How America Saved Led Zeppelin, According To Robert Plant
Before the formation of Led Zeppelin, young musician Robert Plant had to try out his luck with several bands of the day. This was common among young artists as the local blues clubs had quite an impact on the British youth, and many music enthusiasts looked for a band to perform with, hoping to fulfill their dreams of becoming music stars. Many failed in their quests, but some, like Plant, managed to become a cult presence on the rock scene.
Led Zeppelin caught the audience’s attention with their catchy riffs and tuneful melodies complimented by the vocalist’s lively performances, and the rest was history. However, Zeppelin wasn’t always embraced with open arms. They deeply struggled in their early days, even after the band’s initial commercial success, as their British peers considered them a band for ‘teenyboppers.’
They were often criticized for being an artificial band that had gained their following not with their music but with Plant’s eccentric stage performances. It was also known that most of their audience was based in the United States. In addition, before Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Page was already known as a member of another popular band in the UK. These factors would prevent the British music scene from embracing Led Zeppelin, and their fate would end up in the hands of the US promoters.
How Did The United States Help Led Zeppelin Keep Their Name?
Jimmy Page played guitar for one of the most popular bands of the day, the Yardbirds, from 1966 to 1968. They disbanded due to creative differences, and Page went on to form Led Zeppelin and started recruiting fellow musicians. He and Plant met later on, and it was an instant connection as they bonded over their similar music taste. With the later recruitments of John Bonham and John Paul Jones, they were set to write, compose and perform.
The band tried to take on the stage with their new name, but the British promoters named them ‘The New Yardbirds‘ on posters. It was a way for the English campaigners to attract the Yardbirds’ audience to their venues rather than to advertise a new band. This misunderstanding would result in the Yardbirds’ fans coming to Zeppelin’s shows and would lead to unpleasant moments between the new band and the audience, as they were there to see another show.
However, the American promoters embraced the band’s name quicker than their English peers. The American music industry would give Led Zeppelin the chance to perform with their new name regardless of the risks. They did not have to rely on the Yardbird’s name to attract audiences, and as they were embraced more and more by the American rock scene, the British promoters would eventually start booking them under the band’s own name.
In an interview with music magazine Melody Maker in 1970, Robert Plant addressed the issue:
“The old story goes that we tried to play in England several times, trying to get billed as Led Zeppelin, and they always put ‘the New Yardbirds‘ on the posters, every time, and they’d drag along the audience who’d come four years before to hear the Yardbirds, and of course there we were, doing stuff like ‘Communication Breakdown.'”
He then continued:
“So America saved us, because they were willing to book us under our new name, everybody knowing who Jimmy was and not having to rely on the Yardbirds’ name.”
At the end of the day, American promoters saved Led Zeppelin and ensured that they started their career in the music industry using their preferred name. Currently on tour, Robert Plant continues his journey as a musician in the United States, performing all across the country.