Jimmy Page recalls violent threats from US police during Led Zeppelin's first American tours: "You go out there, boy, and I’ll bust your head"

Led Zeppelin in 1969
(Image credit: Chris Walter/WireImage)

Jimmy Page has recalled threats of violence from US police officers during Led Zeppelin's early tours in America.

Zeppelin first played America's southern states in February 1969, with their first show taking place at Memphis State University on February 10.

Sharing his memories of the night on his Instagram account, Page writes, "The band were to play at Memphis – the cradle of blues, rockabilly, and the genius Sam Phillips. A dream come true for me to visit the mecca of music. We were awarded the keys to the city because the concert had sold out in record time and, hey, someone who sells out that fast deserves it!⁣

"This wasn’t necessarily the best time to be touring the South," he notes, "black people were still being lynched in other southern states and the man who shot the two bikers at the end of Easy Rider would get a standing ovation in movie theatres! Long hair, hippy ethics and anything askew of redneck were not welcome in places like Memphis and Nashville at that time.

"Just by chance, one of our road crew was taking a call of nature in the restroom when he overheard the police discussing what they had in store for the members of Led Zeppelin later that evening. After the show, we left the State University and drove overnight straight to Miami taking the keys to the city with us!

"I couldn’t wait to play Memphis. It meant so much to me, because of the legacy of Sun Studios in the Fifties. But it was a tricky time to perform in certain parts of America."

In a 1970 interview, Page revealed that he had hoped to have Zeppelin record at the legendary Sun Studios while in Memphis, but that owner Sam Philips wasn't interested: "I suppose he thought, Who the Christ are they?" Page recalled.

Zeppelin's return to Tennessee was not without incident either, as the guitarist remembers.

"That August we played Nashville," Page writes. "When we came off stage after the last number, we went into the dressing room. The audience were going wild, so I said, ‘Let’s do an encore,’ but this police guy puts a steel bar in front of me blocking the door, and says, ‘You go out there, boy, and I’ll bust your head.’ I thought, ‘He’s not kidding...’"

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.