M1 I believe it's similar to the English and he rediscovered, you know, the Allman Brothers met, they play the blues because their daddy played the blues game and they play real well, not really played kind of corny, you know, country blues, you know what I mean?

M6 You know. You know, but I mean. Yeah, but but but the kids get that into the black music because they heard the black music on the radio. Yeah. Yeah.

M1 The president met when the president was really all you had to do is turn the dial and is there a Perry Como. So he got Muddy Waters. Yeah. Yeah, that's right.

M2 Yeah. I mean, you can imagine England in the 50s was like, you know, never mind the McCarthy era. We lived in a total cocoon, having no idea. No. I mean, even to be into jazz and to even consider Chet Baker, Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, whatever it was, there was only this kind of tiny weeny faction that existed under the under the epidermis of popular music.

M11 The most American that we got, I think, was Johnnie Ray in England, you know, so when Alex Corner and when these guys started opening the you know, Big Bill Broonzy kept doing the Muddy Waters, came in fifty six. I was only eight then, so I didn't know anything about it. So we weren't even exposed to Chuck Berry till about nineteen sixty. It just wasn't palatable on the radio.

M6 So, you know, when you heard it though when you heard it. Yeah. It, you would take it when you heard it. It got you. Yeah I got you. But you went into more depth of study and it was a study for you that was fun.

M17 What you did for fun would be studying for somebody else. It's an obsession for bass, right. Yeah, I know. It's so.

F5 So when you heard it, finally, you were you became part of it and it became part of you. And and, you know, today, you know that music better than anybody I know. I don't know anybody who knows, you know, even Seymour Stein.

M7 I don't think, you know, I can't find anybody but maybe yourself in a couple of other guys.

M11 You can talk to me about it. I know. You know, it's that it's not even the historical aspect. It's the fact that society was running on such a different line in those days. The whole premise that it was always like it is today is you can be fooled into thinking that the accessibility that we've got now, you had then know it was nothing.

M6 Oh, you really had to look for. Yeah, yeah. I mean, it was pretty good.

M24 Well, I found it because I was very lucky in the time I lived, there was a bohemian culture that existed in real form.

M25 It wasn't some kind of hippie makeover. It was people listening to Leadbelly, listening to Broonzy, listening to country blues. And the second blues in England was considered like Chicago. Blues was considered sanctimonious not to be considered.

M11 And the stuff that you were involved with Joe Turner stuff, I not a swing, you know, just to choosing to wait to get it when it wasn't a real, real country.

M7 Yeah, yeah, yeah. Strange. That is, you know, because I guess people take it's like what, Led Zeppelin.

M13 Led Zeppelin. I consider it to be mainstream American rock and roll pop music.

M11 But you know, when you signed this and you used to come and see us, it was a subterranean music which was below the status quo of American society for people in Dearborn to widen the window down on their Lincoln Continentals and slow down, slow enough to spit at me, told me and I wasn't liked. And what we represented and the sounds that we made and the gestures that we made were considered to be, you know, this is not what we want America to be like. Now, if you flip through the magazines today, I'm not thinking the same thing about the next lot. I got my kids to be like that. Look at the state of the art. And all the time we were still trading on American music. We were English bringing it back. Jann Wenner at Rolling Stone. Can he resent us? He couldn't wait to get the knife in, you know, send them back.

M2 Don't allow them in the country. But oh, because we were well, we were probably bastardising. We were emphasizing we were creating a little bit of a. We were fornicating on American music.

M6 I think he didn't get it. You know what?

M9 I think a lot of people in the beginning didn't understand the magnitude of the art that existed in the music created by this group.

M17 I mean, they didn't understand the huge importance that this music not only had at that moment for all those people who dug it, man. You know, those millions of kids that, you know, they're on screen because they don't like it. They scream because it moves them. Yeah. Yeah.

F1 You know, it moves them. And and, you know, and of course, there are a lot of things that moves kids that the critics say, well, so what? You know, the kids don't know anything but that this is not one but yours. Well, great music. And and of course, what is really proved that is time, because now all the people who criticize you at that time are now pointing to you as being the inspiration for all the young groups today as the as the quintessential rock and roll group of all time.

M3 Yeah, well, I mean, that's the way the world turns and it's very odd.

M2 But, you know, when we took those songs and screwed with them, she's just going to make up my mind. Blind Willie Johnson became in my time of dying, which lasted for about twenty five minutes on stage.

M11 I went into some amazing turns and twists, as you know. Then we took nobody's fault but mine, the Willie Johnson and turned that into a Holocaust. That was amazing. And I used to see you singing about God.

M27 And what have they done to this? Oh no. Oh, dear. I have to tell you, we were so proud of a record that we made.

