MARTIN BARRE

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.

THE HISTORY

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!!


MARTINSGEAR

My PRS guitars are my work-tools and they fly round the world fairly regularly.

They seem oblivious to temperature and humidity variations, out the case and straight on stage.

They cover all the sounds I can imagine in my mind and they respond to every touch and stroke!!!

I look after them personally, including stringing and tuning (it,s part of the job!!!)

Essentially I love them and have a great and respectful relationship with Paul Reed Smith, Bev Fowler and the wonderful craftspeople at the factory.

I have fallen in love with Mandolins and their big brothers, the Mandola and Bouzouki, over the last 10 years or so!!!

As well as the gorgeous Gibson F4 (circa 1917) and the Gibson A 5 from 1958 which I am very lucky to own; I have my three Fylde 8 stringers!!!

They tour with me and not only sound fabulous but are very stable with their tuning.

I've toured with cheaper instruments, but I dont want a compromise with sound anymore. hence the Fyldes.

I love recording with them and they now seem to appear on everything, whatever the style of music...

quite rightly so...

This is a trio of 3/4 size Gibson student guitars from the mid 1950's.

They are pretty to look at and a lot of fun to play.

The blonde "125 "on the left is one of a dozen to be made that year and is in mint condition.

One of my many finds in the depths of Mississippi.

The acoustic was brought to an early Tull gig by a dealer, I didnt really want it and he wouldnt fly it home so I paid $15 for it.

My Hamer Sunburst used on Tull's Bursting Out album and the sole survivor of many Hamers built by Paul Hamer, himself.

We became best friends many years ago and he remains so to this day; a man to be inspired by and an astute musician.

One of the few people I actually listen too!!!

The three love of my lives...(in the world of guitars!!!)

left to right... Gibson "dot-neck" ES335 made in 1961 Gibson ES 135 from the mid 1980,s and a Gibson ES 235 from 1956.

The "dot-neck" was an amazingly generous gift for my 70th birthday from..... myself!!!

I found it advertised on the Manson Guitar Online Shop and it had been owned by..... myself!!! about 15 years previously. Why I sold it then, I'll never know, as it sounds stunning, in fact better than any of my sunburst 59s or, in fact, any other guitar in my cupboard.

Sometimes I just stare t it, but mainly, I plug it in and smile..... a lot!!!

The ES 135, I bought because it looked so cool and, quite frankly, it is cool.

The ES235 I bought from Gruhn Guitars in Nashville.

I saw it on the web page and, somehow, knew it would be nice.

I played it acoustically in the store and it played like a dream so it was no surprise that plugged into an amp it sings like a bird!!!

The sustain from the single P90 is truly awesome and defies that it was built as jazz instrument.

It inspired the track "Back to Steel" and deserves it.

Every guitarist needs a few Fenders and here are a few of mine!

A 1969 Telecaster; I've owned several over the years and this is the best Ive ever played.

Another find from Mississippi!!!

A new DuoTone; just a cool and very easy instrument to play; it really covers the breadth of Fender tones.

A "Fat Strat" made in the USA and a guitar to keep forever, as they dont make this model anymore and it a really dynamic "beast".

I use it for recording and rehersals a lot, as it is a great workhorse instrument.

Three Taylors

left to right

A Doyle Dykes built for the NAMM show in the early 2000's

A 12 fret 614

Full size 614

I own a few more Taylors, including a classical model and they are all used in the studio.

My favourite is the 12 fret, as it is more compact and translates from playing electric much better.

I can use it on live shows and I dont have to adjust too much to an acoustic feel form the easier electric feel??

I have an LR Baggs Anthem on my "live" Taylor and it's a delight to play and hear!!!

I have been using Soldano amps for over 25 years and have found them to be essential to my sound.
They are tough and totally consistant; their reliability is amazing too!!!
I have them dotted around the world, some in Europe, a couple in the USA and a few more in the UK.

The bigger Decatone is my touring amp and the smaller and much lighter "25" is my amp that flies on festival and one-off shows.
They are slightly different in response but both perfect for my needs.

I use a tiny Picoverb on the send/return with a very modest ammount of hall reverb to deepen the tone otherwise, no pedals and not too much front-end gain, as I use the guitar volume to increase or decrease the overdrive.
The crunch channel is for clean through to solo sounds and the overdrive for occasional flurries!!!

I always use Marshall 2 by 12 and 1 by 12 cabs and have a stash of studio amps for variation,including an old Marshall Studio 15, A Blackstar and an Audio Kitchen amp.
for crystal clean I have an old Matchless and a few Fender amps.

I like an amp which responds to the pressure from the pick, so it must be high quality.