Ian Anderson and the guitar

What do y’all think of Ian’s guitar work? From what I understand, he plays the acoustic guitar on Jethro Tull’s studio albums. I find it some of the most refreshing acoustic guitar to be found.

Well, Ian’s always been a very good guitar player. In his early days as a musician, he usually played with blues-oriented bands, and was a lead guitarist as well as a singer.

He says he only took up the flute after Mick Abrahams joined the band that became Jethro Tull. Abrahams was, he concedes, a much better guitarist, so he started looking for a different instrument to play. Harmonica seemed too much of a cliche for a blues musician, so that was out. He found a flute in a pawn shop, decided to try learning that (he’s pretty much self-taught; a real music teacher would’ve insisted he stop using his tongue!), and the rest is history.

P.S. Abrahams eventually quit to form the short-lived (but wonderful) band Blodwyn Pig. His replacement was Martin Barre, who’s been working with Anderson ever since.

Is it Anderson on Thick as a Brick and Skating Away? If so, it’s excellent. He’s a real innovator all round.

If you like this sort of playing, I recommend you search out work by Richard Thompson and John Renbourn.

I just saw Ian Anderson in concert on November 1st! He plays a mean mandolin! And he’s still awesome on the flute.

He told us that he didn’t take up the flute until he was 20. Before then he was trying to be a guitar genius, but when he first heard Eric Clapton play, Ian decided to find another instrument, 'cuz he knew he’d never be as good as Clapton.

Yes, that’s Ian in both cases–he plays virtually all of the acoustic guitar on Tull records; Martin Barre sticks almost exclusively to electric. Much of Ian’s characteristic sound comes from his use of small-bodied “parlor” guitars.

For a strong influence on Ian’s guitar picking (and songwriting), check out Roy Harper. His 1971 album Stormcock is a good place to start.