M11 We asked Ahmet have an inspiration to show us how we were.

M24 So, yeah, that's the key here. Slimeball.

M11 I sat by the side of the stage in a rehearsal room in London. We said, we've got the record, we finished it, we're going to play you the tracks. I don't know whether you can remember the story in Manticores, Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

M27 Yeah, we call them Emison, Snake and John.

M2 And so we're so proud we played him this stuff and diligently and not wanting to look at the guy because we're so into what we're doing and we don't want him to see maybe he's looking and enjoying this. We get to the end of like half an hour of bashing and crashing and turn around.

M27 And it's very, very happily on the couch where we had to wake him up so we could go to the clubs. What do you think about that on it? Oh, that's great, man. Right. I like the second one when I was still away.

M6 Yeah, but there was something. Yeah. You know, I, I remember that to get in to see you rehearse.

F8 I mean, that time anybody said, oh, I spent the afternoon listening to Led Zeppelin. I mean, there would be people who would kill to get five minutes, you know, to be there.

M6 It wouldn't be a stand off. And I must admit, it wasn't for your memory, you know. But you know what? You all managed to create a mystique around the group that was that impenetrable, which was shattering it.

M2 Now, on behalf of Atlantic Records and DVDs, I mean, the Today show how to end up like how to remove mystique at the drop of a hat crash.

M1 Bang. That's a place that's great. And, you know, I'm look, at this point. Yeah. You don't have a Led Zeppelin out there, you know, and the fact that you all go on is a huge, wonderful thing.

F3 But because you are your icons to the huge population and things have changed radically, what being a grand is not here to protect you anymore.

M27 And now we've got Bill coming back to make sure that we're shafted by the media. So I have to say, quote, But it's a different time.

M2 And I guess really we're just making that point that and it really echoes this current DVD really echoes the fact, the true value of the musicians in the band. I feel like I was kind of glued on as an afterthought. Oh, the singer. Oh, yeah. He's a bit like Fabianski, you know.

M7 You know, I don't think anybody ever said that. I mean, yeah, you have to get glued onto a Led Zeppelin track.

M2 In those days. But so now we have different times. The Honeydripper thing that we did together, but that was it was great because the art of persistence, you are absolutely right to do it. It was one of the most successful things I've done in my career. Southerlies, you remember me, clinched the idea. We were in a small social gathering in Japan, right? Oh, yes.

M3 You've got a good memory with with Jerry Zipkin, Phil Carson myself. Not part of. I've got the photographs. Yeah. I would love to get you back. I swear. I swear I'll find them out. I've got so many photographs of the tea ceremony, the National Restaurant Association Club, and we substituted a tea for, you know, we got all dressed up and went up there. Yeah, that was a quite that was a wicked night tailed off, I think, by going to a peeping booth and the red light district, right? That's right. That's right. Yeah, that was incredible. It was great. We each had a separate cubicle where we with a single chair where we could gaze wistfully through the glass at, you know, our Japanese counterparts writhing in mock glee and joy.

M2 I got enough of it. After about a minute and a half, I climbed on a chair, peeked over the top of that the the partition between my room.

M7 And I'm it's just to look down on my hero who was busily cleaning his glasses to get a closer look at him. Oh, yeah, that was it. At that point, the Honeydripper became a reality.

F2 And and we we anglicised it again, you know, I mean, I didn't come up with those of us who to tell us how the energy that we used to have these conversations without cameras and stuff.

M8 And it used to say, yeah, I mean, you know, we we reminisced about some of the great songs that we liked and the old days, you know, and if you knew every record I could think of and we're talking about and I said, you know what?

M9 We should we should do a record just of you singing these songs and shit. And and you liked the idea. And we said, we'll get a great band. And we did some songs in New York where the.

F3 With Jeff Beck. That's right. And with the Nile Rodgers and Hart Rodgers. And then we did some in and London with a string section. That's a great jazz saxophone player. I remember there was a and you know, and we had that big hit love.

M3 Yeah. And you know, I found there are outtakes that we never used to 99. Oh yeah. That Joe Turner thing. Yeah, we did a version of Roy had to treat it right as well.

M10 And yeah, it's a chance. I mean when we just played that let the boogie woogie roll it's the same feel. Yeah.

M6 That one. Yeah we did that way so.

F4 Yeah yeah. Yeah. And uh yeah.

F3 You and mistakes in that house.

M7 Did you write that one. You know I don't think has a big three three.

M6 Oh yeah. Yeah that's right. Yeah. And you see those were the days.

M12 I mean it's just not possible. I guess my time of being around in America was the onus was on Hendrix and yes, the airplane. Janis Joplin used to come and ministered to me when I lost my voice and bring me orange juice, one turn, orange juice, two thirds vodka.

