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Jethro Tull Wins the First Heavy Metal Grammy Award Today in 1989
By: Ray Hidalgo

Black Sabbath
may have been the genre’s pioneers, but Metallica set the standards for metal. With riffs that are as clean out of the studio as they are dirty to the ear, vocals that would render any rabid sports fan hoarse after a one-song spin on karaoke, and a booming onstage presence, there’s no denying that the quartet of crass bring heavy to the table.

At the 31st Grammy Awards in 1989, the award for Hard Rock/Metal Performance was as good as theirs with the hit album “And Justice for All”…until one certain band fronted by a man with a flute ran away with the shiny hardware. The culprit album was “Crest of a Knave” and the band was the genre-ambiguous Jethro Tull. You can liken him to jazz flautist Alexander Zonjic on steroids, but the surprise win of frontman Ian Anderson’s group drew the outright ire of rock fans present at the ceremony.

At the time, Anderson himself thought, “It’s going to be Metallica…[it was] the huge, new, straight-out-of-the-box, enormous, hit talent that year and everybody took it for granted that Metallica [was] gonna win the Grammy, including Metallica [itself],” he told Powerline Magazine. “And when it was ordered to Jethro Tull, to a barrage of boos and hisses and gasps of disbelief, they gave us the award because we were a bunch of nice guys who never won a Grammy before. And sad to relate, even after all these years, there is still no category for best one-legged flute player. Otherwise, I’d be winning it every year.”

24 years later, no one is “Too Old to Rock ‘n Roll." Metallica is still making moves after leaving Warner Bros., having launched its own record label, Blackened Recordings, last November. On the Jethro Tull front, Anderson will be commemorating the 40th anniversary of the band’s “Thick as a Brick” album in Phoenix and London (so far). Any lingering bitterness is history.

Anderson told Powerline, “Metallica [was] an exciting new band, and [it] [was sure] to win the Grammy next year, and indeed [it] did. And to prove the point that heavy metal bands do have a sense of humor, they [its members] out a full page ad in Billboard when they won the Grammy, thanking their record producer, their record company, their mums, their dads, their brothers, the family dog, and Jethro Tull for not bringing out a new album that year.”

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