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Today Jimmy Page turns 78

The history behind the Legendary guitarist and Led Zeppelin founder.

By Mub Music News Staff at 09/01/2022
The history behind the Legendary guitarist and Led Zeppelin founder.

James Patrick Page (born January 1944) and his family found a guitar in their new home when they moved to Surrey.

At twelve, he took a few lessons and also picked up some basic chords from the only other guitarist at his school and then taught himself a lot of music by listening to records. No tablatures, no books, just his ears.

He was invited to join the Crusaders and spent two years touring with them. He also got very sick and spent eighteen months recovering, still playing all the time he could to get better and better. In late 1962, Page was a regular at London’s famous Marquee club and you would find him jamming with the likes of Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck. He impressed a lot of people and made contacts and started getting regular session work from Decca Records. His very first session for Decca turned out to be a #1 single, Diamonds, with Page playing acoustic rhythm guitar on Jet Harris and Tony Meehan’s instrumental.

Page made the acquaintance of Shel Talmy, an American producer who had moved to London to work for Decca. Talmy had started out as a recording engineer and had a history of experimenting with all sorts of ways to try to make the drums and guitars of rock and roll sound better. “Little Jim” became Talmy’s go-to session man.

Then Andrew Oldham (the Rolling Stones’ manager) hired Page as house producer for Oldham’s Immediate Records, which specialized in London’s blues and R&B acts. Whether playing or producing a session, and there were often a dozen or more sessions each week, Page was learning and cataloging and studying.

He declined an offer to replace his friend Eric Clapton as a member of the Yardbirds, and turned them down again when Clapton quit on his own in February 1965, suggesting his friend Jeff Beck might fit the bill. At the time he wasn’t sure he wanted to give up his session work and, remembering his stint with the Crusaders, he also worried about his health while touring.

In May 1966, Page and Beck, along with session keyboardist Nicky Hopkins and the Who’s Keith Moon and bassist John Paul Jones recorded Beck’s Bolero. The session lead Page to think about forming a supergroup consisting of the session personnel, albeit with the Who’s John Entwhistle on bass. Hearing the idea, Entwhistle proclaimed something to the effect that the band would take to the air like a lead balloon, which led Moon to say that “Lead Zeppelin” sounded like a great name for a band.

Not long afterward, the Yardbird’s bassist, Paul Samwell-Smith, left the group. Page asked to replace him and was the group’s bass player for a short while before joining Beck on guitar duties while Chris Dreja (the rhythm guitarist) switched to bass. When Beck left the Yardbirds, Page became the group’s sole guitarist.

Interpersonal tensions, touring and the lack of commercial success finally took their toll and the other Yardbirds decided to leave the band even though the group still had tour dates to play. Page planned to do the tour and sought out other musicians. Terry Reid, his first choice of vocalist, turned Page down but suggested he check out Robert Plant. Page and Plant found they had a lot in common with their musical tastes and artistic direction. Plant brought drummer John Bonham into the fold (they had both been in the group Band of Joy together) while bassist John Paul Jones approached Page, asking if the group might be interested in having him as a bass player. Page jumped at the chance.

Initially touring as the “New Yardbirds,” they soon renamed the group “Lead Zeppelin,” which was then changed to “Led Zeppelin” to insure that people pronounced the name correctly.

Page’s new band would certainly become one of the most influential groups, rock or otherwise, of all time. For twelve years, up until John Bonham’s death in 1980, Led Zeppelin created some of the hardest rock, soulful blues music and beautiful acoustic songs. They explored ideas and sounds in ways that much of their audience may not have even realized.

Since Led Zeppelin’s break up in 1980, Page has still been playing and producing almost nonstop. He’s worked with Beck and Clapton, the Rolling Stones, Graham Nash, Paul Rodgers (as the band The Firm), Stephen Stills, and even Puff Daddy.

Reunions with the surviving members of both the Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin (working with Plant on numerous occasions – most notably the MTV Unplugged show titled “Unledded”) as well as countless charity performances, not to mention all the honors and awards concerts and programs, have kept “little Jim” very busy.