ALWAYS the quiet one, compared to the flamboyant exuberance of their one-legged flautist, vocalist and songster-in-chief, Ian Anderson, Martin Barre has garnered much critical acclaim for his work on huge-selling albums such as Aqualung, Thick As A Brick, Heavy Horses and 1987's award-winning Crest of a Nave for which he was honoured with a Grammy.
But this recognition came in spite of inauspicious beginnings: a shambolic audition following the hasty departure of Tull's original Blues-orientated guitarist, Mick Abrahams, and the short inter-regna of Tony Iommi, guitarist with Earth (aka Black Sabbath) followed briefly by David O'List, previously with prog-rocksters The Nice.
"Yeah it was horrible! Very badly organized and chaotic and very uncomfortable for everybody involved," he says. "It's not the best way of finding a musician having a room full of them and dragging you up for two minutes to see what you can do! But that was 44 years ago – that's a long time and that's the way things were done back then. There was no sophistication at all.
"They were exciting times but there weren't great guitar players around other than Hendrix and Clapton and Peter Green and a few others. The rest of them were all pretty mediocre but in the 40-odd years since everyone has learnt how to do it just to survive!"
Martin brings his six-piece band to Budleigh Salterton Public Hall in November with a heady mix of blues and rock, spiced with selected gems from the weighty Tull back catalogue.
When I spoke to at his home in West Devon, he had just completed some overdubs on the final track of the new album which is due out any day now.
"It's finished now finally and it's all looking great," he told me with palpable enthusiasm. "I've got a deal that I'll hopefully be signing next week and they're talking about a late September release. I'm hoping that'll be mid-September. It's all looking excellent."
So what is the idea behind the new album.
"Well it's an idea I had about six years ago," he admits. "I thought some of the quieter more melodic Tull tunes like Moths and Old Greaser and Fire at Midnight would be really lovely played with guitar and very mellow flutes, bouzoukis and mandolins… rather than just Jethro Tull instrumentals.
"I wrote a lot of music that was sympathetic so the end result is that nearly every track has a twin piece of music that I've written, either at the front or in the middle. It all sort of segues."
I asked Martin about the new tour which kicks off properly this month at the Tavistock Wharf and runs through well into November, following their triumphant return to Fairport Convention's annual Cropredy get-together in early August.
"We play some blues standards," he told me. "Things like Steal your Heart Away. I've re-written an old blues thing called Rock Me Baby that loads of people have recorded but you won't recognise it.
"I don't like boring 12-bar blues, well they're not boring – it's great playing them – but I like to take the music a bit further.
"It's a very cool arrangement and it still rocks, it's got lots of music in it. Then I've taken things like Fat Man, New Day Yesterday, Song for Jeffrey and I've given them a bit of a shake-up to make them slightly more oddball, a bit heavier.
"So some things are messed with because it's fun and other things just need to be left well alone. By the time we get to Budleigh I think we'll probably have another two or three new numbers in the set.
"The whole idea in my mind is to keep it really fresh, so it changes all the time, but it'll be a great set. Good fun.
"I mean, if you aren't having a great time on stage every night then something has to change and I make sure it changes before it gets to that point. So every gig's a good one.
"I read a lot of fan letters some saying Jethro Tull's no good without Martin or Jethro Tull's really good or my band's really good – everyone has a different take on it.
"But one guy said, 'Look, get over it and look on the bright side. We had one great band and now we've got TWO'. And that's the way I look at it. Puts it in a nutshell really!"
Tickets for the gig at Budleigh Salterton on Sunday, November 10, are £18.50/£20.50 or £25 on the door. Tel. 01395 443419 or 07891 663044.