What a name—Jethro Tull.
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It both slinks off the tongue and seemingly has no meaning at all.
But there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to the moniker of this English-born rock group. And how does an 18th-century British agriculturist fit into the meaning of the band’s name?
Let’s dive in and find out.
The U.K. group was formed in 1967, first playing blues rock, and jazz fusion. Soon, though, the group began delving into hard rock and even classical music, creating a “progressive rock” sound.
Today, the band’s frontman, lead singer, and only constant member in its 50-plus-year history, Ian Anderson, a multi-instrumentalist who plays flute and acoustic guitar.
Jethro Tull released its debut album, This Way, in 1968, and that album’s following, the 1969 offering, Stand Up, earned it commercial success, hitting No. 1 in the U.K. The 1971 LP, Aqualung, began to showcase its “prog rock” sensibilities and earned the group more success.
The band continued to tour until 2011 and it released its final album of new material in 1999 with J-Tull Dot Com, as well as a 2003 Christmas album. But then in 2022, Jethro Tull released The Zealot Gene, the group’s first new studio album in 19 years and the first with original songs in 23.
The Band’s Name
In the early days of most bands, names can be hard to both find and agree upon. Jethro Tull was no exception.
At first, the group of musicians had difficulty getting gigs and the band took to changing its name often in order to play the London club circuit. Early options included Navy Blue, Ian Henderson’s Bag o’ Nails, and Candy Coloured Rain.
Band names were often given to the group by their booking agent’s staff. One of those staff members, though, was a history buff and eventually gave the group the moniker, Jethro Tull, which was also the name of an 18th-century agriculturist. That name stuck because, in part, the group used it the first time a club manager liked their show enough to invite them back to play his club.
Hilariously, the band recorded a session with producer Derek Lawrence, which spawned the single, “Sunshine Day.” The B-side was “Aeroplane,” a cover of a John Evan Band song. That work was released in 1968 on MGM Records, miscredited to “Jethro Toe.”
The band’s frontman, Anderson, has since wondered whether the mistake was created as a way to avoid paying royalties to the band.
Jethro Tull, the Person
Jethro Tull, the person, was born in 1674. He was an English agriculturist from Berkshire who, scholars say, helped to bring the British Agricultural Revolution to the country in the 18th century.
He is credited with developing a horse-drawn seed drill in 1701 that sowed seeds in neat rows. Later, he developed a horse-drawn hoe. His methods were adopted by many and helped to set the foundations for modern agriculture.
His father was Jethro Tull, Sr.
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