Martin Barre

Martin Barre has been the guitarist of Jethro Tull for 43 years, his sound and playing having been a major factor in their success. Album sales have exceeded 60 million units and they continue to be played worldwide, representing an important part of classic rock history.


Martin’s guitar playing has earned him a high level of respect and recognition; he was voted 25th best solo ever in the USA and 20th best solo ever in the UK for his playing on ‘Aqualung’. His playing on the album ‘Crest of a Knave’ earned him a Grammy award in 1988.


As well as numerous Jethro Tull albums, Martin has worked with many other artists including Paul McCartney, Phil Collins, Gary Moore, Jo Bonamassa and Chris Thompson and has shared a stage with such legends as Hendrix, Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.


As Jethro Tull are taking a long break from touring, Martin has put together a band to play the “classic” music from the Tull catalogue. His band is a total commitment to give the Tull fans and a broader audience the chance to hear tracks not performed for many years. The band includes top musicians from a similar background.


I was born in Birmingham, England on the 17th of November, 1946. My Grandfather had been a violinist in his own orchestra in Paris and although my Father wanted to play Clarinet, he became an engineer. He never lost interest in music and as soon as I bought my first guitar he gave me albums by Barney Kessel, Jim Smith and Wes Montgomery hoping to broaden my horizons!

My schooling progressed from Kings Norton Grammer, to Tudor Grange Grammer, then onto Lanchester Polytech, later to become Coventry University.

The music scene in the mid 1960’s was big enough to provide most bands with as many gigs as they could handle - more than was wise for someone in full-time education!!

In 1966 I took the plunge and moved to London with a friend, Chris, who had played Saxophone in our band “The Moonrakers”. We had been promised work in the band led by Screaming Lord Sutch (Ritchie Blackmore was once a member), but we were let down.

Work was scarce but we finally landed a gig with a Bognor Regis-based band, “Motivation”, who had backed Beau Brummel. The catch was we both had to play Sax. I bought a Tenor Sax on Friday and spent the weekend practising and auditioned on the Monday. Luckily my flute playing from school helped me bluff my way through.

The band became a Blues band in 1968, after metamorphizing through Soul, R&B and Pop. We backed visiting soul artists such as the Coasters, the Drifters and Lee Dorsey. We even recorded a single “Lady Godiva” for Liberty Records, written by their in-house songwriter who always seemed to be glued to the piano. His name was -- Elton John!

We shared a house with a bunch of mad Scotsmen - a band called Hopscotch. They would later become the Average White Band, and Alan Gorey sang and played bass on a track with us.

We all played up in Dundee on New Year’s Eve with Pink Floyd featuring the new guy, Dave Gilmour. (That was one crazy night!!)

The Motivations became Gethsemane and ended up playing blues clubs all over England. I was happy being back on guitar and also playing lots of flute.

I had heard stories of Jethro Tull, with the flute player that looked like a tramp and a great Bluesy Guitar player...and their reputation was growing fast.

I eventually saw JT in the summer of 1968, at the Sudbury Blues and Jazz Festival. They were modestly billed below Traffic and Fleetwood Mac, but they were very good. John Gee, the Compere, swept the stage afterwards, humourously cleaning it of crawling insects!!!

We met when Gethsemane supported JT in Plymouth at a Blues Club called the Van Dyke. We all chatted afterwards. Four months later, while we were playing in London and about to split from lack of money, Terry Ellis sent his card up from the audience asking me to audition for Jethro Tull. After a second attempt, I got the gig, seemingly on probation!!

Christmas 1968 was spent learning material that was to become the album “Stand Up”.

At first the English audiences didn’t like it - they remembered the Bluesy Jethro Tull. The breakthrough came at Manchester University where all the new music finally found favour.

Soon afterwards we supported Hendrix in Scandinavia. On returning to England, we recorded “Stand Up” and then immediately flew out to the USA for the first of many wonderful American journeys.

1969 saw the band establish credentials in Germany as well. We played with everyone from Led Zeppelin, Paul Butterfield, Grateful Dead, Jeff Beck, Hendrix, Blood Sweat and Tears, Chicago -- well, I could go on and on - but maybe that’s another story!!


In the 1960’s there were two types of guitarists. One lot played Fender, the other lot played Gibsons. Like all teenagers I used to dribble from the mouth whilst looking into the windows of the music shops in Birmingham, England.

My dream guitar was a cherry red Gibson ES335. It cost £175 ($250) in 1964. I couldn’t afford the payments, so eventually I bought the Gibson ES 330 Sunburst – cheaper at £155. My Dad signed the lease agreement (Thanks, Dad!!).

Xmas 1968 - I joined Jethro Tull and had recently bought a very tatty Gibson Les Paul special circa late 1950’s. Previously my friend Dan had lent me his immaculate white one but sensibly wouldn’t sell it to me. I had an early Laney 50 watt head, which I linked to a box 2 x 12” cabinet.

