Anderson specialized in the bottleneck and slide style of guitar playing. Having dabbled in a local R&B band while still at school, he started playing in a number of folk and blues clubs in the Bristol area between 1966 and 1968. About the same time, he recorded a number of EPs for Saydisc, as part of the trio Anderson, Jones, Jackson. He provided two tracks on the Blues Like Showers compilation album, which received attention from BBC disc jockeys John Peel and Mike Raven. As a result of the 1968 blues boom, Anderson started touring nationally, along with other acoustic blues players such as Mike Cooper and Jo Ann Kelly. He recordedThe Inverted World with Cooper for his own Matchbox label. Shortly afterwards, he formed Ian Anderson’s Country Blues Band, releasing the much neglected classic Stereo Death Breakdown for Liberty Records. From then, until 1973, Anderson released solo albums, including mostly self-composed material. From 1970, with the release of Royal York Crescent, on his own Village Thing label, he started to use the name Ian A. Anderson to avoid confusion with the leader of Jethro Tull. In 1973, Anderson formed Hot Vultures with his then wife Maggie Holland. From then on they phased out most of his previous self-written works, in favour of concentrating on an original English approach to American blues/old-time/traditional R&B material. As Hot Vultures, they toured Britain, Europe and the USA from 1973-80, releasing three albums in the process. By the time ofUp The Line, Anderson and Holland had begun to work with musicians more involved in English country dance music. Thus was born the English Country Blues Band, which included Rod Stradling (melodeon), and either Sue Harris (hammer dulcimer, oboe), or Chris Coe (hammer dulcimer). The group eventually gained John Maxwell (drums). The Tiger Moth side project developed from this, an electric dance band that added Jon Moore (guitar) to the line-up. Tiger Moth gradually took precedence over the former set up, until disbanding in 1990, although they still play occasionally for one-off events and recording projects with other musicians, as Orchestre Super Moth, an ensemble that has its feet planted firmly in the roots music camp.
In 1982, Anderson founded Rogue Records, releasing records by Baaba Maal and Flaco Jiminez among others. The same year, he founded the Farnham Folk Day, an annual one-day festival which ran for six years. In addition, Anderson has presented series for various radio stations; from 1988 he presented the BBC World Service series called Folk Routes, while on London’s Jazz FM he presented a weekly World Music show, World Routes. Anderson set up and edited the largely regionalSouthern Rag magazine in the early 80s, which metamorphosed into the national publication Folk Roots, which specializes in roots, folk and world music. Folk Roots (retitled fROOTS from December 1998 onwards) is now the clear leader in its field and has done much to change people’s perception of ‘folk’ music. Through the magazine Anderson has given a platform to ethnic, world and blues music, illustrating their common ground.