How a Legend Took the World by Storm
By Larry Morris
Hi, I’m Larry Morris, a New Zealand-born entertainer, singer-songwriter.
I presently live in Auckland, the city of my birth; however, I have played gigs in several countries during the last forty-nine years.
My first band, Larry’s Rebels (1964 to 1971) were very successful in New Zealand, and as a result, we supported many famous artists, such as Roy Orbison, Tom Jones, The Walker Brothers, Herman’s Hermits, and The Yardbirds.
The original guitarist with the Yardbirds was Jeff Beck, and he was with the band when they played the United States as part of their 1967 world tour.
The band completed the USA dates with a final concert in Chicago. For reasons only they know, Jeff Beck departed the band after that Chicago gig.
Regardless, the band was still obliged to continue with the Australasian dates that would follow the American concerts, and now they were without their guitarist, Jeff Beck.
My band was at Auckland airport awaiting the arrival of the American acts we would be supporting, the Walker Brothers and The Yardbirds.
The English musician chosen as the replacement for Beck arrived alone, direct from London before the American bands flew in from the States. The tour promoter, Harry M. Miller, greeted him as he came through customs and then introduced him to the members of Larry’s Rebels. His name was Jimmy Page.
Jimmy was among an elite group of session players, and this was what he mostly did then. He was playing on a Petula Cark track in the UK studio when he got the frantic call from Keith Relf, asking him if he could fly to New Zealand and take Jeff’s place.
Because Jimmy had played the solos on the singles, ‘Over Under Sideways Down’, and ‘Heart Full of Soul’ (if my memory serves me correctly), he was the obvious replacement. We spent the time waiting for the others to arrive talking to Jimmy.
We were especially taken with the silver satin shirt he was wearing that matched his high-heeled boots. I was just turning 20, and a very impressionable young Kiwi rocker. I recall asking Jimmy where he bought the shirt? “Carnaby Street”, he said.
Jimmy was quite shy and he expressed concern about how the Yardbirds fans would react to discovering Jeff Beck was not with the band.
Jeff had legions of fans that wore Union Jack coats. These coats were the true indicator of the Jeff Beck fans in the audience. We understood why Jimmy was a little nervous about being the Yardbirds replacement guitarist.
As it happened, these Jeff Beck fans gave him loads of grief chanting, “Where is Jeff?” constantly until the band began. Nevertheless, once they heard his wicked playing, that all changed.
With his violin bow held high, sounds that nobody had ever heard coming from a guitar before, screamed out from his Les Paul. It was a joy to behold, watching the audience reaction change, from disappointment when no Beck appeared, to utter bewilderment at this tall skinny Englishmen with his tone bender and violin bow, not forgetting those long curly blonde locks.
We became friends with ‘Pagey’ on that tour. He was wonderful to be with, and he was so supportive of us as a band. It is not the usual treatment accorded to the support band, and that was why it was so special.
We were all invited to the end of tour party when the tour finished and we had played the last show. Promoter, Harry M. Miller, had arranged this large mansion in Parnell, Auckland as the venue for the party.
When everybody had arrived and the party was in full swing, Jimmy took our guitar player, John Williams, aside. Jimmy said he had something for him, and then gave John his guitar strap and the tone bender foot pedal we had watched him use every night. These pedals were not available in either New Zealand or Australia, so this was an enormous gesture.
To top it off, he then presented John the silver satin shirt that he had worn when he arrived in our country. Forty-five years later, my former song writing partner, John Williams, is still playing guitar and still wearing the guitar strap Jimmy gave him that night.
The party continued well into the small hours, and we shared a stories and jokes. Jimmy told us he had never enjoyed himself as much as he had on tour. “When I arrive back in London, I am going to put my own band together”, he said, “because this is much more fun than doing session work for a living.”
We were not at all surprised when a couple of rehearsal years later, Led Zeppelin with Jimmy at the helm, took the world by storm.
Thank you Teri.
Best wishes to all your readers,
Larry Morris Capiello Auckland