Jethro Tull was an 18th century agronomist, famous for inventing a seed-drill during the agricultural revolution in Britain.
Jethro Tull, the progressive rock band, was quite popular in the 1970s, due to their unique sound and legendary rock flute solos. This is not the Jethro Tull we’re talking about though. We’re exploring who that band is named after.
It turns out that they are named after an important British agriculturalist and inventor from the 17th-18th century.
Jethro Tull, (born 1674, Basildon, Berkshire, Eng.—died Feb. 21, 1741, Prosperous Farm, near Hungerford, Berkshire), English agronomist, agriculturist, writer, and inventor whose ideas helped form the basis of modern British agriculture.
Tull is perhaps best-known for perfecting a horse-drawn seed-drill that was an important development in improving the efficiency of sowing seeds on a farmer’s field. This occurred during a time of great change on British farms known as the agricultural revolution.
Why Jethro Tull?
It’s reasonable for one to wonder what relevance an 18th century agronomist has to an rock band getting its start in the late 1960s. Not very much it seems.
It was common at the time for managers to choose names for the acts that they managed (see Engelbert Humperdinck). According to Wikipedia, other names used by the band in the early days included “Navy Blue”, “Ian Henderson’s Bag o’ Nails”, and “Candy Coloured Rain”. They were having trouble getting rebooked in clubs so the name changes were a way of getting back into those clubs.
The name Jethro Tull stuck when a club manager liked them enough to invite them back.
Jethro Tull continues to perform and has tour dates scheduled through 2020 and into 2021 (subject to pandemic postponements, of course).
Fans of the classic film This is Spinal Tap will remember the fantastic Stonehenge sequence. According to encyclopedia.com, this segment was lampooning Jethro Tull.
In 1982 Jethro Tull released The Broadsword and the Beast; the medieval iconography of the cover and featured tunes suggested that Tull had begun recycling the image for which it had been most soundly ridiculed. Indeed, that same year saw the release of Rob Reiner’s satirical “rockumentary” This Is Spinal Tap, and the fictional Tap’s mystical setpiece “Stone-henge” was a dead-on spoof of Tull’s excesses.