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 and their 2022 album The Zealot Gene. 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.
Martin Barre was born in Kings Heath, Birmingham, England, 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, Johnny Smith and Wes Montgomery to broaden his musical perspectives.
In college he studied architecture at Lanchester Polytechnic (now Coventry University) 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 to R&B to pop, 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, 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.
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, in which we were a lot more at ease.” On the next album, the world success Aqualung, Barre was more confident, stating that in the recording: “Everybody [the band] had input into the making of the album.”
Martin Barre in 1972:
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 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 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.
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 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, 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 (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. (wikipedia)
And here´s his first solo studio album.
Another view of an underrated guitar hero:
When people talk about blues guitar heroes they talk about Jimmy Page, Mark Knopfler, Paul Kossoff. But inexplicably they never seem to mention the hugely talented Martin Barre.
For many years he has provided, along with Ian Anderson, the musical backbone of Jethro Tull, showing off his ability in a range of styles to provide an essential part of the band’s sound. But he has always been a little hidden behind Anderson’s light. So it was with great pleasure I listened to this, his first (I think) solo album in which he gets to express himself.
A set of largely instrumental numbers, based around electric blues but with many twists and other influences thrown in, this is an album that shows him doing what he does best, making the guitar sing. Filled with awry humour, and some outstanding fret work, this feels a personal album at times but one that really entertains and gives a good insight into the man behind the guitar.
An excellent album, highly recommended. (Victor)
Martin Barre (guitar, vocals, flute)
Andy Giddings (keyboards, bass on 12.)
Marc Parnell (drums, percussion)
Matt Pegg (bass)
Martin Allcock (bass on 04.)
Mel Collins (saxophone on 01., 03., 05., 07., 09., 11.)
Rob Darnell (percussion on 01., 02, 05. – 09., 12., 13. vocals on 02., 08., 10, harmonica on 10.)
Wilf Gibson (violion on 14.)
Tom Glendinning (drums on 02., 09.)
Garfield Jackson (viola on 14.)
Marc Johnstone (keyboards on 01.)
Malinda Maxwell (oboe on 14.)
Nick Pentelow (saxophone on 07., 11.)
Tony Pleeth (cello on 14.)
Maggie Reeday (vocals on 07.)
Ric Sanders (violin on 04.)
Richard Sidwell (trumpet on 05., 07., 11.)
Steve Sidwell (trumpet on 05., 11.)
Mark Tucker (guitar, background vocals on 10.)
Graham Ward (drums on 04.)
Gavyn Wright (violin on 14.)
Katie Kirssoon* – Linda Taylor – Weston Forster – Ian Frances – Joy Russell
Alternate vinyl edition:
01. Bug 4.07
02. Way Before Your Time 4.36
03. Bug Bee 0.48
04. Empty Cafe 2.05
05. Suspicion 4.23
06. I Be Thank You 2.16
07. A Blues For All Reasons 7.14
08. A Trick Of Memory 4.09
09. Steal 4.48
10. Another View 1.43
11. Cold Heart 5.21
12. Bug C 0.50
13. Morris Minus 3.03
14. In The Shade Of The Shadow 4.06
All songs written by Martin Barre
The official website: