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On This Day In Rock - 26th December

December 26, 2015

On This Day In Rock - 26th December

Led Zeppelin's first USA tour kicked off on this day in 1968 in Denver as support for the Vanilla Fudge and Spirit. It was to be a cataclysmic moment in the history of rock

The genesis of this tour was the cancellation of a concert tour by the Jeff Beck Groupwhich happened to be managed out of the same office occupied by Led Zeppelin's manager, PeterGrant. He contacted the promoters and convinced them to take on Led Zeppelin instead.

To help publicise the band in America before the tour, Grant sent white label advance copies of the band's recently completed first albumto key FM radiostations. How collectible those must be now. The album itself was issued on 17 January, mid-way though the tour. According to tour manager Richard Cole,the tour was underwritten by Grant, Jimmy Pageand John Paul Jones,while Robert Plant and John Bonham were paid a wage.

As concert promoter Barry Fey recalls, however, it's a milestone that almost happened in a different city.

 

Writing in his memoir,Fey remembers getting the call from Vanilla Fudge's booking agent Ron Terry a little more than a week before the show, asking him to add another group to the Denver date, which was already sold out. Fey refused at first, but Terry was persistent and said "Barry, this group is called Led Zep. elin. They're going to be huge."

Still unwilling to cave in, Fey got another phone call from Terry, who told him "Vanilla Fudge has agreed to take $750 of the money you were going to pay them and they'll give it to Led Zeppelin if you'll pay them $750, too." Considering this, Fey thought about the fact that Vanilla Fudge was offering to give some of their money to a group that "no one's ever heard of, that's never played in North America."

That must be something that's worth taking a look at, right? He made the deal with Terry and booked Led Zeppelin for their first North American show for the now-unbelievable sum of $750 out of pocket.

Led Zeppelin did not disappoint. After introing the group, Fey watched Led Zeppelin deliver a stunning set. To this day, he's still amazed that Spirit managed to go on after them. He immediately saw the future success that the group would have. "You didn't have to be a genius to know that Zeppelin was going to be a smash. Oh, my God. People were going crazy!"

The following morning, Fey got a phone call from Max Floyd, the program director at Denver's rock station KLZ. "Who did you have on last night? Our phone lines are jammed!" Luckily, Fey had in his possession a copy of Led Zeppelin's unreleased debut album, which he took over to the radio station. They immediately put it on the air, playing it nonstop that day.
Tight, heavy and hard hitting, they were an astonishingly massive hit, almost right away. By the time they reached the west coast, other bands didn't want to play the same stage as them. Zep were blowing away everyone. 34 gigs later, the tour ended on 15th February in Miami. Rock n roll would never be the same.






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Medium 38-40 28 96-102 71
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