The story of the man who jammed with Led Zeppelin then sold Jimmy Page his most famous guitar

Jimmy Page onstage in 1977 with his red Les Paul
(Image credit: Richard E. Aaron)

In 1974, Michael Corby was living in London and putting together The Babys – the band that would bring John Waite to the world's attention – when he happened to cross paths with Led Zeppelin. Little did he know he’d end up selling his favourite guitar to the day’s biggest guitar hero. 

Below, Corby takes up the story… 


“I was living in Battersea, South London, and was engaged in putting together a rock’n’roll band which subsequently became known as The Babys. An associate of my manager, the late Adrian Millar, called Noddy Mackenzie was friendly with Raymond Thomas who was Jimmy Page’s guitar roadie. 

"After informing Raymond that I was the custodian of a three pick-up original Gibson Les Paul ‘Black Beauty’ I found myself commanded to appear at the court of Led Zeppelin at their rehearsals in a disused cinema in Fulham, owned by Emerson Lake & Palmer

“Little did I know that I would find myself jamming with the godfathers of rock on and off for the next two weeks while Jimmy and I argued over the price of a guitar that I had not had the least intention of selling when I set out. 

“The instrument in question was to become Jimmy Page’s now celebrated red, bastardised, 1952 Les Paul. How I managed to end up parting with it and how I spent so many hours jamming with Jimmy and the entire line-up of Led Zeppelin is something I still have difficulty in coming to terms with to this day. 

“After about ten days of attending endless arguments regarding the price of my own favorite Les Paul and having reached a point where the matter was almost settled, I was more than surprised when Jimmy asked me if I would show him some of the licks I had been jamming with him. Here was a man whose life and style had enriched my very being, what chance did I have of keeping my guitar? 

“I made less than no protest at all and Jimmy lead me to a small ante room where I dutifully showed His Royal Musicalness my sacred library of chord structures. It was at that moment and in private that I had the most remarkable, intimate and memorable insight to his playing. What I had taken months to learn he had learned in hours. 

“My ego was crestfallen but I had expected nothing less. God knows, I was still in shock that he had even spoken to me let alone played with me, allowing me to play his treasured ’59 Tigerstripe in an old Marshall Major 200 amp that he had acquired from Jimi Hendrix while Bonzo, Plant and John Paul Jones joined in.”

This feature was originally published in Classic Rock 113, in December 2007

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