M3 Great girl. Great time.

M10 She was terrific, was wonderful. But your time when you were starting the label and doing all that stuff, there was so much more of a kind of provincial regional aspect of record making.

M13 So when you took Wilson Pickett, who was in the Falcons, you bought that?

M2 I found a love. Yeah, right. And extracted him. But that's but that was made somewhere in some little room like, you know, in Detroit. Yeah. Yeah, fantastic. By the time we came along, yeah. Things were more or less nationalized. So, you know, your label was nationwide. Right. And heading to becoming a huge international force.

M9 But there were still some provinces in the sense that like a label in Chicago, like jazz or veejays, would require a lot of the local blues guys. Yeah, yeah. We were. So we had no blues players in New York. No, that's true. Yeah, we had.

F3 Our musicians and I made the records were like members of the Ellington band or the Cab Calloway Orchestra or Count Basie. There were X sidemen. You know, there were there were not there were not those guys. The way that you find in Chicago and in Detroit, it wasn't so cultured in those towns.

M2 I think with V-J Day, there was a particular time when Memphis Slim was recording with a band aid needed a track called The Comeback and Sassy Man. And he was he was still out of that same world. Joe Turnier. Yeah. That big barrelhouse moment.

F5 But then they had Jimmy Reed who singing with his wife. You know that that's real blues. Yeah. It was dimes down and dirty blues. Yeah.

M2 And and John Lee Hooker was going from house to Vijaya and the songs anybody would hear and yeah that's exactly how I feel about this radio.

F2 What you really what's important to remember, regardless of how you heard those songs.

M2 Yeah. The first. I was talking earlier about the Catholic radio in Britain. There was no, as I said, Johnny Ray was about as deep as you've got and he could actually sing great, you know, such a night and stuff like that.

M14 But there was no Billy Ward and the dominoes. There was no you know, we were listening earlier on to Clyde McPhatter.

M15 There was no the only way through into Black Pop was on it, as pirate station called Radio Luxembourg. Right. And on a Friday night, there was a program called the Tony Hall Hot American, Tony.

M2 And his caption was, That's it. And that's all from yours sincerely, Tony Hall. And he used to play only Decca Group Records. So your label was included at that time because it was coming out through London American. Right. And London was controlled by the Decca group. So you've got Carl Brunswick, all the London stuff, which was everything from MINUT Big Top. Yeah. You know, all a little label Smash Bang.

M13 And it was there that we started hearing, you know, the early Wilson Pickett, I guess.

M15 And it was then I heard the chimes and the Castells and this kind of American, the Velvets, not the velvet lads, but the velvet. So this kind of black American. Stuff mixed up with Jessie Hill, you know, that's really great stuff.

M2 Yes. It's the New Orleans side of Ernie Kaido, who we had at the parties that used to write the New Orleans parties for Led Zeppelin should be mentioned here because it used to say the moment where you started the new Led Zeppelin, Ahmet Ertegun, New Orleans farewell was these parties where they were either held in an old warehouse and had no damage or no spillage could affect the bill at the end. And I recall one with Clarence Gatemouth Brown on a riverboat in which John Bonham wore a gorilla suit. That's right. Throughout the whole show. And drunk behind Gatemouth Brown. Right. But he cited like 10000 Maasai warriors.

M3 Gatemouth was trying to be subtle with the violin. You remember that? Oh, yeah. We had Ernie Kaido.

M6 The Meters.

M4 Yeah, meters and well, the meters had some of the, uh, some of that family, you know, the Neville Neville Brothers.

F3 Aaron Neville was a wonderful singer and he is wonderful. Yeah, but but you know those parties we had Professor Longhair. That's right.

M18 And I think we had we had I remember I think of one of those parties we had, uh.

M2 Some other blues players, maybe Roosevelt Sykes, I thought I remember vaguely we had a good guy to let the good times roll. Uh.

M13 I schuchart his name. Yeah, I know that I went with you to Tipitina's one night to see Etta James.

M3 Oh, that's right, yeah. Oh, she was so she was so happy when she saw you like that. She was a wild piece of work. She's great. Yeah.

M9 But I think she's probably the the best living singer. Yeah. Of of that style, you know. That's right. I think you're right. There are not many that know that she was she. Well, you know, I mean her rendition that last. Yes. Is a classic. Right.

M3 I mean, I heard that on the radio in England on Saturday. Yeah. And I said the sound of the recording. I was on Orrego Records. Yeah, I think so. And I went, wow. I thought, is this Dinah Washington, Esther Phillips. Yeah. You know, they're the only ones who sang. Yeah. Good. You know. Yes. Esther was something else. Oh.

