Biography of Robert Plant – the early years
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Robert Anthony Plant was born on the 20th of August 1948 in West Bromwich (of all places! Talk about a hard childhood!) to parents Robert C. and Annie C. (Cane) Plant, but grew up in Halesowen, Dudley. He went to the King Edwards School in Stourbridge.
Young Robert grew an interest in singing at a young age and he has told in interviews that he used to imitate Elvis Presley at the age of about ten.
But in his early or mid teens he started to be interested in the Blues. It was in particular the Chicago blues of Willie Dixon (Hoochie Koochie Man, Spoonful, Bring it on home) and the root blues of legendary Delta Blues musician Robert Johnson – the man who sold his soul to the Devil at the crossroads to be the best blues performer the world has ever seen.
Before attending college Robert – not Johnson, Plant – started as a trainee chartered accountant but that was only for two weeks. It was his fathers choice and not his. After that he started college instead and had the time to start his musical career by playing in a long row of blues groups:
“I left home at 16 and I started my real education musically, moving from group to group, furthering my knowledge of the blues and of other music which had weight and was worth listening to.“
As he became more involved in the Birmingham music scene he found many other sources of inspiration, such as jazz, soul and West Indian rhythms. Possibly the strongest influence came from the new bands which were springing up on the West Coast of America. His favorite listening included Love, Buffalo Springfield and Moby Grape.
Plant had to take work to survive and took various jobs – one of which was working for Wimpey in Birmingham in 1967 laying tarmac. He also worked at Woolworths in Halesowen.
Robert made his first public performances as a teenager at Stourbridge’s Seven Stars Blues Club. He had spells with several local bands including one called the ‘Crawling King Snakes’, where he first met John Bonham. In 1966 Robert was in a group called ‘Listen‘ when he attracted the attention of CBS Records. His first recording contract was to make three singles for CBS, but none of these made any significant impact. Two of them were I’ve got a secret and Laughing, crying laughing. In about the same time – in 1966 – Robert Plant became together with his future to be wife Maureen Wilson.
Later in 1966 he founded the Birmingham-based group ‘Band of Joy‘. He stayed there for about six months and left only for to come back again later. One of the best incarnations of the group featured John Bonham on drums and Kevyn Gammond on guitar. The very last line up of The Band Of Joy consisted of Robert Plant, John Bonham, John Hill and Mick Strode in 1968. The band were very popular in the Midlands, and also achieved some success on the London club scene as a support act. A few demo tracks are the only legacy from this period. But Plant has put them on a CD in 2003. They broke up in 1968.
When not playing for Band of Joy he worked with well known veteran blues bandleader Alexis Korner. That shows how far he’d come already at this early stage of his career. Working with Korner was the furthest you could get if you were into blues in England at this time. At about the same time Robert also played with a local Birmingham band called ‘Obs-Tweedle’, which included Bill Bonham, John’s cousin.
The Yardbirds split up in the summer of 1968. The London based group was famous for their guitarists; Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. Page had been one of the most prolific session musicians of the Sixties, and he soon found his first recruit, John Paul Jones, from among his contacts. Jones was an experienced musician and arranger who could double up on bass and keyboards. Grant, the former Yardbirds manager, and Page then went looking for a singer and a drummer.
They first approached a singer they knew named Terry Reid. Reid was already contracted elsewhere, but he suggested Robert Plant as an alternative. Page and Grant went to see Plant perform with ‘Obs-Tweedle’ at the West Midlands College of Education in Walsall.
Not only were the visitors impressed with his performance, but Robert seemingly got on very well with Jimmy Page. So when he was offered the job as vocalist in the new band he not only accepted – but persuaded John Bonham to join as well. As a Scandinavian tour for Yardbirds already had been booked for September 1968, the four fulfilled these dates as ‘The New Yardbirds‘.
* And the rest is the history of Led Zeppelin – which you can read HERE
* Or you can chose to read about Robert Plant after Led Zeppelin HERE
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