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On Tour With Led Zeppelin in Memphis Apr 17 1970


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On Tour With Led Zeppelin:

Memphis, Tennessee

April 17th 1970

By Phillip Rauls

In November of 1969, Led Zeppelin released their second album worldwide titled Led Zeppelin II. The group was already an accomplished headlining act and drawing sell-out crowds when the announcement came about their tour coming to Memphis. This was absolutely fabulous news to me whereas now I could be directly associated with a up-and-coming supergroup in which I promoted. Very seldom within the career of a promotion person does an occasion like this occur when you can actually work with and be in contact with the ultimate talent that you represented. I immediately contacted the home office of Atlantic Records in NY to gather Led Zeppelin's hotel and flight schedule when I was questioned as to my intentions. Surprisingly, my contact person at Atlantic Records balked at my request and asked, "Why do you need information about their itinerary?" Their questioning continued, "What's your reasoning? What are you, some kind of Groupie or something?" THUD. You could hear my heart collapse. I was not flattered by their comments. I went on to explain my intention of providing radio and newspaper interview support and further offering my media assistance when given the response of, "Oh, you can set-up interviews also? Don't worry about it, all you want to do is just hang-out with the band and you'll end up just getting in their way." Not surprised, I'd encountered the same reaction coming from other record companies. Within the field staff there seemed to be an apparent lack of recognition in which local field support could be appropriated to maximize marketing results. This void left me puzzled whereas to some record executives my requests appeared to have suspicious intentions. Seems in the days of Top 40 Radio or with a hit R&B Artist, there were plenty of outlets for media coverage. But in the early days of rock media coverage, rarely were there advance media arrangements made that held any credence. Some referred to it as the 'hippy press' or the 'underground guys'. So, my inquiries about flight and hotel schedules were a definite challenge to traditionalists within the system. Problem was, they didn't see the system changing. Little did they know that in the immediate future, these underground guys and the hippy press WOULD become the system. Finally, and with some reluctance, I was granted Led Zeppelin's hotel and flight schedule.

Long lines camped out at the ticket windows waiting in anticipation for Led Zeppelin's concert in Memphis. Days of suspense continued to build like a pressure cooker starting to steam. Finally on the day of the concert, I greeted the band at the airport as they emerged through the terminal gate door. "Welcome to Memphis," I said while introducing myself as their Atlantic Records representative to Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. Surprised by my presence, Robert Plant perked-up and responded, "You mean that Atlantic Records has a promotion man in Memphis?" Apparently uninformed by the home office and starting from scratch, I stuck my chest out proudly and responded, "Sure Man." Plant appeared amused and turned to Page and commented in his nasally British accent, "What'd you know mate, The Home of Rock & Roll has an Atlantic promo rep." Evidently, the band hadn't seen any Atlantic representatives during their first tour of the states so they were in awe by the fact that their record company felt they were worthy of such a greeting. As we walked through the airport corridor, I detailed the afternoons events which included several interviews when suddenly Plant stopped and turned around to ask permission from an accompanying associate. About that time a very pungent man with an imposing nature stepped between us and rather forcefully said, "Rubbish, they ain't doing no bloody interviews with nobody, period." This person of very large physique was Peter Grant, Zeppelin's manager who had a most unusual ruddy complexion that only a dermatologist could appreciate. One could sense that this chap wasn't about to endorse my pre-planned agenda. Without offering any resistance, I looked upward to this giant of a man and cowardly said, "Okay" in a non-threatening retreat. Unbeknownest to me, Peter Grant had a policy of no-media interviews. Robert Plant then interjected by introducing me to Grant as the "Atlantic Guy." But it was apparent that I was well beneath his communication ranking and it was pointless to plead for an exception. I had to think fast in order to capture his attention so I stroked his ego by informing him that I had a big surprise for him waiting at the hotel when he arrived. Grant's head jerked around while retrieving his baggage and said, "I love surprises." Now I had to set my hook as I went on to explain that when he arrived at the hotel, he was to be the honored recipient of being awarded the prestigious Key to The City of Memphis. "You're shitting me Man" he responded. "The Key to The City in The Home of Rock & Roll?" He turned his back and walked away while bragging to the band about the presentation. Shortly afterwards, the bands vehicles departed for the hotel. For me however, I was forced to remain at the airport for the next hour in a phone booth canceling all the media interviews. I was so pissed that you could fry an egg on my face.

When I finally arrived at the hotel, the presentation ceremony had concluded moments earlier. I approached Peter Grant at the hotel desk and asked him "How'd the presentation go?" He turned to me and asked, "Who the hell are you Man?" As if he'd already forgotten me from an hour earlier at the airport. I was so humiliated, I was loss for words. Grant retrieved his motel key from the desk clerk and departed the lobby. Hmm... Charming manners, but not someone I'd invite to dinner. ...Arrogant Bloke.

