Five Things You Might Not Know About Jimmy Page’s Guitars
When most people think of Jimmy Page, they recall the Led Zeppelin mastermind in an embroidered dragon suit with a low-slung Gibson Les Paul Standard standing in black-and-white loafers before Marshall speaker cabinets while rocking back and forth on a Vox wah pedal.
Or maybe you think of him sitting in a chair, hunched over a Danelectro 3021 guitar and furiously picking away. Or maybe there’s that image of him with a Gibson ED-1275 Double Neck perched above his head, strumming chords to the gods.
There are many, many more — as Jeff Strawman documents in the upcoming Led Zeppelin Gear: All the Gear From Led Zeppelin and the Solo Careers, a 600-plus page examination of the legendary band’s instrumentation, effects and accessories. The book is due in hardcover, special-edition leather bound and electronic formats on Oct. 6.
Strawman offers us an exclusive preview in the form of Five Things You Might Not Know About Jimmy Page’s Guitars.
One didn’t last very long
In 1962, after playing guitar for only six years, Page purchased a Gibson ES-345 Thinline Semi-Hollow Electric Archtop. The ES-345 was wired in true stereo, with two pickups, each with its own volume and tone pots and output jacks. A Y-splitter to convert the output into mono was available. This was the third guitar of this style in his collection, along with a 1958 Hofner President and a 1956 Gretsch 6120. Page was surely emulating other more established guitarists of the time, such as Eddie Cochran and Duane Eddy. Page later said he decided the Gibson ES-345 was not right for him after only two days. He replaced it with a more noteworthy guitar: the 1960 Les Paul Custom, dubbed “Black Beauty.”
Some never got played at all
Greco Guitars wanted the endorsement of a widely known guitar player and during a press conference on September 30, 1972 in Tokyo, Japan for Led Zeppelin’s forthcoming Japanese tour, Jimmy Page was presented with a Greco EG-360S Guitar. Pictures that have surfaced from this press conference show that Jimmy Page and drummer John Bonham were not happy with this presentation. Bonham, in fact, was so displeased with Greco Guitars that he demanded the company’s tagline – “Led Zeppelin is my brother” – be blackened out of their advertisement in the official tour programs.
One was a Frankenstein monster
Jimmy Page’s primary instrument during his years in Led Zeppelin was a Gibson Les Paul Standard, a guitar he named “Number One,” Purchased from Joe Walsh in April 1969, it wasn’t exactly in stock condition. Walsh had it sanded and resprayed, which unfortunately eliminated the guitar’s serial number. Jimmy Page then had the neck of the guitar shaved dangerously thin. He also had the original cream Kluson tuners replaced with gold Grover machine tuners. By October 1969, the pickup selector switch tip had fallen off, and was replaced with gaffers tape. The tip was properly replaced by March 1971. Over the years, pickups and their covers were removed and replaced, both out of necessity and Page’s preference. Even the guitar’s jackplate, a square piece of acrylic plastic that helps mount the output jack to the guitar body, saw some extra action. In November 1971, it was rotated 45 degrees so that it resembled a diamond on the guitar. During the 1977 U.S. tour, stage-crew laser operator Steve Jander crafted a rudimentary piece of metal for use as a jackplate so that Page could use Number One. This piece of metal stayed on the guitar for 10 years. In the ’80s, Page had one of the potentiometers replaced for a push-pull model, to allow for in-out phasing of the pickups.
He calls one ‘Pepto Bismol’
Jimmy Page has always looked to explore new frontiers, and he found a worthy partner in that journey with the TransPerformance automatic tuning system, which he noted “allows you to store over a hundred different tunings. That opens all kinds of possibilities.” Page took possession of his first TransPerformance-equipped guitar, a goldtop Gibson Les Paul Standard, in late 1991 during the Coverdale-Page sessions. He memorably used it in the “Pride and Joy” video with David Coverdale, in the 1994 Unledded show with Robert Plant and then the accompanying 1995-96 world tour, and as recently as 2007 at the Led Zeppelin reunion concert. He used a second TransPerformance-equipped wine red Gibson Les Paul Standard Premium on the 1998-99 Walking Into Everywhere tour with Plant. He personally nicknamed a third TransPerformance-equipped guitar “Pepto Bismol,” because of its pinkish finish. Page then traded this guitar back to Transperformance for a fourth guitar, which he dubbed “Eerie Dess,” due to its maroon red crackled finish. This is the guitar that was seen on Saturday Night Live in 1998, when Page appeared with Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs for a performance of “Come With Me.”
One had its own airplane ride
Fans may have noted Jimmy Page’s Martin D-28 Marquis during a performance of “Same Old Rock” at Roy Harper‘s 70th birthday celebration on Nov. 5, 2011. Based on the pre-war D28, it was part of an elaborate surprise for Page by JR Warner – the U.S. affiliate at ABC Trust UK. The occasion was Page’s 63rd birthday on Jan. 9, 2007. First, JR Warner contacted Paul Sinclair and Paul Hammond, in the hopes of leveraging their knowledge of all things Led Zeppelin. (Both are involved with the American Led Zeppelin cover band Get the Led Out.) Martin’s Custom Shop then did the custom inlay work, which included the Zoso sigil, zodiac symbols and Page’s signature, at their request. When JR Warner booked the trip to deliver the instrument over the Thanksgiving holiday in the states, he reserved an extra seat on the British Airways flight for the guitar. Jimmy Page as since put the Martin up for auction; it was sold for £26,250 (including premium) at Bonham’s Auctioneers on July 3, 2013.