When people rank The Who among the most dysfunctional rock groups of all time, they have a lot to work with. One particular episode, in which Roger Daltrey beat up Keith Moon before getting kicked out of the band, might be enough on its own.
As Moon, John Entwistle, and Pete Townshend considered who might replace Daltrey, the group’s latest single (“My Generation”) topped multiple UK charts. That convinced management and band members alike that they should make peace and stick it out.
But it wasn’t long before things spiraled out of control again. On the way back to London via train in 1966, a member of the crew witnessed Moon chasing Townshend through the cars with a knife out, threatening to kill him. Soon after, Townshend hit Moon in the face with his guitar while on stage.
Around this same period, Daltrey started skipping Who gigs, leaving Townshend and Entwistle to handle lead vocals. While playing the town of Kidderminster during Daltrey’s absence, a young local named Robert Plant caught The Who’s gig and got an idea.
Plant saw The Who without Daltrey and offered to take over as singer
As Daltrey shopped around for another band (or simply did some extra “shagging,” as he told the press), The Who canceled an early gig in Worcestershire but decided to keep going with Townshend, Entwistle, and Moon working as a trio.
When the band played three shows in Kidderminster (125 miles northwest of London) in May ’66, a 17-year-old Plant caught the act’s performances. And he saw an opening with Daltrey out of the picture and Townshend handling vocals.
“[Plant] came to see us three nights in a row and offered himself for the job, as did Steve Gibbons when he came to see us and Roger wasn’t there,” Townshend recalled in 1990. “Obviously none of them thought I was any good!”
That scene has to make Who and Led Zeppelin fans get the “what could have been” wheels turning. But Daltrey returned to the band later in the month.
Plant and Daltrey have been good friends for decades
Though they didn’t live happily ever after (Townshend and Daltrey still grumble about one another), The Who’s original lineup reconvened before the summer of ’66 and went on to record a slew of classic albums. After A Quick One and The Who Sell Out (1968), the group hit an early peak with 1969’s Tommy.
As for Plant, he found the group he’d been looking for in ’68, when he and bandmate John Bonham hooked up with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones to form Led Zeppelin. Meanwhile, Plant and Daltrey became great friends.
In July 2019, Daltrey spoke of their long friendship. “Robert’s got incredible courage,” Daltrey said in a radio interview. “I know a lot of people kind of say that well he copied you because you had the long, curly hair, and then he comes along with the long curly hair…”
Daltrey said fans shouldn’t buy into that line. “That’s not true, because Robert is Robert,” he said. ” I just wish I could’ve been as tall.”