M19 One night I went out with with Phil Spector in L.A. and with, uh.

M18 I had Blancs with Dr.. You know, I just saw this, all this and with all this writing and with Phil and we were out to have dinner together, the three of us. And then we went to I took them to a club where Esther was singing in Watts. Yeah. Yeah.

M20 And Hamwi and.

M18 That's a way of saying this without the piano, oh, this one out and I think that they sang until six o'clock in the morning. Yeah. And and all that old old songs and.

M7 Now, remember this.

M3 And there was really something. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

M10 I went out with you and he one night in Manhattan and we were I think we probably drank a little too much because I became obsessed with singing the outros, the fade out of all the Gene Pitney songs for some reason because he produced I Want to Live My Life Away and every breath I take. And I think Time Without Pity. And Pitney's that whole drama of I was listening to where the voice went at the end of a track and all the way through my singing. I've always tried to make the faves interesting so that there's something going on.

M2 There's a change like Dionne demutualised. And I remember the three of us where we went to some jazz club with some Italian nieces and we don't make it such a bloody racket, such a row to so much noise going on.

M10 And poor old Barney Kessel was pretty good. Yeah. And oh, no, darling, don't just the other little brother out. And we've seen each other quietly. Well, one of the greatest guitarists in the world is up on the podium.

M2 And it was such a disrespectful thing to do. But our adrenaline must have been way off the clock, just getting stuck in the mind. Spector loves that.

M4 He loves to do that.

M3 Yeah, but we have some where a lot of evenings I don't want to go into all our evenings. Manses will be off the air if we are lucky. Tell me what it was like.

F2 You weren't used to hearing some kind of crashing sound. What was it like and what made you think that this band.

M18 This is the first time I heard Led Zeppelin, I heard the record.

M8 That's the first time I heard Led Zeppelin because we sang the group and they made the record. We had nothing to do with the making of the record.

M9 The record was made by the group, produced by themselves and written and put put together. I can tell you, when I heard that record, I just I just fell off my chair.

M21 I just as well as that. That's all she wrote. As I say, that was it. And, you know, I said, let's going.

M18 You stop worrying about the next two years.

M5 We're not we're not going out of business song.

M18 When you heard the record.

M9 Well, I would like you to listen to that first first on record, anyway, you can hear them playing on this and this DVD.

F6 Yeah, I think I saw it last night and it is extraordinary. And it did blow me away. But I have to ask you that question for the camera.

M2 Yeah, but you know what? It was again, it's like getting things out of time, out of context contextually. The first Led Zeppelin album was. I mean, Clapton has got Cream, which was really very strong, but not very good like this, what the difference was there was some air, some space in Led Zeppelin amongst the detention or whatever it was. It was quite, quite remarkable at the time.

M6 A great artistic achievement. You know what I mean? You realize now that also, you know, this is a group that had all kinds of music.

M19 It wasn't relegated to just, you know, no hard rock, but that, you know, we had all kinds of incredible songs and just and great variety and a richness.

M5 I mean, there was a richness to to what the group produced, which, you know, which is not not easily found in any other group.

M6 No, it's true. I don't know how we managed to do that socializing, but it's got in the way you thought, but. Well, maybe that helped.

M1 Listen, you all were I mean, you all worked as well as you and I was young. A lot of energy, you know. Yeah, true.

F3 And then we had, you know, we had very a great deal of help, like having an airplane with a bedroom, with a fireplace in it.

M7 And I think you remember that.

M1 Remember the being on board that flight.

M16 Everybody was in bed all day, handstands on takeoff.

F6 But it's like, you know, I was thinking because it was like, you're so different than anything you've done before. This was second year. I read about it. You have a great first year. You know what you like to, but you also have a great second year, which means that you get a sense of.

M5 What the public would really like to know, what the public and I would do with this, but, you know, the great things, the really great things are the things where you don't have to say, hey, this is not my taste, but the public is going to like this, right? That's not the great things, are the things which are so great that they hit you.

M9 And, you know, it hits your taste, that second taste that you've acquired in order to be able to tell what you think the public might buy next, you know, so you have to make that, you know, in our business, you have to do that every day to guess whether such an artist or song is going to appeal to a general public. But the great things, they hit you and they hit you in such a way, you know, they hit you, they're going to hit the public. It's good for your first date, your second taste and any other taste that you have, because it's just great.

F3 And and that's what that's what Zetland was when we first heard it. It was like the best the best rock and roll music we've ever had, you know?

M22 Well, you know what? It's the interesting thing is, again, something else that we might not have even thought about is that we only wanted to trade in albums. We had this kind of deal where we believed that if if the band was for guys, the representation of the band's music only came on two sides of final 12 is not singles and stuff like that.

M23 Right. