval from anyone you wouldn’t get it from “Herbert”. He said that it was just Bert’s way and maybe part of his Scots upbringing. All I know is that the day he and Loren drove all the way up from London to share my 60th birthday was one of THE greatest moments of my life. As a birthday gift they gave me a signed bottle of Chambertin!

In the video below Gordon Giltrap and Bert Jansch discuss the finer points of Bert's classic 1972 piece Chambertin. It was recorded by Geoff Olner back stage at The Hub - Sleaford before both were performing in Jan 2009. Bert was playing his "Bert Jansch Signature" Rob Armstrong and Gordon his 1980 Armstrong used for his current JHS Vintage "Clone" which is available nationally.

The last time I saw Bert was when I visited him in Charing Cross Hospital. I guess I spent an hour or so with him, and when we finally said goodbye and hugged each other, I think I knew in my heart that this would probably be the last time I would see him. His battle with alcohol has been well documented so there is no need to highlight it here. Needless to say his health suffered extremely because of it, and he showed great courage in rebuilding his life in the face of constant pain. His wife Loren was without doubt his mainstay and support in all of his artistic endeavours towards the end of his life, and without her, much of what he achieved I’m sure would not have come to fruition. A remarkable woman indeed, and very much like the one I am privileged to live with!

As I type this I still cannot believe he has gone. His music and presence in this world has almost become a part of my DNA. I feel very honoured and privileged to have known him as a friend for over 40 years. The resonance of truth in his extraordinary music will live on.

We now at this time think of his widow Loren. Brave, beautiful Loren. It only seems like yesterday that Hilary and I were sharing in the joy of their wedding day.

The funeral of Bert Jansch

What a wonderful turnout for the great man, and on top of that the sun shone! Needless to say a sad day but a wonderful one in many ways. People’s memories of Bert were very touching, and Danny Thompson’s few words brought a smile to our faces and were much needed.

Dear Loren looked frail, but my God what courage this woman has. She was determined to make this SUCH a special send-off.

Many a tear was shed, and when they played, Strolling Down the Highway at the memorial gathering after the funeral, it just did it for me. I caught Martin Carthy’s eye and I know we both felt the same. So much history, so many memories which I know will remain. I was sat next to Adam, Bert’s son. After they played the wonderful Chambertin, he turned to me and said: “I would have never dreamed that I would be sat next to you whilst they played Chambertin”. I was much moved!

With his passing the legend will just grow and grow, and his grave will become a kind of shrine for thousands of music lovers and guitarists around the world.

People present on the day reads like a who’s who of the acoustic scene in this country. Martin Carthy, John James (thanks for being there John) Terry Cox, Danny Thompson, Jacquie McShee, Gerry Conway, Bernard Butler, Steve Ashley, Johnny Marr, Mike Piggott, Derek Brimstone, Dave Swarbrick, Roy Harper, Pete Stanley, Ann Briggs, Lee Nicholson, Maggie Boyle. Sadly John Renbourn was away working as was Ralph McTell, but his wife Nanna was there to represent him, as was Bill Leader’s daughter Annie and Bill’s son Tom. I also believe that John Renbourn’s first wife Judy was present along with Bert’s first wife Heather, also Charlotte, Adam’s mother, and Ralph McTell’s brother Bruce May.

As I type this I’m still coming to terms with his passing as I’m sure all who knew and loved him are. His music and his presence meant more to me than anything. I instinctively knew that I was in the presence of a genius, and for that I feel very privileged.

The world will never see the likes of him again. He was a complete one off. I will miss him, and I guess each time I pick up that hollow box with six strings he won’t be far from my thoughts.

Our thoughts now turn to dear Loren. If I was a praying man I would pray for her speedy return to good health. All I or anyone else can do is hope and be as supportive as possible. Our love and thoughts go out to her family and to this remarkably brave woman who devoted her life to the love of her life.

I am fortunate enough to be blessed with a similar partner in my lovely Hilary who like Loren has devoted the past 25 years of her life to me and my chosen art through good times and tough times and I know against all the odds will continue to do so.

How blessed men like us are, as Bert was, to have a soul mate like that.

Be well dear Loren.

