Jimmy Page is known as the legendary guitarist for Led Zeppelin. However, he began with a different band before moving to Led Zeppelin with Robert Plant, John Bonham, and John Paul Jones. Here is how Jimmy Page went from The Yardbirds to the band that would make him a rock superstar.
Jimmy Page began his career as a member of The Yardbirds
Page was a member of The Yardbirds from 1966-1968. He began as a dual-lead with his childhood friend Jeff Beck before becoming the band’s focal point after Beck decided to split during the band’s American tour. According to Rolling Stone, the band broke up suddenly and unceremoniously after different group members wanted to go their separate ways.
Page was then left without a band to play for, but he wanted to form a new band with Peter Grant, a former wrestler and business partner of producer Mickie Most. Page was inspired by a recording session he attended in 1966 with Keith Moon on drums, John Paul Jones on bass, Nicky Hopkins on piano, and he and Beck on guitar. Moon said they form a band and jokingly came up with the name Led Zeppelin.
“‘We can call it Led Zeppelin,’” Page recalled Moon saying. “’Because it can only go down, like a lead balloon.’ I thought it was a great name, and I didn’t forget it.”
Jimmy Page formed Led Zeppelin after meeting Robert Plant
The first thing Page and Grant needed to find was a singer. Terry Reid, the former singer of the Jaywalkers, was a contender but also recommended an up-and-coming 19-year-old singer named Robert Plant, who was the lead singer for a group called Hobstweedle. Page and Grant traveled to Birmingham, England, to watch the young singer for themselves.
“[They] were playing at a teacher’s training college outside of Birmingham to an audience of about twelve people,” Page said in the Led Zeppelin oral history Trampled Underfoot. “Robert was fantastic, and having heard him that night and having listened to a demo he had given me, I realized that without a doubt, his voice had an exceptional and very distinctive quality.”
Page invited Plant to his boathouse on the Thames, where Page convinced Plant to join the band. Rolling Stone writes that Page played Joan Baez’s “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You,” and the two talked about how they could reimagine it. Plant was able to rope in John Bonham, a former bandmate and life-long friend, to join as the drummer, and Page got Jones to join as the bass player. Once the four were on board, Led Zeppelin was born.
Led Zeppelin first played together in a basement
The four men played as Led Zeppelin for the first time in a basement in Gerrard Street in London on Aug. 12, 1968. They immediately knew they had something special, according to Page.
“We got together in this small rehearsal room and just played ‘Train Kept a-Rollin’ which was a number I used to do with the Yardbirds, and I think Robert knew it,” Page said in a 1990 Rolling Stone interview. “At the end of it we knew that it was really happening, really electrifying. Exciting is the word. We went on from there to start rehearsing for the album.”