Jools Holland OBE DL was born Julian Miles Holland on 24th January 1958 in Blackheath, South East London.
At the age of eight, he could play the piano fluently by ear, and by the time he reached his early teens he was proficient and confident enough to be appearing regularly in many of the pubs in South East London and the East End Docks.
At the age of 15, Jools was introduced to Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford; together they formed Squeeze, and shortly afterwards they were joined by Gilson Lavis (who had already played with, among others, B.B. King, Chuck Berry, and Max Wall) – who still drums with Jools.
Up The Junction and Cool For Cats gave Squeeze meteoric success and their popularity rapidly extended to America, where their tour included performances at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
In 1987, Jools formed The Jools Holland Big Band – comprising himself and Gilson Lavis. This has gradually metamorphosed into the current 19-piece Jools Holland and His Rhythm & Blues Orchestra, which consists of pianist, organist, drummer, three female vocals, guitar, bass guitar, two tenor saxophones, two alto saxophones, baritone saxophone, three trumpets, and three trombones.
As well as formidable live performances, Jools has maintained a prolific recording career since signing to Warner Music in 1996, which includes the multimillion selling Jools Holland and Friends series. Notable ‘friends’ have included Sting, Chrissie Hynde, George Harrison, Norah Jones, Eric Clapton, David Gilmour, Bono, Joe Strummer, KT Tunstall, Robert Plant, Smokey Robinson, Kylie, Marc Almond, Ringo Starr, Peter Gabriel, Solomon Burke, and many more.
Collaborative works such as Golden Age Of Song, Sirens Of Song, and Jools & Ruby followed in these successful footsteps whilst 2016 saw Jools Holland pay tribute to his lifelong friend, the piano, with the release of his instrumental album Piano. The record features eight of Jools’ compositions and ten carefully selected pieces interpreting the work of the piano artists and composers that he loves.
In 2017 Jools and his Orchestra were joined on stage for their Autumn/Winter UK tour by Grammy Award winner José Feliciano, one of the most prominent stars in Latin America and revered musicians in the world. They also recorded an album together, As You See Me Now, which includes versions of songs from a wide range of artists such as Stevie Wonder (Treat Myself), Lead Belly (Midnight Special), Percy Mayfield’s timeless soul classic Hit The Road Jack and a completely new ska makeover of José’s festive international hit Feliz Navidad.
2018 saw Jools and his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra team up with international star and long-term friend Marc Almond on a 14-track album, “A Lovely Life To Live”, a fantastic collection of both brand new, original tracks written by Jools and Marc as well as their big band interpretations of a wide range of songs. Highlights include Marc and Soft Cell’s iconic Tainted Love, Edith Piaf’s Hymne À L’amour, Irving Berlin’s How Deep Is The Ocean, two Bobby “Blue” Bland songs – It’s My Life Baby and I’ll Take Care Of You and their co-written trio of songs that are all about the pair’s adoration and relationship with London – I Lost My City, Workhouse Blues and London You Were My Lover. Marc also accompanied them on their live shows, throughout 2018.
A big fan of the cult 1960’s show The Prisoner, Jools’ inspiration for Helicon Mountain – the studio complex he designed and built – was Portmeirion, the setting for the TV series. Jools demonstrated his love of the series by starring in a spoof documentary, The Laughing Prisoner, with Stephen Fry, Terence Alexander, and Hugh Laurie, in 1993.
Jools’ career as a television presenter has run parallel to his musical career. He started in the early 1980s when he interviewed The Police for a documentary that was made while they were recording at George Martin’s Montserrat studio. Jools then auditioned to become co-presenter (with Paula Yates) of The Tube, which achieved almost immediate cult status and discovered a whole new generation of musicians and comedians between 1981 and 1986. Jools also managed to secure a rare interview with Miles Davis, which was broadcast on 14th November 1986.
In two subsequent documentaries – Walking to New Orleans in 1985 and Mr Roadrunner in 1991 – Jools unearthed some of the roots of American music, which led him to talk to (and play with) many of his heroes, including Fats Domino, Dr. John, and Lee Dorsey.
