Martin Barre


Martin Lancelot Barre (; born 17 November 1946) is an English guitarist best known for his longtime role as lead guitarist of British rock band Jethro Tull, with whom he recorded and toured from 1968 until the band's initial dissolution in 2011. Barre played on all of Jethro Tull's studio discography except for their 1968 debut album ''
This Was ''This Was'' is the debut studio album by the British rock band Jethro Tull, released in 1968. Recorded at a cost of £1200, it is the only Jethro Tull album with guitarist Mick Abrahams, who was a major influence for the sound and music style ...
''. In the early 1990s he began a solo career, and has recorded several albums as well as touring with his own live band. He has also played the flute and other instruments such as the mandolin, both on stage for Jethro Tull and in his own solo work.

Early career

Martin Barre was born in
Kings Heath Kings Heath (historically, and still occasionally King's Heath) is a suburb of south Birmingham Birmingham ( ) is a City status in the United Kingdom, city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands (county), West Midlands, England. It i ...
Birmingham Birmingham ( ) is a City status in the United Kingdom, city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands (county), West Midlands, England. It is the second-largest city, urban area and ESPON metropolitan areas in the United Kingdom, metropol ...

England England is a that is part of the . It shares land borders with to its west and to its north. The lies northwest of England and the to the southwest. England is separated from by the to the east and the to the south. The country cover ...

, on 17 November 1946. His father was an engineer who had wanted to play clarinet professionally. Barre played flute at his grammar school. When Barre bought his first guitar, his father gave him albums by
Barney Kessel Barney Kessel (October 17, 1923 – May 6, 2004) was an American jazz guitarist born in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Noted in particular for his knowledge of chords and inversions and chord-based melodies, he was a member of many prominent jazz groups as ...

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Johnny Smith Johnny Henry Smith II (June 25, 1922 – June 11, 2013) was an American cool jazz Cool jazz is a style of modern jazz Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, Louisiana, United States, in the ...
Wes Montgomery John Leslie "Wes" Montgomery (March 6, 1923 – June 15, 1968) was an American jazz Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, Louisiana, United States, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, ...

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to broaden his musical perspectives. In college he studied architecture at Lanchester Polytechnic (now
Coventry University , mottoeng = By Art and Industry , established = , type = Public university, Public , endowment = £28 million , budget = Pounds sterling, £787.5 million , chancellor = Margaret Casely-Hayford , vice_chancellor = John Latham , students ...
) for three years, but did not complete his studies after failing Spanish and Atomic Science, subjects that he found to have little to do with designing buildings. After designing a road junction in Birmingham, England, he decided that a career in architecture was too boring, and switched to music. In 1966 he moved to London with his friend, Chris Rodger, who had played saxophone in their previous band, the Moonrakers. In London, Barre and Rodger got an audition for a band called the Noblemen, who were looking for two saxophonists. Barre bought a tenor saxophone, and after two days of practice was able to bluff his way through the audition. The band subsequently changed its name to the Motivation, and backed visiting soul artists such as the Coasters, the Drifters and Lee Dorsey. The band evolved through several musical styles, from
soul In many religious, philosophical, and myth Myth is a folklore genre consisting of narratives that play a fundamental role in a society, such as foundational tales or origin myths. The main characters in myths are usually non-humans, such as ...

R&B Rhythm and blues, often abbreviated as R&B, is a genre of popular music that originated in African-American communities in the 1940s. The term was originally used by record companies to describe recordings marketed predominantly to urban African ...
pop Pop or POP may refer to: Places * Gregorio Luperón International Airport (IATA code POP), Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic * Pop, a tributary of the river Jijia in eastern Romania * Poppleton railway station (station code), York, England People ...
, and in 1967 changed its name to the Penny Peeps. By this time Barre was playing lead guitar. As the Penny Peeps the band released two singles in 1968, "Little Man With a Stick" backed by "Model Village", and "I See the Morning" backed with "Curly, Knight of the Road". Finally in mid-1968 they became a blues band named Gethsemane, and played in pubs all over England, with Barre playing guitar and flute. When Gethsemane and the band Jethro Tull played at a blues club called the Van Dyke in Plymouth, the members of the two bands got acquainted. Then, four months later, while Gethsemane was playing in London and about to break up because of lack of money, Jethro Tull's manager,
Terry Ellis Terry Lynn Ellis (born September 5, 1963) is an American American(s) may refer to: * American, something of, from, or related to the United States of America, commonly known as the United States The United States of America (USA), common ...
, sent his card up from the audience asking Barre to audition for Jethro Tull. The audition did not go well. Barre was so nervous that he barely played; but he arranged a second audition. This time he was offered the job. He spent the Christmas holidays of 1968 learning material that was to become the album '' Stand Up''.

