From playing pubs in the East End docks as a teenage greaser, to leading his rhythm and blues orchestra and selling millions of records, it is his passion for music that has made Jools Holland into a doyen of the music scene.
Born with an unusual musical gift: at the age of eight, Jools Holland 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 south London’s pubs and clubs.
He holds the unique status of performing with musicians who have achieved success in every decade of the 20th Century and he’s worked with the same drummer for more than 40 years – Gilson Lavis.
In 1987, he formed The Jools Holland Big Band comprising entirely of himself and Gilson Lavis. This has gradually metamorphosed into the current 18-piece Rhythm & Blues Orchestra, which currently consists of: one pianist; one drummer; two female vocals; one guitar; one bass guitar; one organ; two tenor saxophones; two alto saxophones; one baritone saxophone; three trumpets; and four trombones.
Jools and the Rhythm and Blues Orchestra now play an average of 100 live shows a year, touring Britain and the world to audiences of 500,000.
Jools' career as a television presenter has run parallel to his musical career. He started in the early eighties when he interviewed the Police for a documentary made while recording at George Martin's Montserrat studio. Soon after, Jools auditioned to become co-presenter with Paula Yates of The Tube, which was granted almost immediate cult status, discovering a whole new generation of musicians and comedians between 1981 and 1986.
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 an interviewer. Later...with Jools Holland re-awakened the innovative spirit of The Tube, is now in its 25th series, and has been running for 13 years.
At the 1998 (24th) G8 Conference, Jools and his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra performed All You Need is Love for the leaders of the western world. On hearing the trumpet introduction, Jacques Chirac mistook it for the opening of the French national anthem and stood up.
Out of courtesy, prime minister Tony Blair, President Bill Clinton, and then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin also stood. Once they realised it was The Beatles' song, and to avoid an international incident, they carried on dancing. After the performance, Bill Clinton spent half an hour with the brass section – talking about saxophones.
In June 2003, Jools' achievements were formally recognised when he was awarded the OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List.