David Coverdale’s Agonizing Journey to Join Deep Purple

In 1973, Ian Gillan left Deep Purple, and David Coverdale stepped in his place. Years later, the singer talked about how he got there on the ‘Rock & Roll High School with Pete Ganbarg’s podcast.

First off, Coverdale met the guys from the group back in 1969. His band, The Government, opened for a Deep Purple concert at Bradford University, and after their performance, he had a chat with Jon Lord, which he recalled as follows:

“And Jon Lord, bless his heart … said, ‘I enjoyed your set immensely … Have you got a phone number?’ My mom and dad never had a phone. It was ‘pigeon post,’ you know, ‘Meet me at so and so.'”

So, the singer gave Lord his home address and waited for him to send a mail. The wait lasted until 1973, when Deep Purple started to look for a new vocalist through an ad posted on the British paper Melody Maker.

The band’s ad called for applicants to send a photograph and a recording of them singing. Having recorded himself drunkenly singing Billy Withers and Joe Cocker songs but not having a photo, Coverdale solved the problem with his mother. He shared:

“I got a picture from my mother of me saluting as a boy scout. And she said, ‘You better make sure I get this back.’ And I wrote, ‘Dear Deep Purple, as you can see I am always prepared.'”

Whitesnake frontman’s plan led to an audition, and, on his 21st birthday, the band chose him as its new vocalist. But this marked the beginning of another phase, including a change of image, as Ian Paice explained in an interview with Classic Rock.

According to Paice, Coverdale was ‘overweight,’ with ‘a rather strange haircut, very weird clothes and a mustache that did him no justice’ in those years. So, they worked on that next, and the singer commented on it years later by saying:

“Because Ian Gillan was regarded as such a beautiful man, they just wanted to make sure that I got this caterpillar shaved off my top lip … they needed to get me groomed up a little bit.”

After fully joining Deep Purple with a few changes, David Coverdale recorded three albums with the band until they disbanded in 1976. Following the breakup, he went on his career solo and later formed Whitesnake.

Today, the vocalist is waiting to go on his band’s farewell tour, which they canceled in 2022 due to health issues.