The lobby of the Holiday Inn was clearing as a parade of newscasters and camera crews packed-up their equipment after the presentation ceremony awarding Led Zeppelin The Key to The City of Memphis. Standing at the elevator and waiting for a lift was Jimmy Page and Robert Plant when I casually approached the twosome. Robert Plant acknowledged my presence by saying, "Ah, there's the Atlantic Guy." That was the opening I needed to start a conversation about their afternoon agenda. "You guys got any plans?" I asked, "Would you like to get out of the hotel and have lunch or go anywhere?" Presuming they wanted to dine at the absolute finest restaurant in town. Jimmy Page calmly glanced over at Robert Plant and appeared bemused by my question. A few seconds passed when he turned back to me and timidly asked, "Do you know anything about Sun Recording Studio?" "Sure," I said, "It's only a few blocks from here." Page grinned and responded, "Truthfully, only a few blocks away?" Page rubbed his chin and contemplated. "Could it be possible that you escort us to Sun Studio for a tour?" In the back of my mind I'm thinking - because the earlier media interviews were forced to be canceled - this appeared to be an excellent Plan B. Fortunately, I was friends with Knox and Jerry Phillips, heir to the Sun legacy, and they probably wouldn't mind if I dropped-by the studio unannounced. So, I responded with, "Sure, let's go." Appearing like a couple of bashful children asking for their mother's permission, Jimmy Page sought approval from Road Manager Richard Cole by asking if they could depart the hotel to visit the famous recording studio. At that moment, Cole's eyes began scanning me from head-to-toe as if evaluating his decision by my appearance. Then uninvitingly, the road manager said he'd be joining us also. As they were getting into my vehicle, a distanced voice from the hotel summoned Richard Cole back into the lobby. Immediately we departed the building without any chaperones from management. Yahoo!

Once away from the hotel and far removed from management's boogie man, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page appeared giddy from their escape as they bounced in their seats celebrating their apparent freedom. Sitting in the rear, Jimmy Page leaned forward with his elbows resting on the bucket seats and asked in a modest tone, "What type of motor carriage is this?" They curiously scanned the interior while pointing out the individual gauges embedded in the elaborate console. Sitting shotgun, Plant began running his fingers across the decorative tachometer gauge and asked, "How fast could it travel?" Recognizing the empowerment of my captured audience, I boasted that my Oldsmobile 442 Coupe could fly and then promptly stomped the accelerator to display its torque. The car leaped forward in an immediate take-off as the tires screamed from burning rubber leaving a cloud of smoke hanging above the tire marks. The thrust of the acceleration sent the car's occupants slamming back into their seats. Startled and unprepared by this display of red-neck enthusiasm, Plant and Page giggled loudly as if they were on a carnival ride. Realizing that I needed to slow down to the speed limit, I eased off from the accelerator and regained my composure. Moments later, I reached into my pocket and held up a surprise bonus. Big eyes appeared as I displayed a freshly rolled joint. Umm...I heard a response showing appreciation. Plant flashed a mischievous grin and leaned toward the dashboard and pushed-in the cigarette lighter. Within minutes, big smiles gleamed as we entered into the Sun Records parking lot.

In its heyday, Sun Records was the patriarch of all Rock & Roll record companies. It held the undisputed distinction of launching the careers of many world famous Rockabilly artists. Without a doubt, the most famous being The King of Rock & Roll himself, Elvis Presley. It was not unusual for artist coming from outside of Memphis to want to pay homage to this legendary music pilgrimage. As I parked in a vacant Sun Studio's parking lot, there was complete silence inside the vehicle. While exiting my automobile, Page and Plant began surveying the property and stuffing their shirts into their trousers and straightening up their appearance as if approaching sacred grounds. The building itself was a squared two story concrete structure with a flat roof displaying the futuristic flare of a Flintstone cartoon. As we approached the front door, Page asked if he could purchase copies of Sun Records at this location. Before I could answer his question, I noticed that the front door to the studio was locked and the lights inside the lobby were turned off. I rang the entrance bell but there was no response. Obviously with the parking lot being empty and no one to answer the front door, there would be no tour today of Sun Recording Studio. Darn, I was totally bummed and their disappointment was apparent. Talk about lousing a good buzz. So, now what'd I do?

