Jethro Tull are a British rock band formed in Blackpool, Lancashire in 1967. Initially playing blues rock, the band later developed its sound to incorporate elements of hard and folk rock to forge a progressive rock signature. The band is led by vocalist/flautist/guitarist Ian Anderson, and has featured a revolving door of lineups through the years including significant members such as guitarists Mick Abrahams and Martin Barre, keyboardist John Evan, drummers Clive Bunker, Barriemore Barlow, and Doane Perry, and bassists Glenn Cornick, Jeffrey Hammond, John Glascock and Dave Pegg.
The group first achieved commercial success in 1969, with the folk-tinged blues album Stand Up, which reached No. 1 in the UK, and they toured regularly in the UK and the US. Their musical style shifted in the direction of progressive rock with the albums Aqualung (1971), Thick as a Brick (1972) and A Passion Play (1973), and shifted again to hard rock mixed with folk rock with Songs from the Wood (1977) and Heavy Horses (1978). Jethro Tull have sold an estimated 60 million albums worldwide, with 11 gold and five platinum albums among them. They have been described by Rolling Stone as "one of the most commercially successful and eccentric progressive rock bands".
The last works as a group to contain new material were released in 2003, though the band continued to tour until 2011. Anderson said Jethro Tull were finished in 2014, however in September 2017 Anderson announced plans for a tour to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the band's first album This Was, and then record a new studio album in 2018. The current band line-up includes musicians who have been members of Anderson's solo band since 2012. The band began a world tour on March 1, 2018.
Ian Anderson, Jeffrey Hammond and John Evan (originally Evans), who would become members of Jethro Tull, attended grammar school together in Blackpool. Anderson was born in Dunfermline, Scotland and grew up in Edinburgh before moving to Blackpool in January 1960. Evans had become a fan of the Beatles after seeing them play "Love Me Do" on Granada Television's Scene at 6:30. Though he was an accomplished pianist, he decided to take up the drums, as it was an instrument featured in the Beatles' line-up. Anderson had acquired a Spanish guitar and taught himself how to play it, and the pair decided to form a band. The pair recruited Hammond on bass, who brought along his collection of blues records to listen to.
The group initially played as a three piece at local clubs and venues, before Evans became influenced by Georgie Fame and the Animals and switched to organ, recruiting drummer Barrie Barlow and guitarist Mike Stevens from local band the Atlantics. By 1964 the band had recruited guitarist Chris Riley and developed into a six-piece blue-eyed soul band called the John Evan Band (later the John Evan Smash). Evans had shortened his surname to "Evan" at the insistence of Hammond, who thought it sounded better and more unusual. The group recruited Johnny Taylor as a booking agent and played gigs further afield around northwest England, playing a mixture of blues and Motown covers. Hammond subsequently quit the band to go to art school. He was briefly replaced by Derek Ward, then by Glenn Cornick. Riley also quit and was replaced by Neil Smith. The group recorded three songs at Regent Sound Studios in Denmark Street, London in April 1967, and appeared at The Marquee club in June.
In November 1967, the band moved to the London area, basing themselves in Luton. They signed a management deal with Terry Ellis and Chris Wright and replaced Smith with guitarist Mick Abrahams, but quickly realised that supporting a 6-piece band was financially impractical, and the group split up. Anderson, Abrahams and Cornick decided to stay together, recruiting Abrahams' friend Clive Bunker on drums and becoming a British blues band. Cornick recalled that although Evan left, the band said he was welcome to rejoin at a later date. As the only member not having nearby family, Anderson lived in a bed-sit "on the verge of starvation" and worked as a cleaner for the Luton Ritz Cinema to pay the rent. Jethro Tull formed on 20 December.
At first, the new band had trouble getting repeat bookings and they took to changing their name frequently to continue playing the London club circuit, names which included "Navy Blue", "Ian Henderson's Bag o' Nails", and "Candy Coloured Rain". Anderson recalled looking at a poster at a club and concluding that the band name he didn't recognise was his. Band names were often supplied by their booking agents' staff, one of whom, a history enthusiast, eventually christened them "Jethro Tull" after the 18th-century agriculturist. The name stuck because they happened to be using it the first time a club manager liked their show enough to invite them to return. They recorded a session with producer Derek Lawrence, which resulted in the single "Sunshine Day". The B-side "Aeroplane" was an old John Evan Band track with the saxophones mixed out. It was released in February 1968 on MGM Records, miscredited to "Jethro Toe". Anderson has since questioned the misnomer as a way to avoid paying royalties. The more common version, with the name spelled correctly, is actually a counterfeit made in New York. Anderson later met Hammond while in London and the two renewed their friendship, while Anderson moved into a bedsit in Chelsea with Evan. Hammond became the subject of several songs, beginning with their next single, "A Song for Jeffrey".