Martin Barre

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Martin Barre
Martin Barre 2013.jpg
Barre 2013 performing in Germany, Bluesgarage Isernhagen
Background information
Birth name Martin Lancelot Barre
Born (1946-11-17) 17 November 1946 (age 67)
Kings Heath, Birmingham, England United Kingdom
Genres Progressive rock, folk rock, hard rock
Occupations Musician, songwriter
Instruments Guitar, bouzouki, mandolin, flute, saxophone
Years active 1968–present
Labels RandM, Fuel 2000, Chrysalis, Eagle, Roadrunner, EMI, Capital, Island
Associated acts Jethro Tull, The Penny Peeps
Notable instruments
Gibson Les Paul
Fender Stratocaster
Hamer Guitars
Custom Built PRS Guitars
Custom Manson guitars [1]

Martin Lancelot Barre[2] (born 17 November 1946, Kings Heath, Birmingham, West Midlands, England) is an English rock musician.

Barre has been the guitarist for rock band Jethro Tull since 1969. He has appeared on every Jethro Tull album except their debut This Was (1968). His sound has been marked by a blend of Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton style blues with the baroque complexities of early 1970s progressive rock and traditional European folk music sounds. Barre has stated in interviews that guitarist Leslie West from American rock band Mountain was a direct influence on his playing. He has also acted as a flautist both on-stage for Tull, and in his own solo work.

Early career[edit]

Barre began his career playing saxophone with the Birmingham band, The Moonrakers, in the early 1960s. During July 1966, he joined Beau Brummell's former backing band, The Noblemen, with fellow ex-Moonraker, Chris Rodger, and the group subsequently changed their name to The Motivation. The band also comprised singer Jimmy Marsh, bassist Bryan Stevens, keyboardist Mike Ketley and drummer Malcolm Tomlinson. The group appeared at London's legendary Marquee Club on two occasions and also supported Cream at the Upper Cut in the Forest Gate district of London. They also performed at the Piper Club in Rome for six weeks in mid-1967.

In the summer of 1967, Marsh and Rodger left and the others brought in former Clayton Squares singer Denny Alexander and became The Penny Peeps. Signed to Liberty Records, 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". By this point, Barre had switched to lead guitar and his impressive solo on "Model Village" has made the track a popular collectors' item.

Alexander left the band in mid-1968 and the group became a blues outfit under a new moniker—Gethsemane. The new band recorded further material, which was never released, and broke up in mid December 1968, when after a brief career in Fat Mattress with Noel Redding of Jimi Hendrix fame, Barre joined Jethro Tull.

With Jethro Tull[edit]

Barre performing with Jethro Tull in Genoa,
14 February 2010 Photo: Pino D'Amico

By the end of 1968, Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson was going through conflicts with his then blues guitarist Mick Abrahams. After a brief stint with Earth, future Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi auditioned and joined Jethro Tull briefly, appearing on the Rolling Stones "Rock and Roll Circus" TV special miming to "A Song for Jeffrey". Additionally David O'List of The Nice auditioned for the Jethro Tull lead guitarist slot without success. Barre came to audition for Anderson, but was so nervous that he barely played. For his second audition, Martin Barre didn't bring an amplifier or a guitar cord. Even so, Ian Anderson still approved Barre as Abrahams' permanent replacement. Today, Barre is the longest-standing member in Jethro Tull next to Ian Anderson.

For four decades, Barre's career focused on Jethro Tull. His best-known guitar work includes "Aqualung", "Cross-Eyed Mary", and "Locomotive Breath".[3]


Up until the mid-70’s, Martin Barre mainly used Gibson Les Paul guitars with Ernie Ball strings, and specially made Gibson picks, which were heavier than normal. He also used a Fender Stratocaster for slide playing. On stage he preferred to run a straight Hiwatt amp with the usual two 4x12 cabinets with a 100 watt top with minimal effect pedals. Eventually his Les Paul guitars became so valuable he didn't want to take them on the road, so he substituted his stage guitars for (Paul) Hamers.

Subsequently Barre has played Tom Anderson and Ibanez guitars for a short time, followed by Mansons, Schecters, and Fenders. Currently he is playing Paul Reed Smith RS 513 guitars through Soldano Decatone 100 Watts guitar amplifier with Marshall 2x12 and 1x12 cabinets. On his most recent outings he has been using GHS strings and Alesis PicoVerb effects, and an Hughes & Kettner Tube Meister 18 ‘tiny amp’ (18 Watts) on sessions and gigs.

Recent work[edit]

Barre performing at the Cropredy Festival, Oxfordshire 13 August 2004

In the 1990s Barre began to perform as a solo artist, and has recorded five albums: A Summer Band (1992), A Trick of Memory (1994), The Meeting (1996), Stage Left (2003) and Away With Words (2013). On these recordings, Barre combined rock and guitar-oriented fusion in his sound.

On one track of 1994's A Trick of Memory, Barre plays a guitar given to him by friend Mark Mancina. The Meeting (1996) features the bassist Jonathan Noyce, who was then introduced to Tull vocalist and flute player, Ian Anderson by Barre and played with Jethro Tull in 1996-2007.

His 2003's solo effort Stage Left saw Barre essay a number of blues, acoustic folk and even ambient electronic styles. In 2004 in support of Stage Left, he played a number of solo dates and played at all of the Tull gigs in 2005. According to his official website, he has also recorded work on the recent album by veteran British folk music outfit, Pentangle.

According to a diary entry on his website dated December 2006, Barre says he "has started work on an acoustic project" with Dan Crisp, a singer and guitarist and Alan Bray, a bassist. Barre states he will be playing a number of acoustic instruments with the group, including bouzouki and mandolin. The group has already played three shows and they will continue to collaborate in 2007. No mention is made of the group recording an album.

In 2012 he toured with a band, which he called Martin Barre’s New Day, and included Pat O'May, Dan Crisp, Frank Mead, Jonathan Noyce and George Lindsay. In autumn 2013 after the release of Barre’s next solo album Away With Words they toured under the moniker Martin Barre & Band.


Barre's 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. Dire Straits' leader Mark Knopfler, in a 2005 interview, called Barre's work with Ian Anderson "magical".[citation needed]

Discography (solo)[edit]


  • A Summer Band' (1992)
  • A Trick of Memory (1994)
  • The Meeting (1996)
  • Stage Left (2003)
  • Away with Words (2013)


  • Martin Barre (2012) — 2 CD (disc 1 — studio tracks, disc 2 — live tracks).


  1. ^ Andy Manson. "Fine instrument luthier". Andy Manson. Retrieved 28 March 2012. 
  2. ^ "LET IT ROCK - Martin BARRE interview". Retrieved 2009-08-15. 
  3. ^ Prown, Pete, and Newquest, HP (1997). Legends of Rock Guitar: The Essential Reference of Rock's Greatest Guitarists, p. 85. Hal Leonard. ISBN 0-7935-4042-9.

External links[edit]