I pretended to remain calm whereas I was clueless as to alternatives. There I was standing in front of Sun Recording Studio with two of the worlds most famous musicians and experiencing a major brain-freeze. Got Plan C? Suddenly a light went off when I remembered Jimmy Page asking if he could purchase copies of Sun Records at that location. That's when I suggested that we visit the record warehouse that distributed Sun Records. It was also the Stax and Atlantic distributor, in addition to Chess and King Records among others, whereas I was absolutely certain they were open. Before approving my next uncharted venture, Page asked, "Is that a location where we might score old blues records?" "Yep!" I said and we jumped into my car and proceeded to Hot Line Record Distributor. In route to the warehouse, suddenly on the radio, FM-100 Disk Jockey Jon Scott began announcing that he was dedicating an hour of programming on behalf of the evening's concert by playing both Led Zeppelin albums, back to back. The twosome's heads snapped around in disbelief after hearing Scott's announcement. Then both smiled with approval and leaned back into their seats to enamour the moment. After all, they were listening to themselves on the radio in The Home of Rock & Roll. It was a Kodak moment. I'm not sure, but I think they were beginning to like me.

Without announcing our arrival at Hot Line Record Distributor, I don't guess I need to tell you the look on everyone's face when I walked into the office area with Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. Mouths dropped open, phones fell from people's ears dropping to the floor, typewriters ceased while office personnel froze in their tracks. All eyes were upon us as we strolled through the building and into the warehouse towards the section where the Sun Records catalog was stored. But within moments, over the warehouse PA system, I heard my name being summoned, "Hey Rauls. Can I see you in my office immediately." It was owner Jim Crudgington and you could tell by the exasperated tone in his voice that he meant business. So, I told my new best friends, Jimmy and Robert, "Just make yourselves at home and I'll return shortly." When I entered into the boss's office, he immediately slams the door behind me. From the top of his voice he screams, "What the Hell do you think you're doing?" He then instructed me, "Sit Down." The tension in his voice forced me backwards as if I were the guy in the Memorex commercial facing the blasting speakers. Pleading innocence and sounding like a defense attorney delivering my rebuttal, I explained to him that my new friends just wanted to score a few blues records. After all, they were Atlantic Recording artist and having two of the world's most famous musicians visit the distributor was indeed an honor. As it turns out, after we spoke about the situation, it appeared that he wasn't really upset at me at all. He was just bluffing. He just wanted to let everyone in the front office know who was the boss. You know, like the big sheriff and keeping everybody in check by cracking his whip. As I exited his office, the entire staff starred at me anticipating the worst. "What's wrong people?" I responded while gesturing with my hands in the air. The cute receptionist shook her head in disbelief when I winked and blew a kiss in her direction.

About that time, the office phone rang and by some unusual coincidence, it was a conference call from Atlantic's Sales Manager's Rick Willard and Dave Glew. Recognizing a unique opportunity, I quickly rushed back into the boss's office and convinced Crudgington to inform them that the labels biggest group is presently paying a courtesy visit to Hot Line, their friendly Atlantic distributor. You could see the wheels turning in Crudgington's head as he rushed to pick up the phone. This presented a disappearing act for me as I returned to the warehouse only to find that my new best friends had filled two grocery carts to capacity with countless copies of collector items. They had scored records from Sun, Stax and then on to Chess classics, next to King catalog and then collecting the Atlantic Blues Series. Page and Plant were all business-like upon my return and didn't even look up to acknowledge my presence. They had stuffed their carts completely full when I began to panic and ask myself, "Who's going to pay for this pilferage?" I glanced towards the window in Crudgington's office when I noticed he was still on the phone with Atlantic's sales managers and leaning back in his chair with his feet propped on his desk. That's when I returned to his office and asked, "Hey, you don't mind if the guys get a few blues records, do you?" Crudgington with the phone stuck in his ear and motioning for me to depart responded, "Sure, sure, give'em anything they want." That was the ticket we needed to escape with hundreds of cherished blues albums only to have the total amount charged back to the band's royalties at Atlantic. I parked my vehicle at the loading dock and filled the car to capacity with records all while Crudgington was still on the phone boasting to Atlantic's sales managers about Led Zeppelin visiting the

The Mid South Coliseum hosted the sold-out Led Zeppelin concert whereas I was fortunate to acquire forth row tickets located front and center. My seat was directly parallel to Robert Plants microphone, dead center. Concerts West was the local promoter and dispensed all the media tickets in the same section. But unfortunately my radio and newspaper colleagues were still peeved at me and not speaking after canceling the afternoon's interviews. I looked around and the concert hall was packed, not a single empty seat. There was a cloud of smoke hanging in the ceiling as the air in the arena was thick with incense and weed. I remember it being a special evening and wearing my very best tied-dyed T-shirt and bell bottoms jeans as I sensed a new chapter in my life beginning to commence. It was a magic summer night and I was feeling pretty good about myself now. Confident and invincible.

