Best known today as a jazz/new age guitarist, John Weider has led a many-faceted career; beginning at the height of the British beat boom as a teenager, through the psychedelic era as one of England's most respected musicians, past progressive rock, and out the other side as a serious composer in his 40s and 50s. Weider was born into a Jewish family in London on April 21, 1947. A natural musician, he studied classical violin for nine years, from ages seven to 16, and also took up the guitar (and later bass). By the time he was in his teens, the British beat boom had begun in earnest, with groups like Cliff Richard & the Shadows reaching their peak of influence and popularity, and another, more heavily American-influenced wave about to break. Weider became part of that second wave at 17, as a member of Steve Marriott & the Moments, whose lineup -- including Marriott and organist Jimmy Winston -- eventually comprised half of the original Small Faces. Weider's subsequent groups included Tony Meehan's Combo, starring the ex-Shadows drummer, and stints in the Laurie Jay Combo and Johnny Kidd & the Pirates.
In late 1966, bassist/singer Danny McCulloch, who had already auditioned successfully for the bass player spot, told Weider about an opening for a guitarist in a reconstituted version of the Animals that Eric Burdon was putting together. The fact that Weider also played the violin made him ideal for Burdon, who was looking for a new sound for his group. (Another beneficiary of Weider's successful audition was the Moody Blues: they were in the market for a new guitarist and, as that spot was filled in the Animals' lineup, Burdon sent the remaining responses to his blind ad to them. As has been related many times in interviews, the Moody Blues got singer/guitarist Justin Hayward out of Burdon's favor to them.) Weider was soon joined in the lineup by Vic Briggs, a guitarist with whom he had previously worked in the Laurie Jay Combo, who was also formally trained in music. Together, the two of them made a formidable double lead-guitar combination, especially on-stage: Weider was Burdon's principal collaborator on the songwriting within the group (though at Burdon's insistence each member was credited as co-author on every song); while Briggs arranged the music, adding horns, reeds, and other instruments as needed. On-stage, Weider was one of the stars of the band, switching between guitar and amplified violin. The latter was captured for posterity in the group's best-known gig, as part of the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, of which their performance of "Paint It Black," driven by Weider's violin, is a highlight. The group enjoyed some success for three years, but, by the end of 1968, Briggs and McCulloch had left and Weider had switched over to bass part of the time, while sharing guitar duties with Andy Summers.
The group split at the end of 1968, and Weider later turned up playing on Brinsley Schwarz's Despite It All album, and John Entwistle's Whistle Rhymes LP, as well as albums by Roger Morris, Dominic Troiano, Moonrider, Nicky James, and Gulliver. Weider began a solo career in the mid-'70s, initially working in the vein of a singer/songwriter before turning to new age and classical music in the 1980s. His 1989 album Essence included a cover of the Eric Burdon & the Animals hit "San Franciscan Nights." Among the musically active ex-members of the Animals, John Weider has probably come the farthest from his origins; he's certainly at least in a dead-heat with Vic Briggs, who embraced eastern religion and music in the 1970s and 1980s.