When Jethro Tull Won the First Metal Grammy

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Lars & Ian

Lars Ulrich & Ian Anderson (l-r). Photos: metallica.com and Jethro Tull Official Facebook

Let’s face it: The Grammys too often wind up with egg on their metaphorical face. One of the worst examples of that was when it instituted a Best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Performance to honor a genre it had overlooked in the past. And the first award went to Jethro Tull and its Crest of a Knave album on February 22, 1989.

“Everybody thought Metallica would win,” says Tull singer, songwriter and flute player Ian Anderson. “[W]e were, for some strange reason, nominated. And at the time no one paid any attention to the fact that we were nominated. Because they thought there’s no way Jethro Tull are gonna win it. Nor Iggy Pop, nor Jane’s Addiction. It’s going to be Metallica because they were the huge, new, straight-out-of-the-box, enormous, hit talent that year and everybody took it for granted that Metallica were gonna win the Grammy, including Metallica themselves.” Anderson didn’t even attend the awards ceremony.

Metallica had even performed on the show prior to the award being announced, leading everyone to believe…

Watch Metallica perform “One” at the 1989 Grammy Awards

“[W]e were hearing, ‘Metallica’s gonna win a Grammy.’ Everybody was kind of buying into this idea,” recalls the band’s drummer Lars Ulrich. “And obviously, at one point, you start hearing it enough and you start buying into it yourself. The record company had already made 10,000 one-sheets to put in record stores that said […And Justice For All] was a ‘Grammy Award Winner.’ So we said, why don’t we just put a sticker on them that says, ‘Grammy Award Loser’?”

Watch category presenters Alice Cooper and Lita Ford’s reaction

Anderson remains humored by it all. “[When the award] was ordered to Jethro Tull, to a barrage of boos and hisses and gasps of disbelief, I’d like to think that it wasn’t that the 6,000 voting members of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences were voting for Jethro Tull as a heavy rock band or a heavy metal band. They gave us the award because we were a bunch of nice guys who never won a Grammy before. And sad to relate, even after all these years, there is still no category for best one-legged flute player. Otherwise, I’d be winning it every year.”

Related: Our interview with Ian Anderson

And Ulrich looks on it positively. “[We] were psyched that we were involved. We were psyched that we were invited. We were psyched that we got to perform. And then, a year or two later, they invited us back and we got our award. We’ve won a bunch of them since. I can’t remember the count. So it worked out OK.”

Tull’s vast recording catalog is available in the U.S. here and in the U.K. here.

Best Classic Bands Staff
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8 Comments so far

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  1. Mikey
    #1 Mikey 23 February, 2021, 09:11

    Ian will always be the best one legged flute player as far as I’m concerned. Up there with Keith Moon as the best Keith Moon style drummer.

    Reply this comment
  2. MO
    #2 MO 23 February, 2021, 17:45

    If you never saw Tull live, You never really heard Ian play. He was so powerful to see live, I remember it as though it happened last weekend it was that good.

    Reply this comment
    • mackydog
      mackydog 23 February, 2023, 18:48

      I had the distinct pleasure of seeing Jethro Tull 7 times from ’76 to ’82. The best. THE best!

      Reply this comment
    • Tea
      Tea 23 February, 2023, 20:01

      You are so right on that, I got to see Tull right after War Child was released, center stage row 7 or 8, then around 30 years later with Anne Marie Calhoun in Houston, you couldn’t take your eyes off the stage for a second or you’d miss something for the first one and the second one there’s 30 more years of music he had to choose from, Anne Marie was fantastic, nothing like a Tull concert

      Reply this comment
  3. JRB3
    #3 JRB3 29 December, 2021, 12:17

    The Grammys ignored metal until Metallica and others had gone gold and than platinum with record sales. They had no idea what the difference between hard rock and heavy metal were. Look at the nominated bands were that were up for the awards. Somebody needed to send the academy letters to each and every one with a picture of a hole in the ground and a rectangle saying “your face goes here”. Then the caption ” I wanted to help you out with this one, since I was unaware of your inabilities to know the differences or what is so obvious to the rest of us”.

    Reply this comment
  4. Yazmatazz
    #4 Yazmatazz 23 February, 2023, 14:30

    I first saw Tull in New Haven CT in 1975. Jeffrey Hammond was the bass player, wearing his famous black and white striped suit, with matching striped bass guitar. During the show. a fake zebra came onstage (guys in a zebra suit). Ian came over, lifted the tail up and out came little striped balls of zebra poop. Ian picked them up, juggled them onstage and then said into the mike, “next time anyone asks, you tell them Tull’s got their shit together!” The crowd went nuts. Remember it like it was yesterday. Cheers..

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  5. EzyriderNYC
    #5 EzyriderNYC 23 February, 2024, 12:17

    What this award presentation proved many years ago is that the RNRHOF is completely full of sh*t and doesn’t know much about RnR coz it’s run by corporate suits. F*ck the HOF and the people that run it.

    Reply this comment
  6. Lgbpop
    #6 Lgbpop 24 February, 2024, 13:37

    I’ve seen Tull ten or eleven times in their earlier years. First three times were the Benefit tour (once) and Aqualung tour (twice). Not quite on the same level as the Kinks or the Moodies, but darned good.

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