This Day in ’69: Jethro Tull Performs Their First U.S. Show
50 years ago today, Jethro Tull stepped onstage to play their inaugural performance in the United States…and apparently either they liked it or America liked it, because five decades later, they’re still playing dates across the U.S. of A.!
The location of this highly notable performance was New York’s Fillmore East, a venue of some note, as it was under the management of the legendary Bill Graham. Unfortunately, Jethro Tull hadn’t yet reached the point of popularity in the States to warrant a headlining gig, so they were actually the opening act for Blood, Sweat and Tears. And while this would be a great time to quote one of BS&T’s most famous lyrics and say that what goes up must come down, it’s not as though Tull supplanted their position in the great pantheon of rock artists. (They did, however, end up with more career longevity, so that’s something, right?)
Ian Anderson discussed that first tour and Jethro Tull’s efforts to find an American foothold with Smashing Interviews not so long ago, and here’s what he recalled of the era:
“That very first tour was quite a tricky one to do because we really didn’t have a lot of gigs. We took off for America, and I think we had shows at the Fillmore East, with owner Bill Graham and Boston Tea Party, the late 60s venues. That was a guy without whom probably Jethro Tull would never have gotten started. We were there for 12 or 13 weeks on that first tour. A lot of the time we were sitting on our hands in very cheap accommodations, hoping there’d be somewhere for us to play tomorrow night!
“We suffered a little bit, I think, at least from that tortuous first tour. The second tour was a bit easier in the summer. That was when we were on tour and doing some days with Led Zeppelin. In the third tour in the USA in ’69, we were a little more confident. We had our second album released. We had some new material to play, and it was an opportunity to get noticed in some other markets in the USA other than just the obvious major cities, so we expanded our position.
“I think with that third tour, 1969 was indeed a busy time, and in the midst of all that, of course, was Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon. Things like that were incredibly passionate moments of American spirit, and I was there when that was going on. That was very exciting.”
Jethro Tull and America: two great tastes that taste great together!
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