Born in Southend-on Sea, Essex, he began playing the violin at the age of six and later studied at the Royal Academy of Music. Two years as leader of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra were followed by eleven years as leader of the London Symphony Orchestra, in two periods between 1965 and 1979. As the LSO was the world's most recorded orchestra he has a large list of recordings to his name and his performance of the solo part in Richard Strauss's Ein Heldenleben with John Barbirolli conducting is recognised as one of the best ever. On his return to the LSO in 1977 he recorded the Violin Concerto by the London-born composer Ernest John Moeran.
As a violinist, John appeared regularly as a concerto soloist and as recitalist both in the concert hall where he gave more than 250 performances and on record. From 1986 he spent four years as leader of the Gabrieli String Quartet, thus fulfilling a lifelong ambition to explore the marvellous string quartet repertoire. This resulted in many concerts at home and abroad as well as several fine recordings.
Holding the UK's top violin job, that of LSO leader, from the age of 26 presented John with the ideal springboard for launching into a conducting career whilst still young, and in the mid 70's, starting with education work with the Liverpool Phil, he took his first steps as conductor.
However, rather than just simply shift from bow to baton, feeling the need to acquire a sound technique and good understanding of conducting requirements to stand alongside his already substantial orchestral experience, he decided on the arduous course of eight years of conducting studies with Sergiu Celibidache, the legendary Roumanian conductor and teacher. This led to a career which has taken him all over the world as a guest conductor with many of the great orchestras. A long standing relationship with his old orchestra, the LSO, has led to concerts and tours at home and abroad as well as recordings, one of which topped the CD sales charts. The annual New Years Concerts, with the LSO, BBC Concert, London Philharmonic and Royal Phiharmonic Orchestras, which, originally at the Royal Albert Hall, he now conducts at the Barbican. The 2012 December 31st concert was his 37th consecutive year of celebrating the New Year with these Viennese style concerts. His many conducting tours abroad included an exotic trip to Oman where he and the LSO were guests of the Sultan.
He is Music Director and Conductor of the London Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra, founded in 1972 originally as a chamber ensemble, and has been with the orchestra on many tours around the world as well as several successful recordings. His interest in young people is reflected in the fact that he was Director of Orchestral Studies at the Royal Academy of Music and also Conductor of the Essex Youth Orchestra for more than a decade.
Comfortable with most symphonic repertoire, having performed a wide range of music - he is an ardent Bruckner fan - he has also made a speciality of Viennese music and is an honorary member of the Johann Strauss Society of Great Britain for whom he was archives guardian and librarian.
(see: Viennese Music Library)
A wide ranging and varied career has included other Music Director positions as well as the London Virtuosi, namely Bristol Sinfonia, and Bangkok Symphony, as well as the work with many youth orchestras.
It was from 1994 to 1996 that he was Music Director of the Bangkok Symphony, where he used his experience as a recognised trainer to bring this orchestra from a part-time group to a full size international standard ensemble. In 1996 the BSO was invited to Phnom Penh at the specific request of King Sihanouk of Cambodia, the first such cultural visit of any two countries of the region. He is also a regular guest conductor of the Malaysian Philharmonic, an orchestra he helped set up when travelling the world as an auditioner in the late '90s.
He also has a keen interest in arranging and orchestration, including music by Thai composers while in Bangkok with the BSO. Both in the UKand abroad his versions of both rare and well known Viennese music are being performed frequently.
In 2008 he formed the Cinque Ports Ensemble in association with the Deal Festival, his town of residence and for whom he built the original website.
2010 marked the end of his career as a violinist enabling him to concentrate solely on conducting which continues to take him to all corners of the world.
In 2011 he was offered a part in the film "Quartet" as "Bill" the 1st violin in the in-house string quartet. This new experience as a film actor meant he was rubbing shoulders with such eminents as; Maggie Smith, Tom Courtney, Pauline Collin, Billy Connolly, Michael Gambon and many others.This film marked the debut of Dustin Hoffmann as a director.
A major achievement was the instigating of a London New Years Concert which started on 1st January 1977 in the Royal Albert Hall. This was the first of its type in London and became an annual event, moving from the RAH to the Barbican Centre when it opened. In all he conducted these concerts for 40 consecutive years, the last being on 31st December 2015. 25 years were with the LSO and the others with the RPO.
Other interests include golf, cycling and general computer and internet activities.