Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson Says He Started Playing The Flute Because Of Eric Clapton

Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson recently opened up about why he started playing his signature instrument, the flute. The musician admitted that he started playing it instead of the guitar because of Eric Clapton during a conversation with Sofa King Cool.

Ian Anderson became a prominent figure in the rock and roll scene after forming Jethro Tull in 1967. He is best known for playing the flute and incorporating its sound into rock music. Also performing as the singer, he is distinctive in being a flute playing vocalist instead of the classic guitar playing leads.

Although Anderson also knew how to play the guitar, he didn’t want to pursue the instrument in the same industry where Eric Clapton, Ritchie Blackmore, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, and Jimi Hendrix were the most significant players. The rocker stated in a recent interview that if he had continued with the instrument, he might have been as good as these names, but he chose not to.

Instead, the musician wanted to try out something new and started to learn the flute. Anderson had been playing the flute only for a few months when he recorded Jethro Tull’s 1968 album, ‘This Was.’ He learned the instrument quickly and decided to continue with it instead of competing with the iconic name Clapton in the rock scene.

He further stated in the interview that Clapton doesn’t play like he used to, but back in 1966, he was much better. Still, the musician praised the guitarist while referring to him as a very fluent, evolved, and articulate musician. Anderson thinks that there is no point in comparing and competing with such a talent at the time.

Here is what the interviewer asked:

“I’ve heard that you started playing the flute because you would never play the guitar like Eric Clapton.”

Anderson answered:

“Yes, that’s true. Eric Clapton doesn’t play the guitar like Eric Clapton. Because the Eric Clapton I am referring to was the guy back in 1966 that John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, who was quite radical in the sense that he was a very fluent guitar player. There were lots of wannabe guitar players, including me. Eric Clapton was, in the context of playing blues, he was a very evolved and articulate musician.

I heard him, I think in 1960, maybe late ’66 early ’67. I resolved at that point that there was no point in me trying to compete with somebody that good. I found out after that; there were a bunch of other hotshots down in London, people like Ritchie Blackmore, Jimmy Page, and Jeff Beck. Then, of course, Jimi Hendrix came along.

There were these other folks who were in a musical way so far evolved. Maybe if I persevered playing the guitar for two or three years, I would have felt that I caught up with them. It was easier at that point to try and do something different. I just chose the flute on a whim. There was no good reason, just thought, ‘Give that a go,’ and it turned out to be a good decision.”

You can watch the interview below.