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Robert Plant - Pre-Zep History


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From Rolling Stone magazine interview, 8 July 1971:

"... “We kept the trio going out of the band. Danny Thompson and Terry Cox and myself used to play a lot of gigs up and down the country.”

It was around this time that Korner, using his broadcasting experience, started to sing as well as play guitar. He cut his first singing album, New Generation of Blues in 1968. The band once more became a cult and musicians would arrive at gigs for occasional sessions. One was a Birmingham singer, Robert Plant. He toured with Korner around the club and university circuit before being picked up by Jimmy Page to join Led Zeppelin in California [i think RS meant Scandinavia here not Cali]. He didn’t get to finish an album he was cutting with Korner and Steve Miller, though some of the completed tracks will be included in an anthology to be released later this year [1971] which will also contain songs with Charlie Watts, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce. For a while Korner led another trio, called Free At Last."

Meg

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From Q magazine interview, May 1990:

"Robert became a regular at The Diskery in Birmingham, delving deep into the seam that ran from the Delta to Chicago. "I got a series of French RCA EPs with Jazz Gillum, the original Sonny Boy Williamson with sleevenotes by Alexis Korner. I worked with Alexis Korner just pre-Zep. I used to sleep at his place in Queensway [Westminster, London]. Goodnight, Robert, he'd say; you'll have to sleep on the couch tonight — oh, by the way, it is the same couch that Muddy used to sleep on when he stayed here. And I don't know if we’ve changed the toilet bowl since Buddy Guy was here… This was fabulous – I'm only from Wolverhampton, you know!"

Meg

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From When Giants Walked the Earth, page 27:

"Paul Rodgers, then fronting Free, recalls seeing Plant perform in the summer of 1968. 'It was just before he joined Zeppelin,' he says. 'Free played up in Birmingham with Alexis Korner at the Railway Tavern, a blues club and Robert got up to jam with Alexis and he was the Robert Plant that we know and love today – full-on hair

and tight jeans and everything, doing that "Hey babe!" [imitates Plant's trademark vocal]. Full on everything, you know? He was giving it large with Alexis who was playing an acoustic guitar, and people didn't quite get it. He really needed Bonham and Page behind him. We were staying at some hotel and afterwards he came back for a cup of tea. He said: "You know, I’m thinking of going down to London. What's it like down there?" I said, "Oh, it’s pretty cool, you know, it's good." He said, "I've had a call from this guy called Jimmy Page, have you heard of him?" I said, "Oh yeah, everyone's talking about him, he's a big session guy down there." He said, "Well, he wants to form a band with me. They've offered me either thirty quid or a percentage." I said, "Take the percentage." Next thing I knew it was Led Zeppelin, right?' Thirteen days after the final Yardbirds show in Luton, Plant packed an overnight bag and bought the cheapest train ticket available that would take him from Birmingham to Reading, and then onto the local stopping service to Pangbourne."

Meg

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Here's an International Times ad for a 3/8/68 Alexis Korner gig:

68-03-08Alexiskorner.jpg

On the same day Korner played that gig, Plant played with the Band of Joy. This date was already on the itinerary posted to this thread, but I don't believe the actual ad had been posted before:

3-8-68.jpg

I've also attached a scan of the question Ritchie Yorke asked Robert Plant about his pre-Zep days in the 4/11/70 NME. This was referred to a few posts back, but I figured I'd post the actual scan itself:

70-04-11NME-RitchieYorkequestion.jpg

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From When Giants Walked the Earth, page 27:

"Paul Rodgers, then fronting Free, recalls seeing Plant perform in the summer of 1968. 'It was just before he joined Zeppelin,' he says. 'Free played up in Birmingham with Alexis Korner at the Railway Tavern, a blues club and Robert got up to jam with Alexis and he was the Robert Plant that we know and love today – full-on hair

and tight jeans and everything, doing that "Hey babe!" [imitates Plant's trademark vocal]. Full on everything, you know? He was giving it large with Alexis who was playing an acoustic guitar, and people didn't quite get it. He really needed Bonham and Page behind him. We were staying at some hotel and afterwards he came back for a cup of tea. He said: "You know, I’m thinking of going down to London. What's it like down there?" I said, "Oh, it’s pretty cool, you know, it's good." He said, "I've had a call from this guy called Jimmy Page, have you heard of him?" I said, "Oh yeah, everyone's talking about him, he's a big session guy down there." He said, "Well, he wants to form a band with me. They've offered me either thirty quid or a percentage." I said, "Take the percentage." Next thing I knew it was Led Zeppelin, right?' Thirteen days after the final Yardbirds show in Luton, Plant packed an overnight bag and bought the cheapest train ticket available that would take him from Birmingham to Reading, and then onto the local stopping service to Pangbourne."

