Jethro Tull is one of the most successful and influential bands to come out of Britain in the 1960s. The band released their first album in 1968 and continued releasing albums well into the 21st century. The group began life as a British blues band but soon created a unique progressive rock sound. Their brand of prog-rock contained elements of British folk music, blues, and the flute.
That’s right. The flute.
Jethro Tull’s music features an instrument you don’t often hear in rock music, the flute—the band has a rock flutist. With over 60 million albums, and hundreds of thousands of Jethro Tull tickets sold, the group is probably the most successful and popular eccentric rock band of all-time.
The band’s rock flutist is the great Ian Anderson. He’s Jethro Tull’s only constant member although Martin Barre has been with the band since 1969 and has performed on all of their studio albums but their first one.
Anderson wanted to be a lead guitarist but was frustrated by his inability to play great. Wanting to do something “idiosyncratic,” he picked up the flute. When Jethro Tull first formed, Anderson had been rocking the flute for only a couple of nights. He learned very quickly.
Jethro Tull is mainly an album-oriented band—Benefit (1970), Aqualung (1971), Thick as a Brick (1972), War Child (1974)—but many of their songs have become staples on classic rock radio stations. Those songs are “Hymn 43,” “Bungle in the Jungle,” “Aqualung,” “Cross-Eyed Mary,” “Thick as a Brick Edit #1,” and “Bungle in the Jungle.”
Early on, the band struggled to find a club owner that would book them twice. In order to fool club owners and get additional bookings, they would change their name. Anderson tells of seeing a name on a marquee and not realizing it was his band.
The names were usually picked by the staff of their booking agent. One of those staff members was a history buff and booked the band as “Jethro Tull,” an 18th century agriculturist.
The name stuck.
The name stuck because a club owner liked Jethro Tull enough to have them return to his establishment. It was the first time the band was ever invited back to the same venue. Not long after, Jethro Tull released their first single.