I was a bit of a late bloomer when it comes to being an adoring fan of Led Zeppelin.
I started playing the guitar at the age of seven and my father was somewhat of a strict blues purist, which didn’t hurt my early music education. BB King, Albert King — all the kings — lived on our turntable at home. And from a very young age I devoted my playing to those masters. My first year of high school I turned 13 and I was a very awkward and shy young man. The halls of the school were littered with older, long-haired rockers proudly wearing their gods of rock t-shirts and I found them intimidating. I was only there for two weeks, but word had gotten around the traps that I was a “player.” One of those lads, who later became a friend, menacingly handed me a cassette tape and sternly said if I was such a “player,“ I should be able to play the guitar solos on what he handed me. Somewhat unnerved, I accepted the challenge and took it home.
Of course, growing up in Windsor, Ontario, you’re inundated with Detroit rock radio and I was familiar with Zeppelin’s music, but it hadn’t hit me as of yet. So I sat down at the cassette player, and on the tape were two songs: “Heartbreaker” and “Black Dog.” I tackled “Heartbreaker” first.. very blues based, incredible riff and the solo was right up my alley. All the blues boxes but played much faster and pleasantly, slightly sloppy in the best possible way. And then I listened to “Black Dog.” I mean, come on, that riff, that guitar sound is like a razor dipped in liquid mercury slicing your ears. The offset timing of the riff to the anchor of the drums is pure genius. The Leslie affected guitar solo is like a roller coaster ride you simply do not want to end. I don’t think Mr. Robert Plant recorded a better vocal. It’s a signature that others tried to copy but that is that. Jimmy Page has been a profound influence on my music and being fortunate enough to spend some time with him, I’m honoured to call him a friend.