Meg

This doesn't entirely make sense, in that Paul Rodgers must have known that Jimmy was with the Yardbirds, not a "big session guy". :unsure:

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This doesn't entirely make sense, in that Paul Rodgers must have known that Jimmy was with the Yardbirds, not a "big session guy". :unsure:

Also given Plant's previous comments of having actually stayed in London with Korner, it does seem rather an odd thing for Plant to say to Rodgers that he didn't know what London was like. Maybe Rodgers memory is playing up? Or was it just throw away small talk by Plant?

Meg

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Also given Plant's previous comments of having actually stayed in London with Korner, it does seem rather an odd thing for Plant to say to Rodgers that he didn't know what London was like. Maybe Rodgers memory is playing up? Or was it just throw away small talk by Plant?

Meg

To me the anecdote as told comes across as if Paul Rodgers was some huge, super-hip, well connected star and Robert was just some Brummy Dummy. Are we really to believe Jimmy was discussing the finer business details of Led Zeppelin with Robert before he had even arrived in Pangbourne to see if they could get on socially? The

band had not yet formed! Robert had no idea about the London scene despite already having a London-based manager, performed there a few times and cut demos down there twice? The stench of embellishment hangs in the air over this one.

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Doing an archive search, I've uncovered another Robert Plant & The Band of Joy gig, much later than their last mid-March 1968 gig in Birmingham.

In Melody Maker, the gig is advertised for Saturday 30 March 1968: "Ewell Technical College Students Union presents Herbie Goin's and the Night Timers plus Robert Plant and the Band of Joy. Reigate Road, Ewell, Surrey."

Like the other reported art college gig, this could be Obs-Tweedle performing under the name Band of Joy, given Obs-Tweedle had already performed a few gigs by then.

Also there is an interview with Alexis Korner in Beat Instrumental magazine dated December 1970. In that interview, Korner says he discovered Plant after seeing him perform with the Band of Joy at London's Speakeasy. He could not fathom why his talent had been better known. A quick check of gigs indicates Robert Plant and the band of Joy performed on 19 February 1968 at that venue. If what Korner is saying is correct, the long association between Plant and Korner started after that date.

Meg

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An account of Alexis Korner jamming with Robert at the Midland Arts Centre:

Motor city music - Birmingham-style

Birmingham Post, 9 March 2000

"[Chris] Phipps has ramped up a 35-year ­career in the music industry. Based in the United Kingdom, he has worked in the United States, Japan, Africa, Israel, Holland and throughout Europe.

His passion and enthusiasm for music remains as ebullient as it was in the mid-1970’s when, as a college disc jockey, he began promoting local bands.

He has worked with the best, from Bob Marley to Sting, the Pet Shop Boys and Dire Straits and as a television producer and interviewer, he has put many more bands and musicians on the world’s screens, including Joan Armatrading, Ozzy Osbourne, UB40, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Steel Pulse and the Fine Young Cannibals.

Born in Northfield, he attended King Edwards School, Camp Hill, and studied teacher training at West Midlands College of Education. Phipps was already steeped in vinyl and music, booking local bands such as Carl Wayne and the Vikings (later The Move), The Idle Race with Jeff Lynne, who was later to form the Electric Light Orchestra and Jon Lord (later to form Deep Purple).

Phipps recalls: “Sixth form was great – Steve Winwood was playing in local jazz bands before the dawn of the Spencer Davis Group, Robert Plant was getting up to sing with Alexis Korner at the Midland Arts Centre, Gene Vincent was at St Francis Hall, Bournville, the Four Tops played the Odeon.

“At college, I booked Robert Plant’s Band of Joy, got sacked from the Ents Committee for booking Cream for £360 and then reinstated myself by getting The Scaffold to perform in the Common Room; I booked Paul Simon for £6 for the Christian Club, Black Sabbath, the original Fleetwood Mac, Joe Cocker, Jethro Tull ...”

http://www.birminghampost.net/life-leisure-birmingham-guide/birmingham-culture/music-in-birmingham/2009/03/09/motor-city-music-birmingham-style-65233-23101093/

Meg

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...Robert Plant was getting up to sing with Alexis Korner at the Midland Arts Centre...

I agree on this night(s) it sounds like Robert only jammed with Alexis as opposed to being a member...perhaps the date of this gig(s) can be confirmed...perhaps this is the extent of his live performances with Korner - a few nights at this Midlands venue?

Edited by SteveAJones
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I agree on this night(s) it sounds like Robert only jammed with Alexis as opposed to being a member...perhaps the date of this gig(s) can be confirmed...perhaps this is the extent of his live performances with Korner - a few nights at this Midlands venue?

The MAC gig will probably be advertised in the Birmingham papers,I can't recall seeing the venue advertised in the Black Country .,but I will look,

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Interesting follow up... in The Origin of the Species book by Adam Clayson, he states on page 73 that John Paul Jones used to play organ for Herbie Goin's and the Night Timers, to let off steam after his studio sessions. I wonder...

Doing an archive search, I've uncovered another Robert Plant & The Band of Joy gig, much later than their last mid-March 1968 gig in Birmingham.

In Melody Maker, the gig is advertised for Saturday 30 March 1968: "Ewell Technical College Students Union presents Herbie Goin's and the Night Timers plus Robert Plant and the Band of Joy. Reigate Road, Ewell, Surrey."

Like the other reported art college gig, this could be Obs-Tweedle performing under the name Band of Joy, given Obs-Tweedle had already performed a few gigs by then.

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Interesting follow up... in The Origin of the Species book by Adam Clayson, he states on page 73 that John Paul Jones used to play organ for Herbie Goin's and the Night Timers, to let off steam after his studio sessions. I wonder...

I'm seeing a sentence using the word "worms""can" and "of" forming here.

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Another entry... The Origin of the Species, page 189

"Alexis Korner poked his head into the bandroom [at the Speakeasy] afterwards. He and Robert began talking blues, partly because they both remembered Plant as a Crawling King Snake once volunteering, nay, insisting, on blowing harmonica druing Korner's second set at Kidderminster's Cannon Hill Arts Centre a while back.

Had Robert ever enjoyed a more interesting conversation? The feeling seemed to be reciprocal, and it wasn't long before Plant and Korner started working together, on and off, as a duo of the same kidney as those with whom Robert had performed in the folk clubs. With pianist Steve Miller, they also attempted to tape an album that was aborted after two weeks. 'Operator' and 'Steal Away', a fragment of which was to be quoted in Led Zeppelin's 'How Many More Times'.

Thus the middle-aged Korner became the despairing young minstrel's career advisor, father confessor and a major catalyst in the recovery of his artistic confidence, 'Alexis absorbed me into his larger family of musicians and friends in London,' beamed Plant, 'He aided my schooling for what was about to come, and is still coming.'"

Meg

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Thus the middle-aged Korner became the despairing young minstrel's career advisor, father confessor and a major catalyst in the recovery of his artistic confidence, 'Alexis absorbed me into his larger family of musicians and friends in London,' beamed Plant, 'He aided my schooling for what was about to come, and is still coming.'"

Alexis Korner died of lung cancer on January 1, 1984.

Jimmy Page had joined Ian Stewart's Rocket 88 (Stewart, C. Watts, J. Bruce, P. Jones, R. Turner, Dick Heckstall-Smith) for the Alexis Korner Tribute Concert at the Palais in Nottingham on June 5, 1984. It is believed Robert Plant was still in New York at the time (having held additional recording sessions for 'The Honeydrippers Volume One') and unable to attend.

The first concert performance of the '94-'98 Page/Plant era was at the Alexis Korner Memorial Concert to support the Macmillan Cancer Relief Fund, held at the Buxton Opera House on April 17, 1994.

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I tend to doubt that Plant and Korner would have played the Kirkcaldy YMCA, as that was in Scotland. I wonder if someone got that mixed up with the final Band Of Joy tour?

And I think Paul Rodgers was exaggerating to say the least. Neither Jimmy nor Robert have ever stated that Jimmy "called" Robert prior to seeing him with Obs-Tweedle. And Robert wouldn't have asked Paul if he'd heard of Jimmy Page!!

And I wonder if the "Cannon Hill Arts Centre" (mentioned in The Origin of the Species) is related to the "Midland Arts Centre" (mentioned by Chris Phipps). If so, then we can likely pinpoint the very first time Plant and Korner jammed together.

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Some Alexis Korner dates from Melody Maker, incomplete list.

Saturday 8 March 1968

Middle Earth Club, London

with Fleetwood Mac, Bruno's Blues Band, DJ Jeff Dexter

Thursday 24 March 1968

Frankfurt Jazz Festival, Frankfurt, Germany

Sunday 13 April 1968

Roundhouse, Chalk Farm

with P.P. Arnold, and C.A.S.T.

Friday 19 April 1968

Korner's 40th Birthday Party, Queensway

with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers

April-May

Recording sessions at Sound Techniques Studios, London

Friday 3 May 1968

Rutherford College, Kent

with The Pentangle, Moe, and Dorris Henderson

Thursday 9 May 1968

Audimax Pop Festival, Star Club, Hamburg, Germany

Friday 17 May 1968

Middle Earth Club, London

with Pink Floyd, Free, DJ Jeff Dexter, and Chakra

Sunday 19 May 1968

The Civic Centre, Swiss Cottage NW3

"Alexis Korner presents the Submerged Seven Eighths of the Blues with actor Alexis Kanner"

Sunday 26 May 1968

OZ Benefit, Middle Earth Club, London

with The Pretty Things, Social Deviants, Blonde On Blonde, Pink Floyd, Miss Kelly, The Flamingoes, Buzby Lloyd, John Peel, Jeff Dexter and The Transcendental Aurora Light Show

Monday 27 May 1968

Folk at the Garter, Star and Garter, Bromley

with Pete Brown's Poetry Band, King Ida's Watch Chain, Mike Hawkins, Mike Horovitz, Brian Patten, Priests of the Raven

Friday 21 June 1968

New Universities Festival, Bradford University Union, Bradford

with Champion Jack Dupree, 'Midsummer Night's Dream' with Fleetwood Mac, Hedgehoppers Anon., Blossom Toes & Amboy Dukes.