In 1988, Jools wrote a six-part series with Roland Rivron, The Groovy Fellas, about a Martian visiting Earth.
Between 1988 and 1990, Jools performed in and co-hosted (with David Sanborn) two seasons of an acclaimed music performance programme, Night Music, on NBC.
After presenting two series of Juke Box Jury in 1989 and then 26 shows of The Happening in 1990, Jools was asked in 1992 to host a new music programme for BBC2, which combined his talent and experience as a musician with his skills as a TV presenter. This was Later… with Jools Holland. The show has reawakened the innovative spirit of The Tube and celebrated 25 years, 50 series and over 360 episodes of broadcast on BBC Two with a special show at the Royal Albert Hall on Thursday 21st September 2017. The 53rd series concluded in November 2018.
Other television programmes include: Name That Tune; Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush; Beat Route; Jools Meets The Saint; and, in 2002, Jools’ History Of The Piano. Jools also conducted the interviews for the definitive Beatles Anthologyand the Rolling Stones Biography.
He also appeared in the 1997 film Spice World as a ‘Musical Director’ and, on 31st December 1999, performed at the New Year’s Eve Millennium Dome opening ceremony in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, and various luminaries.
Jools’ achievements were formally recognized in June 2003, when he was awarded the OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
The 2004 UK tour kicked off with a star-studded concert at the historic Royal Albert Hall, donating all proceeds to the Teenage Cancer Trust. Later that year, he collaborated with Tom Jones on an album of traditional R&B music. The album, which was recorded at Jools’ Helicon Mountain studio with Laurie Latham, entered the UK Album Charts at Number 5.
In January 2005, Jools and his band performed with Eric Clapton as the headline act of the Tsunami Relief Concert in Cardiff.
Jools married Christabel McEwen in August 2005 and, the following month, he was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant for Kent.
In March 2007, Jools played two very special charity concerts, at Wells Cathedral and Rochester Cathedral, to raise funds for the upkeep of cathedrals throughout the British Isles and highlight the beauty of these historic buildings and the music within them. At the heart of these charity concerts was a new setting of the Mass, composed by Jools and commissioned by the Bishop of Bath and Wells. The new Mass was performed exclusively in the two cathedrals.
Jools’ colourful autobiography, Barefaced Lies & Boogie-Woogie Boasts, hit the shelves on 4th October 2007 (published by Michael Joseph Ltd.); the paperback was published in the summer of 2008.
2009 saw the collaboration between Jools & his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra with Eddi Reader on tracks for (and a cameo role in) the movie Me & Orson Welles, starring Claire Danes (Romeo & Juliet, Homeland) and Zac Efron (High School Musical, The Lucky One). Available on DVD, it was directed by Richard Linklater (School of Rock, Dazed & Confused). Jools and the Orchestra with Eddi Reader perform Let’s Pretend There’s A Moon, I Surrender Dear, and You Made Me Love You (I Didn’t Want To Do It) on the Soundtrack album (Decca/Universal Records).
One of Jools’ personal 2010 highlights was the Sony Radio Academy Silver Award for ‘Best Specialist Music Programme’ presented to his highly-acclaimed and eclectic BBC Radio 2 show. That year saw an even more prestigious achievement: the Sony Gold award for ‘Music Broadcaster Of The Year’. The show has run for 17 years and concluded its current series in December 2018.
Jools also took on the very challenging role of Music Curator for Prince Charles’ September 2010 green initiative START, a festival in the heart of London to raise awareness on all environmental issues. Jools graced the event with a special performance.
He also had the privilege of being part of the stellar line-up at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee concert, set against the spectacular backdrop of Buckingham Palace, on Monday 4th June 2012.
Jools and the orchestra also came together for a very special night of the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall on Friday 1st September 2017 – The Sound of Soul: Stax Records. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Stax/Volt Revue’s first tour of the UK, Booker T. Jones and Sam Moore, both of whom were part of the 1967 tour, joined Stax artists William Bell, Steve Cropper, Eddie Floyd, and special guests Sir Tom Jones, Beverley Knight, James Morrison and Ruby Turner in a magical concert underpinned by Jools and his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra.