Jools Holland OBE DL was born Julian Miles Holland on January 24, 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 20-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 four trombones.
Jools and the Rhythm & Blues Orchestra play to audiences in excess of 300,000 each year.
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, Ringo Starr, Peter Gabriel, Solomon Burke and many more.
Jools is a big fan of the cult 1960’s TV show The Prisoner, and his inspiration for Helicon Mountain, the studio complex he designed and built, was Portmeirion, the setting for the 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 Rowland 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 will start its 46th series in April.
Other television programmes include Name That Tune; Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush; Beat Route; Jools Meets The Saint; Jools’ History Of The Piano, London Calling and, most recently, the BBC documentary Jools Holland: My Life In Music. Jools also conducted the interviews for the definitive Beatles Anthology and 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, Tom Jones & Jools Holland. 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, commissioned by the Bishop of Bath and Wells and composed by Jools. The new Mass was performed exclusively in the two cathedrals.
Jools’ colourful autobiography, Barefaced Lies & Boogie-Woogie Boasts, hit the shelves on October 4, 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 been running for 14 years, with a new series starting in March at 11pm and running for 13 weeks.
He 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.
On 15th November of the same year Rhino UK released Rockinghorse, a 19-track collection of classic Jools Holland compositions, interpretations and covers, followed in June 2011 by Finding The Keys: The Best Of Jools Holland, comprising 20 songs, all personally selected by Jools himself.
Jools 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 June 4th.
A new studio album with the Rhythm & Blues Orchestra and hosting some very special guests, was released for 3rd December 2012. The Golden Age Of Song is a collection of brand new recordings of classic songs and 5 live recordings from the BBC 2 TV Show ‘Jools’ Annual Hootenanny’. It features the extraordinary talents of Amy Winehouse, Jessie J, Cee Lo Green, Florence Welch, Paul Weller, Paloma Faith, Lily Allen, Tom Jones, Rumer, James Morrison, Paolo Nutini, Joss Stone, Mick Hucknall, Caro Emerald, Ruby Turner and Gregory Porter.
Following the hugely successful release of The Golden Age Of Song, Jools Holland and his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra returned on 24th November 2014 with a brand new album, Sirens Of Song, and an elite gathering of world-class female artists. The album showcases Jools’ talent for amazing collaborations as well as superb musicianship and features duets between the music maestro himself and some of the most iconic female voices in contemporary and classic music: Kylie, Emeli Sandé, Joss Stone, Laura Mvula, Imelda May, Melanie C, Eartha Kitt and Rumer to name just a few.
On December 4th 2015, Warner released Jools & Ruby, a unique collection of 22 collaborations between the boogie-woogie master and UK’s queen of soul Ruby Turner, backed by the big sound of the Rhythm & Blues Orchestra.. Jools & Ruby features a selection of the duo’s personal favourites and crowd pleasers, including 4 new recordings.
On Jan 13th, he hosted the spectacular ceremony that was the European Border Breaker Awards, which took place in Groningen (Holland). The European Border Breakers Awards are funded by the EU Culture Programme and are a vehicle for the European Commission to encourage and recognise emerging artists’ success in popular music and stimulate the circulation of European music and talented musicians. Former winners of a European Border Breaker Award include now established artists such as Adele, Mumford and Sons, Selah Sue, Damien Rice, Agnes Obel, Gabriel Rios, Caro Emerald.
As always, Jools continues to dazzle audiences across the UK with his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra and their exuberant live performances. They have just come off an extensive UK tour and, for the 23rd year in a row, celebrated the dawn of the new year with the whole nation on BBC2’s New Year’s Eve TV Show ‘Jools’ Annual Hootenanny’.
They are currently preparing for the Spring/Summer UK tour. Pauline Black and Gaps Hendrickson of The Selecter will join Jools as special guests on most dates and in the accompaniment of the sound of Jools’ unforgettable Rhythm & Blues Orchestra.