Wednesday 26 June 1968

Hampstead Country Club, Hampstead

Saturday 6 July 1968

Woburn Music Festival, Bedfordshire

with Jimi Hendrix, Pentangle, Donovan, Fleetwood Mac, John Mayall, The Taste, Geno Washington, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Roy Harper, Al Stewart

Tuesday 9 July 1968

The Blues Roll On, BBC Radio 3

Tuesday 16 July 1968

The Blues Roll On, BBC Radio 3

Tuesday 23 July 1968

The Blues Roll On, BBC Radio 3

Sunday 11 August 1968

8th national Jazz, Pop, Ballads & Blues Festival, Sunbury, Berkshire

Host

Monday 12 August 1968

London Jazz Centre, 100 Oxford Street

with Chris McGregor and Sandy Brown

Thursday 26 September 1968

International Essen Song Day, Grugahalle, Essen, Germany

Thursday 17 October 1968

Porchester Hall, Queensway

with Roy Harper, Pete Brown, Deviants, and The Action

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Interesting follow up... in The Origin of the Species book by Adam Clayson, he states on page 73 that John Paul Jones used to play organ for Herbie Goin's and the Night Timers, to let off steam after his studio sessions. I wonder...

My notes show that this took place in 1966, when John McLaughlin was a member of the Night Timers (Jones and McLaughlin had previously played together in Jet Harris & Tony Meehan's backing band, and McLaughlin subsequently invited Jones to jam with the Night Timers).

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My notes show that this took place in 1966, when John McLaughlin was a member of the Night Timers (Jones and McLaughlin had previously played together in Jet Harris & Tony Meehan's backing band, and McLaughlin subsequently invited Jones to jam with the Night Timers).

^^^

I've incorporated this into the Zeppelin Mysteries thread to avoid any derailment here (pre-Zep Plant)

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Interesting follow up... in The Origin of the Species book by Adam Clayson, he states on page 73 that John Paul Jones used to play organ for Herbie Goin's and the Night Timers, to let off steam after his studio sessions. I wonder...

According to legend, didn't Robert expect JPJ to be some "bloke with a pipe" upon hearing that a session musician was the bass/organ player for Jimmy's new Yardbirds? If that's truly the case, then Robert could not have met JPJ before then.

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According to legend, didn't Robert expect JPJ to be some "bloke with a pipe" upon hearing that a session musician was the bass/organ player for Jimmy's new Yardbirds? If that's truly the case, then Robert could not have met JPJ before then.

Not sure if she was suggesting Jones & Plant's paths crossed prior to August '68, but would agree they did not.

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And I wonder if the "Cannon Hill Arts Centre" (mentioned in The Origin of the Species) is related to the "Midland Arts Centre" (mentioned by Chris Phipps). If so, then we can likely pinpoint the very first time Plant and Korner jammed together.

It's the same place..and the Kiddiminster reference is totally wrong.

Alexis Korner poked his head into the bandroom [at the Speakeasy] afterwards. He and Robert began talking blues, partly because they both remembered Plant as a Crawling King Snake once volunteering, nay, insisting, on blowing harmonica druing Korner's second set at Kidderminster's Cannon Hill Arts Centre a while back

http://www.birminghamuk.com/cannonhill.htm

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Neither Jimmy nor Robert have ever stated that Jimmy "called" Robert prior to seeing him with Obs-Tweedle.

The call might have been after they had met, and Robert's visit to Pangbourne, to actually offer him the spot. It's at that point they'd have presumably talked money details.

The rest sounds like Paul Rodgers' very shaky memory for the specifics--I don't think he was deliberately exaggerating or making anything up, it was just a very long time ago.

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The call might have been after they had met, and Robert's visit to Pangbourne, to actually offer him the spot. It's at that point they'd have presumably talked money details.

Agreed but Wall's writing suggests it was before Robert went to Pangbourne, which could be incorrect. I won't

comment on the Luton date (7/7/68) except to say I've yet to see it substantiated, but I'll have Pete Frame's

Dec '72 Jimmy Page interview recordings tomorrow and will review what was said about it as it was a topic of

conversation between them.

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