In January 1969 I went with a friend, Allan Knowles to see
the "New Yardbirds" at Hunt Armory, Pittsburgh, PA. I was sixteen
years, eleven months (important at that age!) old and was in my
Junior year of high school.
We were a bit skeptical about the band and the concert since
we had heard that the Yardbirds had broken up, but the DJ at the
sponsoring radio station (KQV-Pittsburgh) said it was a new band put
together by one of the former Yardbirds.
We arrived early, and found the band's equipment set up on
knee-high risers, the kind I was accustomed to in high school band!
And they only had a third of the armory floor for audience-- there
were even two local bands schduled to play, each with their own area.
As we were looking at the equipment some guys came out of
the back room, suspiciously asking what we were doing as they
approached us. "We're looking for the Yardbirds," I said. "We are
the Yardbirds," said the leader. I asked what he played, and he
said guitar. I was thrilled. "So do I!," I responded. He reacted
with a smile and a comradery interest that I wouldn't have
He and I seemed to hit it off quickly, and the more we
talked the more we found we shared common ideas and off-the-wall
approaches to music and other things, including religion and
spiritual/mystical beliefs. Since Allan was/is a rather shy
individual I was doing most of the interacting (being the less-shy
of the two), and in my recollection I sometimes don't even remember
Allan being there at various points as a result. I was enthralled
by the moment.
The guitarist was Jimmy Page. He was showing us his
equipment, and pulled out a violin bow. "Do you know what this
is?" I stood silently, shocked since I had been playing around with
a violin bow on my guitar for several years. "It's a violin bow,"
Jimmy said. I responded, "I know-- I have one that my dad brought
home from the music store where he works." Jimmy seemed astounded,
and even more so when he found I'd been playing with the idea for as
long as he had, although I used a different technique of approach.
About that time he decided to plug me in and we played a
bit, then he called the band together. I played several songs with
them, very awkwardly and nervously at first. I remember jamming at
first playing some blues, as Jimmy had suggested, and then after
Jimmy briefly showed me the song, playing Communications Breakdown
several times with them and many of the other songs from their first
album before someone angrily came yelling over that one of the local
bands was trying to start playing and they had a crowd gathered at
There were by now a number of people who had gathered around
our bandstand to watch. When I climbed down several of them asked,
"Are you a member of the band?" Jimmy yelled down, "Yes, he is!"
despite my nervous statements to the contrary. The people wanted my
autograph. I was honored, and felt that I had been adopted for the
evening and that Jimmy was humoring me. Some photos were taken of
all of us.
After the show I played some more-- it was like a band
practice as people were leaving. At some point we began to put
equipment away and close up shop. I remember a limbo-period of not
knowing how to say goodbye, as the band seemed to be talking among
themselves and we were standing alone.
John (John Paul Jones) approached and suddenly became real
talkative. As the conversation evolved, it seems that Jimmy had
sent him to more or less check me out and to invite me to leave with
them as the second guitarist for the band. They had been serious
Jimmy and I had earlier discussed theoretical ideas of how
we would put our dream-band together. I had said I'd rather have a
three-piece band and be the only guitarist. He said he liked that,
but that for this new band he would like to have a second guitarist
"if he could find the right fifth person" that fit in with the band
as a whole. John said that Jimmy had decided that I was the right
After some thinking and talking with Allan we decided that
yes, I would join the band and that Allan would come along as an
equipment man. We all shook hands around, with some hesitancy
between myself and John Bonham (Bonzo), the drummer who seemed to
have his doubts about me, and I had my doubts about getting along
with him as well.
I was giving Jimmy directions how to get to my house so we
could pick up my equipment, shock my parents, and get on to the next
destination, which I believe was Cleveland. However, about this
time I suddenly realized my dad was probably waiting for us outside,
since we had made plans earlier for him to pick us up and in all the
excitement I had totally forgotten.
In short, my dad had a fit, was screaming for me to get in
the car, and Allan and I went back in sheepishly to discuss the
situation with the guys. After some long, serious discussion I
decided to pull out. "You'll get another chance," said Jimmy.
"Maybe not this big, but yes, another chance."
There are many more details of this evening which are revealed in the book. Ironically, as Led Zeppelin became a
symbol of heavy metal and rumors of satanic involvement abounded, I
went a different path, becoming an ordained Conservative
Congregational minister, serving two pastorates and spending nine
years as an Army chaplain, serving with Rapid Deployment, PsyOps and as a Hospital Chaplain.
Today I own my own multi-faceted small corporation with my second
wife, Linda. I watched with glee as my third child, David, born in 1982, grew in leaps and bounds in learning the guitar in just
ten months and wonder if someday I, too, will be the father
screaming, "Get in the car!!! You're not quitting school to join up
with a bunch of G*D punks!!!"
God forbid! Actually, in September 1998 we had the chance to jam together with a friend's band, the house band for a local blues club in Hagerstown MD. That was really great!