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, BB King, Chuck Berry, and Max Wall) – who still drums with Jools.
Up The Junction and Cool For Cats made Squeeze's success meteoric and their popularity rapidly extended to America, where their tour included performances at 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 500,000 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 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, Sugababes, Ringo Starr, Peter Gabriel, Solomon Burke, and many more.
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, which is proudly still running on Friday nights, with an additional live slot on a Tuesday nights.
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 Anthology and the Rolling Stones Biography.
He appeared in the 1997 film Spice World as a 'Musical Director'.
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 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) and Zac Efron (High School Musical). It was directed by Richard Linklater (School of Rock, Dazed & Confused) and opened in the UK on Monday 4th December to amazing reviews. The Soundtrack is available via Decca/Universal Records, and it includes three songs by Jools and the Orchestra with Eddi Reader: Let's Pretend There's A Moon; I Surrender Dear; and You Made Me Love You (I Didn't Want To Do It). The film is available on DVD.
One of Jools' personal highlights for 2010 was the Silver Award for 'Best Specialist Music Programme' presented to his highly-acclaimed and eclectic BBC Radio 2 show at the Sony Radio Academy Awards. The show has been running for over 10 years.
He also took on the very challenging task of Music Curator for Prince Charles' green initiative, Start, a festival in the heart of London to raise awareness on all environmental issues. Jools and his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra performed in Friary Court, by Clarence House, on Friday 10th September 2010.
All the while, Jools continues to dazzle audiences with the Rhythm & Blues Orchestra and their live performances touring all over the world, including Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Argentina.