The audience was anxious for the show to begin and started clapping their hands and stomping their feet while shaking the rafters. At that moment the house lights went down and the band finally took the stage. Fans rushed into the isles and charged towards the stage. Police and Fire Marshals scrambled to preserve safe passages by holding the crowd advancement at stage front. Within seconds the music began and it's intensity forced me backwards. The huge cabinets of speakers were pulsating with electrified sound vibrations. Vocalist Robert Plant pranced back and forth across the stage like a caged animal releasing pent-up energy. The bass and drums pounded my chest with a ferocious invisible force. Jimmy Page swaggered to the front of the stage while playing a blistering guitar break on his lustrous sunburst Les Paul. Page coolly puckered his lips for expressive punctuation while bending his guitar neck for a wavering effect. The band went through their repertoire of bastarized blues standards with a sledgehammer effect. Midway through this groundbreaking concert, something happened that would forever change my life. Standing shoulder to shoulder, I rocked along side a sea of Zeppelin fans and totally mesmerized by these piped-piers of heavy metal music. Suddenly in the middle of the bands version of Chuck Berry's "Memphis," Robert Plant spotted me standing in the forth row. Astonishingly, we established eye-to-eye contact as he began to single me out of the crowd by pointing his finger at me and walking parallel to my seat. As he continued with the song, Plant then leaned towards the edge of the stage and with mike in hand, crouched down center stage, and pointed at me again while displaying two fingers representing the peace sign all while never missing a beat of the song. Plant smiled downwards and then resumed his flurry of antics across the stage. People in the audience turned around and looked at me as if I had been awarded knighthood. My immediate friends slapped me on the back to congratulate me while engaging in some rib-poking gestures. Stunned by the event, I remained silent in disbelieve of what had just transpired. Frozen in movement, I was reluctant to look around which might awaken my fantasy. Somehow, I felt a calming effect and destine to my calling at that unforgettable moment. To the casual observer, this might appear to be just a passing occurrence. However to me, this was one of the most profound events of my entire life. Never before had I felt so fortunate to have realistically connected with my imaginative dream. Somehow I felt that I was only beginning on my journey and enamored with confidence and fulfillment. My experience of hanging out with Robert Plant and Jimmy Page earlier in the day and sharing their heartfelt interest without any restrictions has no equal. For a short time that day and experiencing the rare opportunity of being just one of their "mates" and having a common bond of mutual interest would forever be frozen into my conciousness.

The following morning I hadn't completely sobered-up from an all night of self-indulgence with drummer John "Bonzo" Bonham when I arrived back at the hotel hoping to have breakfast with the band. That's when I was informed that the band had checked out earlier that morning to catch a sunrise flight. Perhaps that was good.

As the Atlantic Records Regional Promotion and Marketing Represenative, I would go on to work with Led Zeppelin several times later.

Phillip Rauls (2005)

Edited by SteveAJones
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  • 12 years later...
8 minutes ago, SilverVishnu said:

Mega bump (and my first post in over 11 years) - Steve, fantastic article. I love stuff like this that paints a picture of the band offstage. Any more articles of a similar vein by Phillip Rauls or others?

Phil published a book titled 'The Rock Trenches' in 2016. He maintains a website and a blog: http://philliprauls.com/

I could probably post a couple more On The Road...articles written by others.

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Superb, thank you. Your posts here and on RO have been a stupendous source of information and entertainment for the half of my life (!) I've been LZ obsessed. We joined this forum on the same day, was that when it first started?

Just been reading through a few pages of your Mysteries thread, which I either missed years ago or forgot about. Someone mentioned you were compiling a book or something? This was 12 years ago. Your archive, knowledge and enthusiasm would surely put you in a great place to publish some sort of project in one place (you could write a book just with your forum posts!).

Having recently read HOTG and STH for the first time I can also say I admire your balanced input and restraint on the more sleazy and salacious aspects of the band. Something that stood out in STH to me, showing how much Cole has exaggerated, was when he writes about slamming the briefcase of money shut in Amsterdam. This incident is televised, and in his book he claims that the promotor's fingers got caught in the briefcase, causing a big outburst. (The TV recording just shows him slamming the thing shut and them carrying on as normal). I mean we knew already so much in that book is either blown out of proportion or complete crap, but why lie about something that was recorded and available to the public? Having said that, Cole was at the O2 and AFAIK has never publicly apologised for or corrected his written account. I'd be interested if you know any specifics about the band members seemingly having forgiven Cole. Anyway I'm rambling, mainly just wanted to thank you for your contributions to recording the band's legacy.

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12 minutes ago, SilverVishnu said:

 We joined this forum on the same day, was that when it first started?

Someone mentioned you were compiling a book or something? This was 12 years ago. Your archive, knowledge and enthusiasm would surely put you in a great place to publish some sort of project in one place (you could write a book just with your forum posts!).