Jethro Tull

On the first album that Barre recorded with Jethro Tull, ''Stand Up'', he said that he was: "terrified because I had just joined the band. It really showed a change in direction for the band and when it was accepted and became a successful album, we gained a lot of confidence. We extended that confidence into the making of ''Benefit (album), Benefit'', in which we were a lot more at ease." On the next album, the world success ''Aqualung (Jethro Tull album), Aqualung'', Barre was more confident, stating that in the recording: "Everybody [the band] had input into the making of the album." In the following period, his solos blended virtuosity with classical music, such as on ''Minstrel in the Gallery'', where the opening track has a four-minute solo, or his piece (shared with Barriemore Barlow, Barrie Barlow) "Conundrum" and "Quatrain" on ''Bursting Out''. Barre declared that much of the material from Jethro Tull catalogue was written by himself and Ian Anderson, with Anderson getting the credit for writing the lyrics and having the initial idea for the music: "then I, or someone else in the band, contribute parts to it." Two albums on which Barre is credited with having contributed "additional material", ''Songs from the Wood'' and ''Heavy Horses'', are two of those which, he has stated, show his best playing. Barre embraced the new Jethro Tull sound on the album ''Under Wraps (Jethro Tull album), Under Wraps'' (1984), despite its foregrounding of synthesisers and relegation of his own guitar work to the background. The album contains two tracks co-authored by him. On his work with Jethro Tull, Barre also stated: "I'm quite pleased with my playing on ''Crest of a Knave'', which was basically me, Ian and [bassist] Dave Pegg working in the studio for two months, so I had ample time to put a lot of myself into that album." He is credited on only another two Jethro Tull album tracks: "Hot Mango Flush" from ''J-Tull Dot Com'' and "Winter Snowscape" from ''The Jethro Tull Christmas Album''. Concerning his contribution to Jethro Tull music, Barre stated: "I've done bits and pieces on albums. Sometimes it's a riff; sometimes it's a little segment of music ... I don't mind taking a small role in the writing, and a larger input into the arrangement and playing." About the end of his involvement in Tull, Barre stated in 2015 that "It's important that people realize there will never be a Jethro Tull again. There will be two solo bands: the Ian Anderson Band and the Martin Barre Band, and long may they exist, and long may they enjoy playing music. I'm not being pedantic. I always hate to hear, 'Oh, you've left Jethro Tull.' I haven't really. Ian wanted to finish Jethro Tull, wanted to stop the band completely." When Anderson reunited Jethro Tull in 2017 for their 50th anniversary tour, Barre was not asked to return.

Solo work

On one track of 1994's ''A Trick of Memory'', Barre plays a guitar given to him by friend Mark Mancina. On the album, King Crimson alumnus Mel Collins plays the saxophone, and Fairport Convention's Maartin Allcock and Ric Sanders appear on a couple of tracks, and Andrew Giddings, Andy Giddings plays Hammond organ. According to the AllMusic review: "the dominant sound is Barre's guitars, soaring, crunching, grinding, or noodling gently, either blues or English folk tunes"; to the reviewer, the album is "a decent debut album". ''A Summer Band'' was released only in limited edition. In 2003, on his album ''Stage Left'', Barre used an unusual electric guitar style shaped by folk/acoustic and hard rock elements. It was his first album to be released in the United States. In the album, Barre shows his style of playing with "tricky and complicated" melodies, being always "elegant, even when he's rocking hard". In 2012, with the end of Jethro Tull touring, Martin assembled a band to tour and record the compilation/live titled ''Martin Barre''. The line up included former Tull members Jonathan Noyce and Doane Perry (who split duties with drummer Fred Moreau), John Mitchell (musician), John Mitchell, and guitarist Pat O'May. In 2014, Barre announced that he would tour as an acoustic quartet (including Dan Crisp and Alan Bray) to promote ''Away With Words'', which was well received by the ''Prog Magazine'', saying that in the album, "Barre has taken an imaginative approach to his own past by readdressing many of his favourite, often more obscure, nuggets from lull's [sic] vast cache, chiefly on acoustic guitar." Later in 2014 a new album was announced to be released that September, called ''Order of Play'', which was a louder electric record. Barre announced his sixth solo album in 2015. Called ''Back to Steel'', Barre says the album is a blues rock recording. It was followed by ''Roads Less Travelled'' in 2018. Martin Barre commenced a tour of the U.S. in the spring of 2019 to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of his joining Jethro Tull and the release of ''Stand Up''. On the tour he was supported by his band consisting Alan Thomson (musician), Alan Thomson (bass), Dan Crisp (guitar and vocals) and Darby Todd (drums), along with special guests (former Tull members) Dee Palmer on keyboards and Clive Bunker on drums. The band were completed with Ali Humphries and Becca Langsford on backing vocals. The show was presented with a full multimedia backing show provided by fans from The Jethro Tull Group. A new double CD album release was available at the shows. MLB is a celebration of 50 years of Jethro Tull as arranged and performed by Martin, his band and guests. In August 2019, Barre appeared again at Fairport's Cropredy Convention. For 2020, Barre had planned to celebrate 50 years of Jethro Tull music with a world tour. However, most shows were cancelled or rescheduled due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Adam Wakeman, Clive Bunker and Dee Palmer were scheduled to be guest musicians in several presentations.