1969 - In January we started our first gigs playing with Jimi Hendrix; I still had my orange “Special” but had borrowed a monster 200 watt HiWatt, again not for sale. I ran it through a 4 x 12” Hi Watt Cab. We recorded Stand Up, no F/X except a Jim Dunlop wah wah in “We Used to Know”.

1970 - Same amps but I bought a Les Paul custom; it was a fake and didn’t stay in the collection very long! But I used it on Benefit. I started using a Hornby Skewes Treble Booster, which gave the HiWatts a bit of a kick. Unfortunately they picked up radio perfectly. Any gig within a mile of a radio station was a disaster!

I also started using an old Watkins Copycat echo – more noise!

1971 saw the Aqualung Album. I had met Leslie West and the result of much admiration from myself resulted in me buying a 1958 les Paul Junior – the Aqualung guitar. X Eyed Mary was played with an unnamed amp about 12” x 6”! My God through a Fender Super, and the rest through HiWatt plus the trusty? Hornby Skewes, Thick as a Brick and Passion Play – were both classic sounds.

1959 Les Pauls and HIWatt! No F/X Minstrel in the Gallery was played on a vintage Les Paul Standard and for Too Old to Rock and Roll I finally made the transition to Marshall 50 watt Heads and, of course 2 x 12” cabs. I also played a Fender Broadcaster on Taxi Grab and a Hamer Explorer Serial number 0002 bought, of course, from my great friend Paul Hamer. Occasionally a MXR phase 90 or Flanger crept in!

In the next few years I stuck with Gibsons until Paul Hamer convinced me his guitars were better! He was right and I must have amassed a dozen of his instruments and played them on Bursting Out, Heavy Horses, Songs from the Wood and Stormwatch.

I started using a Boss CS2 compressor which stayed with me for many years, permanently wired between guitar and amp.

When Paul quit his company I switched to various guitars. Ibanez and then Tom Anderson, which I used for several years but not before using a handmade Hamer Chapparal in solid walnut on Crest of a Knave and Rock Island, this time using Marshall 15 watt practice amps. I ended up wiring six of these little beauties together for live shows.

Another favourite guitar appeared on Under Wraps and Crest of a Knave/Rock Island. This was a beautiful Schecter Strat made from Pau Ferro built by Charlie Chandler. I still have it – it's gorgeous!

The Marshall 15 watt amps struggled for volume and I was introduced to Soldano Decatone amps in the mid-1990s and have used them ever since, with good reason! I hook them up to a Marshall 2 x 12” cab. The noisy Boss compression was superseded around the same time by an Ibanez TubeScreamer, much more subtle in its performance. Nowdays I go straight into the Soldano.

I met up with Hugh Manson from Manson’s Guitar Shop in Exeter, England and he built many fine guitars for me, used on Roots and Branches with the Tom Andersons and on Dot.Com, on which I used a Matchless Lightning Combo for some clean sounds.

After a couple of years on Fender Strats, I am now a dedicated Paul Reed Smith user. I have two superb 513 guitars, a Mcarty semi solid, a Quatro, a Singlecut Electric and a PRS Acoustic/Electric singlecut.

So here is the “Rig” I have spent 37 years building up to!

· Paul Reed Smith 513 Electric

· 2 Soldano Decatone Heads, one feeding one or two 2 X 12" Marshall Vintage Cabs and the other feeding two 1 X 12” Marshall mini-cabs as “front” monitors. From the send of one amp I route through a simple reverb unit (Picoverb) and return to both amps a subtle background hall reverb.

· I use Line 6 radio transmitters - they are so simple and so brilliant!

· Strings from my long standing friends at G.H.S.

· A 1954 Gibson mandolin and Taylor acoustic guitars whenever I can carry extra gear.

· All guitar repairs by Manson's Guitars, Exeter, England.

· Electronic repair by Orchid Electronics, Exeter, England.

I want to thank everyone who has helped me over the years with equipment, many of whom are not mentioned and thank everyone who might help me in the future!!

Here is the list in some sort of order:

Amplifiers Over the Years.

Watkins Dominator (pre-Tull)
Vox AC 30 (pre-Tull)
Laney (mainly Pre Tull)
Plus various “Studio” amps including Fender, Matchless, Cornford, Tech21

Guitars Over the Years.

Dallas Tuxedo!! (pre-Tull)
Gibson ES330 (pre-Tull)
Gibson L P Special
Gibson “Fake” Custom LP
Gibson LP Junior
Gibson LP Sunburst
Gibson LP Standard
Hamer Special Chaparral
Schecter “Strat”
Tom Anderson “Drop Tops”
Manson Electric and Acoustic Guitars
Fender “Hot Rod” Stratocaster
Paul Reed Smith 513, Quatro and Single cut Electric.

I hope this answers some of your queries!