Having recently read HOTG and STH for the first time I can also say I admire your balanced input and restraint on the more sleazy and salacious aspects of the band. Something that stood out in STH to me, showing how much Cole has exaggerated, was when he writes about slamming the briefcase of money shut in Amsterdam. This incident is televised, and in his book he claims that the promotor's fingers got caught in the briefcase, causing a big outburst. (The TV recording just shows him slamming the thing shut and them carrying on as normal). I mean we knew already so much in that book is either blown out of proportion or complete crap, but why lie about something that was recorded and available to the public? Having said that, Cole was at the O2 and AFAIK has never publicly apologised for or corrected his written account. I'd be interested if you know any specifics about the band members seemingly having forgiven Cole. Anyway I'm rambling, mainly just wanted to thank you for your contributions to recording the band's legacy.

Yes, as I recall this iteration of the forum was launched Nov 20, 2007.

I was encouraged in the past and still nowadays to write a book, but I personally feel that aside from a band member autobiography it's all been said already. The Mysteries Thread was an attempt to present and explore obscure topics related to Led Zeppelin, and I am glad to say it proved very popular in that regard. I am working on a few projects at the moment but they have nothing to do with Led Zeppelin. Yes, my primary focus is on J-pop star Chisato Moritaka at the moment.

Stephen Davis flat out exploited Richard Cole for Hammer of the Gods, ultimately paying Ricard less than $1,500 for sharing all his strange tales from the road so to speak. Richard did tend to exaggerate, likely to ensure David felt he was getting his money's worth. Richard's own book, published seven years later, is a slightly more balanced account and yet there are inaccuracies and embellishments to be found within it also. Richard & Jimmy have long since reconciled and indeed he was a guest of Jimmy's at the 02.  

Thank you, SilverVishnu. 

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On 11/27/2007 at 7:24 AM, SteveAJones said:

On Tour With Led Zeppelin:

 

Memphis, Tennessee

 

April 17th 1970

 

 

By Phillip Rauls

 

In November of 1969, Led Zeppelin released their second album worldwide titled Led Zeppelin II. The group was already an accomplished headlining act and drawing sell-out crowds when the announcement came about their tour coming to Memphis. This was absolutely fabulous news to me whereas now I could be directly associated with a up-and-coming supergroup in which I promoted. Very seldom within the career of a promotion person does an occasion like this occur when you can actually work with and be in contact with the ultimate talent that you represented. I immediately contacted the home office of Atlantic Records in NY to gather Led Zeppelin's hotel and flight schedule when I was questioned as to my intentions. Surprisingly, my contact person at Atlantic Records balked at my request and asked, "Why do you need information about their itinerary?" Their questioning continued, "What's your reasoning? What are you, some kind of Groupie or something?" THUD. You could hear my heart collapse. I was not flattered by their comments. I went on to explain my intention of providing radio and newspaper interview support and further offering my media assistance when given the response of, "Oh, you can set-up interviews also? Don't worry about it, all you want to do is just hang-out with the band and you'll end up just getting in their way." Not surprised, I'd encountered the same reaction coming from other record companies. Within the field staff there seemed to be an apparent lack of recognition in which local field support could be appropriated to maximize marketing results. This void left me puzzled whereas to some record executives my requests appeared to have suspicious intentions. Seems in the days of Top 40 Radio or with a hit R&B Artist, there were plenty of outlets for media coverage. But in the early days of rock media coverage, rarely were there advance media arrangements made that held any credence. Some referred to it as the 'hippy press' or the 'underground guys'. So, my inquiries about flight and hotel schedules were a definite challenge to traditionalists within the system. Problem was, they didn't see the system changing. Little did they know that in the immediate future, these underground guys and the hippy press WOULD become the system. Finally, and with some reluctance, I was granted Led Zeppelin's hotel and flight schedule.

 

