Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page instantly springs to mind when considering the electric guitar. His brand of music expresses the possible power of the instrument, but initially, Page learned to play on the acoustic. However, that changed when he discovered one artist who blew his mind and thrillingly expanded his horizons.
Page never set out to find the guitar, but it found him. When his family moved into a new home, the previous owner left behind an unwanted guitar. Although he’d never previously played the instrument, this fortuitous moment proved a turning point in his life.
The musician once said of the “intervention” from above: “It’s like, whether I wanted to be a musician or not, I was going to be one. But yes, I was fascinated by the whole process of being enveloped by sound and being part of it. And also, being in a choir, there’s the whole ambience of it. It’s funny how I was picking it up as a kid. And once it came to the point of hearing rock’ n’ roll coming from America, it was just a youth explosion of music.”
For a while, Page remained focused on the acoustic guitar, and like many kids in the 1950s, he was inspired by skiffle icon Lonnie Donegan. Naturally, as he grew older and got exposed to more sounds, his tastes changed with the discovery of Buddy Holly, leading him to pick up an electric guitar.
While Page had heard the instrument on records before, it wasn’t until he saw a Buddy Holly album cover on which the musician was holding an electric guitar that Page first laid his eyes on.
The Led Zeppelin founder recalled: “On the cover of his album, he was cradling this thing. The whole design of it was so avant-garde, basically. I hadn’t seen anything that looked like this. So it was just absolutely phenomenal to actually see a Stratocaster for the first time. And, as I say, he’s cradling it.”
After finally seeing an image of an electric guitar, Page was desperate to get his hands on one. The next step was imitating Buddy Holly on the electric guitar, which was a crucial part of Page’s development as a musician and worked as a solid entry point as he continued to advance his ability.
In the book Led Zeppelin: The Biography, Page remembered: “Solos which affected me could send a shiver up my spine and I’d spend hours, and in some cases days, trying to get them [down]. The first ones were Buddy Holly chord solos, like ‘Peggy Sue’, but the next step was definitely James Burton on Ricky Nelson records, which was when it started to get difficult.”
Although Page quickly moved on to trying to copy more technically astute players than Buddy Holly, he remains gratuitous for the impact the late musician’s work had on his life. After all, he was the man who introduced him to the electric guitar, which changed Page’s life forever.