Playing style

Barre once said that he tried not to listen to other guitarists so that he would not be influenced by them. He said he never took guitar lessons so that he would not sound like other players. However, one guitarist he has praised and recognized as being an influence is Leslie West, from the American band Mountain (band), Mountain. Reviewers have sometimes described Martin Barre's sound as "tricky" and "complicated", highlighting his ability to compose melodies instead of simply soloing.


Barre's best-known guitar work includes that on the songs "Aqualung (song), Aqualung", "Cross-Eyed Mary", and "Locomotive Breath". His signature solo on the 1971 Jethro Tull standard "Aqualung" was voted by the readers of ''Guitar Player'' magazine as one of the top rock guitar solos of all time. Also, in 2007, this solo was rated one of the 100 Greatest Guitar Solos by ''Guitar World'' magazine. Authors Pete Brown and HP Newquest named Barre's "Aqualung" solo as the 25th-best solo ever in the USA and 20th-best solo ever in the UK. Dire Straits leader Mark Knopfler, in a 2005 interview, called Barre's work with Ian Anderson "magical". Joe Bonamassa cites Martin Barre as a direct influence, especially in the blues playing of the early albums. Other guitarists like Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and Eric Johnson (guitarist, born 1954), Eric Johnson also cite Martin Barre as influences. Rush (band), Rush's Geddy Lee mentions the "great guitar sounds" of Martin Barre when remembering the album ''Thick as a Brick''.


''For his discography with Jethro Tull, see main article: Jethro Tull discography''


* ''A Summer Band'' (1992) - Various live tracks in a limited edition run of 500 CDs. * ''A Trick of Memory'' (1994) * ''The Meeting'' (1996) * ''Stage Left'' (2003) * ''Away with Words'' (2013) * ''Order of Play'' (2014) * ''Back to Steel'' (2015) * ''Roads Less Travelled'' (2018) * ''MLB - 50 Years of Jethro Tull'' (2019)


* ''Martin Barre'' (2012) – 2 CD (disc 1 – studio tracks, disc 2 – live tracks).


* ''Live in Munich'' (2014) * ''Live at the Factory Underground'' (2019)

Guest appearances

* 1973 Chick Churchill (''You and Me''; also features Roger Hodgson and Rick Davies of Supertramp) * 1978 Maddy Prior (''Woman in the Wings'') * 1978 Dan Lowe (''Fahrenheit 361'') * 1980 John Wetton (''Caught in the Crossfire (album), Caught in the Crossfire'') * 1981 5 Furious Fish (''Just for the Halibut'') * 1997 Spirit of the West (''Weights and Measures (Spirit of the West album), Weights and Measures'') * 1997 John Carter (''Spirit Flying Free'') * 1998 Clive Bunker (''Awakenings'') * 1998 Willy Porter (''Live'') * 1999 ELP Tribute (''Encores, Legends and Paradox'') * 2001 Various artists incl. Steve Vai, Carlos Santana, Alan Holdsworth (Guitars for Freedom 9/11 charity) * 2003 Vikki Clayton (''Movers and Shakers'') * 2005 Pentangle (''Feoffees' Lands'') * 2007 Dave Pegg (60th birthday show) * 2007 ''Excalibur (rock opera), Excalibur 2'' * 2010 ''Excalibur (rock opera), Excalibur 3'' * 2010 Chris Thompson, Gary Brooker, Frank Mead, Henry Spinetti, Dave Pegg (Live in Germany Classic Rock Tour) * 2012 Pat O'May (''Celtic Wings'') * 2015 Mick Abrahams (''Revived!'') * 2018 Dee Palmer (''Through Darkened Glass'')


External links

Official website
* * {{DEFAULTSORT:Barre, Martin English rock guitarists Lead guitarists Jethro Tull (band) members Musicians from Birmingham, West Midlands 1946 births Living people Progressive rock guitarists British folk rock musicians