Long lines camped out at the ticket windows waiting in anticipation for Led Zeppelin's concert in Memphis. Days of suspense continued to build like a pressure cooker starting to steam. Finally on the day of the concert, I greeted the band at the airport as they emerged through the terminal gate door. "Welcome to Memphis," I said while introducing myself as their Atlantic Records representative to Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. Surprised by my presence, Robert Plant perked-up and responded, "You mean that Atlantic Records has a promotion man in Memphis?" Apparently uninformed by the home office and starting from scratch, I stuck my chest out proudly and responded, "Sure Man." Plant appeared amused and turned to Page and commented in his nasally British accent, "What'd you know mate, The Home of Rock & Roll has an Atlantic promo rep." Evidently, the band hadn't seen any Atlantic representatives during their first tour of the states so they were in awe by the fact that their record company felt they were worthy of such a greeting. As we walked through the airport corridor, I detailed the afternoons events which included several interviews when suddenly Plant stopped and turned around to ask permission from an accompanying associate. About that time a very pungent man with an imposing nature stepped between us and rather forcefully said, "Rubbish, they ain't doing no bloody interviews with nobody, period." This person of very large physique was Peter Grant, Zeppelin's manager who had a most unusual ruddy complexion that only a dermatologist could appreciate. One could sense that this chap wasn't about to endorse my pre-planned agenda. Without offering any resistance, I looked upward to this giant of a man and cowardly said, "Okay" in a non-threatening retreat. Unbeknownest to me, Peter Grant had a policy of no-media interviews. Robert Plant then interjected by introducing me to Grant as the "Atlantic Guy." But it was apparent that I was well beneath his communication ranking and it was pointless to plead for an exception. I had to think fast in order to capture his attention so I stroked his ego by informing him that I had a big surprise for him waiting at the hotel when he arrived. Grant's head jerked around while retrieving his baggage and said, "I love surprises." Now I had to set my hook as I went on to explain that when he arrived at the hotel, he was to be the honored recipient of being awarded the prestigious Key to The City of Memphis. "You're shitting me Man" he responded. "The Key to The City in The Home of Rock & Roll?" He turned his back and walked away while bragging to the band about the presentation. Shortly afterwards, the bands vehicles departed for the hotel. For me however, I was forced to remain at the airport for the next hour in a phone booth canceling all the media interviews. I was so pissed that you could fry an egg on my face.

 

When I finally arrived at the hotel, the presentation ceremony had concluded moments earlier. I approached Peter Grant at the hotel desk and asked him "How'd the presentation go?" He turned to me and asked, "Who the hell are you Man?" As if he'd already forgotten me from an hour earlier at the airport. I was so humiliated, I was loss for words. Grant retrieved his motel key from the desk clerk and departed the lobby. Hmm... Charming manners, but not someone I'd invite to dinner. ...Arrogant Bloke.

 

The lobby of the Holiday Inn was clearing as a parade of newscasters and camera crews packed-up their equipment after the presentation ceremony awarding Led Zeppelin The Key to The City of Memphis. Standing at the elevator and waiting for a lift was Jimmy Page and Robert Plant when I casually approached the twosome. Robert Plant acknowledged my presence by saying, "Ah, there's the Atlantic Guy." That was the opening I needed to start a conversation about their afternoon agenda. "You guys got any plans?" I asked, "Would you like to get out of the hotel and have lunch or go anywhere?" Presuming they wanted to dine at the absolute finest restaurant in town. Jimmy Page calmly glanced over at Robert Plant and appeared bemused by my question. A few seconds passed when he turned back to me and timidly asked, "Do you know anything about Sun Recording Studio?" "Sure," I said, "It's only a few blocks from here." Page grinned and responded, "Truthfully, only a few blocks away?" Page rubbed his chin and contemplated. "Could it be possible that you escort us to Sun Studio for a tour?" In the back of my mind I'm thinking - because the earlier media interviews were forced to be canceled - this appeared to be an excellent Plan B. Fortunately, I was friends with Knox and Jerry Phillips, heir to the Sun legacy, and they probably wouldn't mind if I dropped-by the studio unannounced. So, I responded with, "Sure, let's go." Appearing like a couple of bashful children asking for their mother's permission, Jimmy Page sought approval from Road Manager Richard Cole by asking if they could depart the hotel to visit the famous recording studio. At that moment, Cole's eyes began scanning me from head-to-toe as if evaluating his decision by my appearance. Then uninvitingly, the road manager said he'd be joining us also. As they were getting into my vehicle, a distanced voice from the hotel summoned Richard Cole back into the lobby. Immediately we departed the building without any chaperones from management. Yahoo!

 

Once away from the hotel and far removed from management's boogie man, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page appeared giddy from their escape as they bounced in their seats celebrating their apparent freedom. Sitting in the rear, Jimmy Page leaned forward with his elbows resting on the bucket seats and asked in a modest tone, "What type of motor carriage is this?" They curiously scanned the interior while pointing out the individual gauges embedded in the elaborate console. Sitting shotgun, Plant began running his fingers across the decorative tachometer gauge and asked, "How fast could it travel?" Recognizing the empowerment of my captured audience, I boasted that my Oldsmobile 442 Coupe could fly and then promptly stomped the accelerator to display its torque. The car leaped forward in an immediate take-off as the tires screamed from burning rubber leaving a cloud of smoke hanging above the tire marks. The thrust of the acceleration sent the car's occupants slamming back into their seats. Startled and unprepared by this display of red-neck enthusiasm, Plant and Page giggled loudly as if they were on a carnival ride. Realizing that I needed to slow down to the speed limit, I eased off from the accelerator and regained my composure. Moments later, I reached into my pocket and held up a surprise bonus. Big eyes appeared as I displayed a freshly rolled joint. Umm...I heard a response showing appreciation. Plant flashed a mischievous grin and leaned toward the dashboard and pushed-in the cigarette lighter. Within minutes, big smiles gleamed as we entered into the Sun Records parking lot.

