FOCUS: MEET THE ARTISTS...
FOCUS evolved from a trio formed by Thijs van Leer, with bass guitarist Martin Dresden and drummer Hans Cleuver, in 1969. Later that year guitarist Jan Akkerman joined, and in January 1970 the new quartet was christened FOCUS. The name grew out of Van Leer's feeling that much music has no aim other than money and amusement; the word "focus" seemed to be the best way to suggest that this band was seeking something more. In 1971 Jan Akkerman decided to rejoin drummer Pierre van der Linden, who had been with him in Johnny and the Cellar Rockets, the Hunters, and Brainbox. They formed a new band and asked Van Leer to come with them. Cyril Havermans joined on bass guitar, and they decided to keep the name FOCUS. In September 1971 Bert Ruiter replaced Havermans.
Thijs van Leer was born in Amsterdam in 1948. After studying art history at Amsterdam University, he went to the Amsterdam Conservatorium to study flute and composition. He was guided in his flute by his father, a classical flutist, and he earned a degree in flute from the Geneva Conservatoire. He also took piano lessons, was coached in orchestral arranging by Dutch arranger/composer/conductor Rogier van Otterloo, and had organ lessons from Dutch organist/conductor Anthon van der Horst. During his schooldays he led his own jazz group, playing the piano. His career began with the Ramses Shaffy cabaret group, doing close-harmony singing and playing flute. He then formed a trio that backed other artists and played solo, doing compositions of their own, as well as works by Traffic and the Canadian group The Collectors.
Jan Akkerman (guitars and lute), born in Amsterdam in 1946, attended secondary and private schools there. He began playing accordion at age three; at six he taught himself to play the guitar. Later he studied for five years on scholarship at the Amsterdam Music Lyceum. His amateur debut was with the Friendship Sextet, while he was still in school. He began his professional career at 18 with his own group, called Johnny and the Cellar Rockets; this lasted for two years and included Pierre van der Linden. He then formed the Hunters, which also ran for two years. He stayed with his next venture, the Brainbox, for only eight months before joining FOCUS.
Bert Ruiter (bass guitar and vocals) was born in Amsterdam in 1946 and received his schooling in both public and Roman Catholic schools. He started playing when he was 12. His pianist mother taught him to read music; other than that he is self-taught, developing himself by listening to and playing with other musicians. He made his amateur debut in school, with a group called The Spectacles. His professional debut came at age 19, with the Jay-Jays, which toured Holland for about a year. With a guitarist friend he formed a five-piece band called Full House, which played theater and cabaret in Holland, Belgium and Germany for several months, backing Dutch entertainer Herman van Veen. Before joining FOCUS he spent a year doing weekly jam sessions at a club, while he devoted most of his time to practicing and formulating his future plans.
Pierre van der Linden (drums) was born in Amsterdam in 1946 and attended primary school there. He began playing drums at 14 and studied with Louis De Heer, percussionist with the Dutch Opera Symphony Orchestra, and with Nico Prins, of the Harry de Groot Radio and Television Orchestra. At age 14 he made a semi-professional debut with Johnny and the Cellar Rockets, and he played with them for two years. His professional debut was with ZZ and the Maskers, with whom he spent 18 months. For several months he toured with a group playing between acts of the Toni Boltini Circus; following that he did some session work and then spent two years with Brainbox.
Text and pictures kindly sent by CHUCK COBB . For a more detailed biography of each artist, click here.
For a more detailed biography of each artist, click here.