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Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson Thought Metallica Would Win First-Ever Hard Rock/Metal Grammy

Ian Anderson
Mark Metcalfe, Getty Images

The big day had finally arrived: On Feb. 22, 1989, after years of neglect, the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences was finally going to acknowledge hard rock/heavy metal music by presenting the genre’s first Grammy Award winner.

‘…And Justice for All’ by Metallica was the odds-on favorite to grab the Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance honor, says Jethro Tull singer Ian Anderson. But Tull’s ‘Crest of a Knave’ album — a  peculiar nominee, to say the least — was the surprise winner, and the Shrine Auditorium crowd responded with “a barrage of boos and hisses and gasps of disbelief,” Anderson recalls.

“They gave us the award because we were a bunch of nice guys who never won a Grammy before,” explains Anderson, who did not attend the ceremony in Los Angeles. “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.”

Anderson adds, “I don’t think anyone would possibly believe ['Knave'] was a hard rock or heavy metal album.” And, musically speaking, even though flutes are made of metal, he makes perfect sense, considering the nominees that year were ‘Blow Up Your Video’ by AC/DC, ‘Nothing’s Shocking’ by Jane’s Addiction and ‘Cold Metal’ by Iggy Pop, as well as Metallica’s album.

Three years later in New York, Metallica did land its first album Grammy trophy when ‘Metallica’ (a.k.a. The Black Album) was named the Best Metal Performance with Vocal winner. Speaking for the band that night at Radio City Music Hall, drummer Lars Ulrich said with a smile, “The first thing we’ve gotta do … is thank Jethro Tull for not putting out an album this year.”

Watch Alice Cooper and Lita Ford announce Jethro Tull’s Grammy win

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