 

In its heyday, Sun Records was the patriarch of all Rock & Roll record companies. It held the undisputed distinction of launching the careers of many world famous Rockabilly artists. Without a doubt, the most famous being The King of Rock & Roll himself, Elvis Presley. It was not unusual for artist coming from outside of Memphis to want to pay homage to this legendary music pilgrimage. As I parked in a vacant Sun Studio's parking lot, there was complete silence inside the vehicle. While exiting my automobile, Page and Plant began surveying the property and stuffing their shirts into their trousers and straightening up their appearance as if approaching sacred grounds. The building itself was a squared two story concrete structure with a flat roof displaying the futuristic flare of a Flintstone cartoon. As we approached the front door, Page asked if he could purchase copies of Sun Records at this location. Before I could answer his question, I noticed that the front door to the studio was locked and the lights inside the lobby were turned off. I rang the entrance bell but there was no response. Obviously with the parking lot being empty and no one to answer the front door, there would be no tour today of Sun Recording Studio. Darn, I was totally bummed and their disappointment was apparent. Talk about lousing a good buzz. So, now what'd I do?

 

I pretended to remain calm whereas I was clueless as to alternatives. There I was standing in front of Sun Recording Studio with two of the worlds most famous musicians and experiencing a major brain-freeze. Got Plan C? Suddenly a light went off when I remembered Jimmy Page asking if he could purchase copies of Sun Records at that location. That's when I suggested that we visit the record warehouse that distributed Sun Records. It was also the Stax and Atlantic distributor, in addition to Chess and King Records among others, whereas I was absolutely certain they were open. Before approving my next uncharted venture, Page asked, "Is that a location where we might score old blues records?" "Yep!" I said and we jumped into my car and proceeded to Hot Line Record Distributor. In route to the warehouse, suddenly on the radio, FM-100 Disk Jockey Jon Scott began announcing that he was dedicating an hour of programming on behalf of the evening's concert by playing both Led Zeppelin albums, back to back. The twosome's heads snapped around in disbelief after hearing Scott's announcement. Then both smiled with approval and leaned back into their seats to enamour the moment. After all, they were listening to themselves on the radio in The Home of Rock & Roll. It was a Kodak moment. I'm not sure, but I think they were beginning to like me.

 

Without announcing our arrival at Hot Line Record Distributor, I don't guess I need to tell you the look on everyone's face when I walked into the office area with Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. Mouths dropped open, phones fell from people's ears dropping to the floor, typewriters ceased while office personnel froze in their tracks. All eyes were upon us as we strolled through the building and into the warehouse towards the section where the Sun Records catalog was stored. But within moments, over the warehouse PA system, I heard my name being summoned, "Hey Rauls. Can I see you in my office immediately." It was owner Jim Crudgington and you could tell by the exasperated tone in his voice that he meant business. So, I told my new best friends, Jimmy and Robert, "Just make yourselves at home and I'll return shortly." When I entered into the boss's office, he immediately slams the door behind me. From the top of his voice he screams, "What the Hell do you think you're doing?" He then instructed me, "Sit Down." The tension in his voice forced me backwards as if I were the guy in the Memorex commercial facing the blasting speakers. Pleading innocence and sounding like a defense attorney delivering my rebuttal, I explained to him that my new friends just wanted to score a few blues records. After all, they were Atlantic Recording artist and having two of the world's most famous musicians visit the distributor was indeed an honor. As it turns out, after we spoke about the situation, it appeared that he wasn't really upset at me at all. He was just bluffing. He just wanted to let everyone in the front office know who was the boss. You know, like the big sheriff and keeping everybody in check by cracking his whip. As I exited his office, the entire staff starred at me anticipating the worst. "What's wrong people?" I responded while gesturing with my hands in the air. The cute receptionist shook her head in disbelief when I winked and blew a kiss in her direction.