Update 9th Dec 2011 - Loren Jansch Passes

The low’s of 2011 have been low beyond belief with the passing of my dear friend Bert Jansch followed swiftly some weeks later by his beloved wife Loren. They say time heals, but I believe it will take some while for the music world to come to terms with Bert’s passing, and Loren’s family with the burden of their loss of Loren.  Life can be so cruel at times!

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I first became aware of Loren way back in early 1980. Adverts would appear in certain magazines advertising an album by a beautiful young songwriter called Lauren Auerbach.  I eventually met her at a Pentangle concert at a pub in Putney where I was a special guest. I was very taken by this very quiet and lovely young woman. She wasn’t singing that night but I certainly remember her as a lovely young dark haired girl.

It was many years later when she and Bert were planning their wedding that I got to know Loren for real. What was apparent from the word go was her total devotion and love for Bert.

I always got the impression, and later this would prove to be true that this remarkable young woman was the driving force behind Bert’s significant re-emergence as the true genius he always was.

I visited their home in Kilburn on a number of occasions, the most significant and poignant one was during both of their treatments for cancer. On that visit the three of us shared memories of the past and one or two VERY special guitars in Bert’s life, the most important being the Yamaha that he used to record LA TURNAROUND. He had given it to his late son Richard many years before, and on Richard’s passing the guitar came back in to their possession. This guitar was iconic in my eyes and was still in wonderful condition in spite of years of wear and tear. Whilst at their flat I took a photograph of Bert playing it. I still have that picture on my phone. It’s not great quality but I treasure it!

Loren was SO proud of Bert’s new garden studio that she urged Bert to give me a guided tour. Needless to say it was wonderful, and Bert played me a new recording of a piece whose title escapes me. Just to hear it was enough for me. It was in that studio that Bert revealed his deep concern and worry for Loren’s health, even admitting that what she had was potentially worse than his illness. As I looked deep into his eyes I was lost for words, and just mumbled certain platitudes like you do saying that I’m sure she will be fine and that indeed both of them would come through this. I wished to God I had been right.

Over the period of their illness I would ring on occasion to find out how they were doing and in the main it would be Loren who would answer the phone. She always sounded cheery and put on a brave face bless her.

When not ringing the Jansch household I would ring my old friend Ralph McTell to find out what he knew. His response was similar to mine and it was Ralph who told Loren that she was an example to us all with her positive outlook on life. She was definitely a glass half full person.

At Bert’s funeral we witnessed outstanding courage from this amazing woman. I have run out of superlatives to describe her iron will to keep going for Bert even after his passing, to make sure that this genius got the send off he deserved. I know with all my heart that Loren got the send-off she deserved.  She was much loved by us all and my memory of her at [Sleaford a few years ago at the Guitar Exhibition I was the curator for will remain in our memories for ever. A wonderful weekend was shared with Bert and Loren alongside Rob Armstrong, his lady Sheila and our friends Cath and Geoff Olner and of course my darling Hilary. It was Geoff who filmed that wonderful moment with Bert and I discussing the finer points of Chambertin, and you can see Loren sitting opposite us enjoying the whole thing. It was also Geoff who photographed Bert myself and Robbie the following morning at the hotel. I shall treasure that picture for ever and it stands in pride of place in my music room. Ironically I’m the only one not smiling!  

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I know that Loren knew how much she and Bert meant to me, and when they both made the effort to drive all the way up from London to attend my 60th birthday ( pictured above ) it really was the best ever. I’m sure it was Loren who galvanised Bert in to making the trip, as he suffered much pain when travelling. They gave me as a gift a bottle of Chambertin, which later I swore I would not open until they both got the all clear, but it was Loren who said” open it now Gordon, enjoy it” This I did. The signed bottle still remains and will be there for many years to come.

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It is hard to believe that just under a year ago I rang Loren to see how they were. Bert was still in the States and due home within a few days. Loren was decorating the tree in readiness for his return to make this a special Christmas. I’m sure it was!

Thanks to Geraldine Auerbach for sharing this lovely family photo of them both from that last Christmas.

Loren we loved you. Loren we miss you. Loren you were a one off and a beacon of light in this dull old world of ours. Our thoughts are now with your loving family who have to cope with this unfathomable loss.

Gordon Giltrap December 16th 2011.

Rest in Peace Bert and Loren, the world is a poorer place for your passing.