May 20, 2020
Chapter 6: DJ-ing for Led Zeppelin
Where is that Jimmy Page hiding anyway?
After a mind-blowing Alice experience, which I flashback a little later, my next gig came from one of Bill’s main guys, Dave Furano, who had offered me some new work while at the Alice Show in Tucson. This time it was about a month later for Led Zeppelin at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco, where the 49ers played. The show was slated for June 2, 1973. This was a huge thrill for me, as Zeppelin was one of my favorite bands, and I was on the inside now, or so I thought. Little did I know that exactly one year later, I would be promoting my own first concert, as an honest to goodness rock promoter. What a difference a year can make!
The downside for this Zep gig was that I had to show up at five in the morning, even though the show didn’t start until much later in the afternoon. It was June, and I froze my ass off in forty-degree bay air all day – like I should care, right? For my first job of the day, I was trusted with lining every single trash can in the stadium field. I didn’t care. I was just happy to be involved. I do admit I was pissed when they told me to clean them a few more times. I heard, “it ain’t gonna throw itself out!” Nice, but spot on. We all want to be an executive before we pay dues, but there ain’t no getting around it.
Jimmy Page somehow didn’t make the band’s charter flight in favor of taking a commercial flight so that he could “be with the people,” which meant hours of delays. The band wouldn’t be able to start until Page landed and made his way to the stadium, whenever that would be. There were no cell phones then, remember, so he was officially AWOL. Look, it’s 1973 and a guy has to do what he has to do. I would have done the same thing under all the pressure, which means WHATEVER.
I was given the daunting task of entertaining the sixty thousand people who were waiting for Jimmy to finish his vision quest—with just twelve eight-track tapes. The openers, Roy Harper and Lee Michaels, had already played and left the stage, and there was still no sign of Jimmy. I had to come up with a way to stretch out those tapes over a couple of hours to keep the restless crowd pacified. So I played the songs in different orders to keep things interesting; this way, they weren’t getting the same list of songs on repeat forever. And what do you know, it worked, and everyone was happy with my improvised DJ set. The Leon Russell songs and Traffic went over best.
If you look real close, you can see me out there in the middle of the crowd, by the scaffold.
Jimmy eventually showed up and Led Zeppelin took the stage. From the mixing platform high up in the scaffolding, I had a great view of the band, the stage, and the immense audience of sixty thousand people. The tickets were priced at $6 a head, and the newspaper the next day said the band had earned about $1,000 a minute for their three-hour show! Do the math.
Despite me showing up way too early and having to pull audio sleight of hand on the crowd, I’ve gotta say, it was an eye opening incredible experience. It was Led fucking Zeppelin. This was my brother Jimmy and my favorie group. He had an 8 track in his ’64 Malibu SS we would blast Communication Breakdown. Also, I got paid $50 for 14 hours on the clock. I was in heaven. The easy part was getting to LAX that night after the show as they had a midnight air mail flight for only $10 from SFO-LAX. Then I’m in LAX with nowhere to go once we landed. I slept in the airport, waiting for a plane to leave at 7am back to Phoenix, but found out that I was $3 short when I went to buy the ticket ($30 back then). The ticket guy wouldn’t loan me the money despite my promises of sending it back. Lot of money to give to a stranded stranger?) Now I’m hosed, and I swore I had to dedicate my life to never being in this position again!
So I did the only smart thing I could think of: I spent $5 to get to the freeway ramp, which was a couple miles away, and hitchhiked to San Diego to borrow some money from Otis, who lived there with his mom. Then I had to endure her lecture for being so stupid to be traveling without money – she was right of course – and so forth. Talk about a cloud being burst, going from Led Zeppelin to getting yelled at by my friend’s mother. Humbling, even to a 19 year old who was just with the Zep.
The good news was this was truly a character builder for me. I got to be Danny (Swansong guru and visionary) Goldberg’s local guy on the Phoenix show which was going to be at Tempe Stadium. Then one tragedy led to another for the one of the most important rock bands, ever, in the world, and that was it for Zep. I went on to work with the guys later in one form and/or another, over the years. I loved Jimmy’s long time attorney Stevens Weiss, who looked after Jimmy in the solo years. The Who’s legendary manager Bill Curbishley, who is the epitome of what a manager should be and we became friendly over the years. He also took care of Page/Plant. Our best times were the Page/Plant reunion in the 90s where I put on their shows in Phoenix, Las Vegas and Denver. Truly as good as it gets.
I truly wish they would do some shows with my good man and heir apparent, Jason Bonham, like they did in 2007 at the O2 Arena in London. A funny story about going to that show, Bill and Phil Carson, who were running the event, called and asked who I was bringing to the show, as I had requested two tickets. When I told him it was my daughter, Danielle, he said “her ticket is free, but you are paying $5,000 for yours.” Best $5k I’ve spent on a show. They were sweet enough to send along a Ronnie Wood portrait of Ahmet Ertegun when we got back home, which was a nice touch.
Needless to say, I love the era that this grew out of and the individuals who made it happen.
Chapter 6 Photo Gallery
print ad for the big show
Ticket for Bill Graham Presents Led Zeppelin at Kezar Stadium, June 2, 1973.
can you see me on the platform?
review of the show at Kezar
With Jimmy Page and Robert Plant backstage at red Rocks 1995 with our Red Rocks awards!