 

About that time, the office phone rang and by some unusual coincidence, it was a conference call from Atlantic's Sales Manager's Rick Willard and Dave Glew. Recognizing a unique opportunity, I quickly rushed back into the boss's office and convinced Crudgington to inform them that the labels biggest group is presently paying a courtesy visit to Hot Line, their friendly Atlantic distributor. You could see the wheels turning in Crudgington's head as he rushed to pick up the phone. This presented a disappearing act for me as I returned to the warehouse only to find that my new best friends had filled two grocery carts to capacity with countless copies of collector items. They had scored records from Sun, Stax and then on to Chess classics, next to King catalog and then collecting the Atlantic Blues Series. Page and Plant were all business-like upon my return and didn't even look up to acknowledge my presence. They had stuffed their carts completely full when I began to panic and ask myself, "Who's going to pay for this pilferage?" I glanced towards the window in Crudgington's office when I noticed he was still on the phone with Atlantic's sales managers and leaning back in his chair with his feet propped on his desk. That's when I returned to his office and asked, "Hey, you don't mind if the guys get a few blues records, do you?" Crudgington with the phone stuck in his ear and motioning for me to depart responded, "Sure, sure, give'em anything they want." That was the ticket we needed to escape with hundreds of cherished blues albums only to have the total amount charged back to the band's royalties at Atlantic. I parked my vehicle at the loading dock and filled the car to capacity with records all while Crudgington was still on the phone boasting to Atlantic's sales managers about Led Zeppelin visiting the

 

The Mid South Coliseum hosted the sold-out Led Zeppelin concert whereas I was fortunate to acquire forth row tickets located front and center. My seat was directly parallel to Robert Plants microphone, dead center. Concerts West was the local promoter and dispensed all the media tickets in the same section. But unfortunately my radio and newspaper colleagues were still peeved at me and not speaking after canceling the afternoon's interviews. I looked around and the concert hall was packed, not a single empty seat. There was a cloud of smoke hanging in the ceiling as the air in the arena was thick with incense and weed. I remember it being a special evening and wearing my very best tied-dyed T-shirt and bell bottoms jeans as I sensed a new chapter in my life beginning to commence. It was a magic summer night and I was feeling pretty good about myself now. Confident and invincible.

 

The audience was anxious for the show to begin and started clapping their hands and stomping their feet while shaking the rafters. At that moment the house lights went down and the band finally took the stage. Fans rushed into the isles and charged towards the stage. Police and Fire Marshals scrambled to preserve safe passages by holding the crowd advancement at stage front. Within seconds the music began and it's intensity forced me backwards. The huge cabinets of speakers were pulsating with electrified sound vibrations. Vocalist Robert Plant pranced back and forth across the stage like a caged animal releasing pent-up energy. The bass and drums pounded my chest with a ferocious invisible force. Jimmy Page swaggered to the front of the stage while playing a blistering guitar break on his lustrous sunburst Les Paul. Page coolly puckered his lips for expressive punctuation while bending his guitar neck for a wavering effect. The band went through their repertoire of bastarized blues standards with a sledgehammer effect. Midway through this groundbreaking concert, something happened that would forever change my life. Standing shoulder to shoulder, I rocked along side a sea of Zeppelin fans and totally mesmerized by these piped-piers of heavy metal music. Suddenly in the middle of the bands version of Chuck Berry's "Memphis," Robert Plant spotted me standing in the forth row. Astonishingly, we established eye-to-eye contact as he began to single me out of the crowd by pointing his finger at me and walking parallel to my seat. As he continued with the song, Plant then leaned towards the edge of the stage and with mike in hand, crouched down center stage, and pointed at me again while displaying two fingers representing the peace sign all while never missing a beat of the song. Plant smiled downwards and then resumed his flurry of antics across the stage. People in the audience turned around and looked at me as if I had been awarded knighthood. My immediate friends slapped me on the back to congratulate me while engaging in some rib-poking gestures. Stunned by the event, I remained silent in disbelieve of what had just transpired. Frozen in movement, I was reluctant to look around which might awaken my fantasy. Somehow, I felt a calming effect and destine to my calling at that unforgettable moment. To the casual observer, this might appear to be just a passing occurrence. However to me, this was one of the most profound events of my entire life. Never before had I felt so fortunate to have realistically connected with my imaginative dream. Somehow I felt that I was only beginning on my journey and enamored with confidence and fulfillment. My experience of hanging out with Robert Plant and Jimmy Page earlier in the day and sharing their heartfelt interest without any restrictions has no equal. For a short time that day and experiencing the rare opportunity of being just one of their "mates" and having a common bond of mutual interest would forever be frozen into my conciousness.

 

The following morning I hadn't completely sobered-up from an all night of self-indulgence with drummer John "Bonzo" Bonham when I arrived back at the hotel hoping to have breakfast with the band. That's when I was informed that the band had checked out earlier that morning to catch a sunrise flight. Perhaps that was good.

 

As the Atlantic Records Regional Promotion and Marketing Represenative, I would go on to work with Led Zeppelin several times later.

 

Phillip Rauls (2005)

 

I should get Philip's book.  He first wrote the story about Zep in Memphis 1970 for the old L-Z.com site and it's in the timeline.

https://www.ledzeppelin.com/lzprogrammes/lzrauls.html

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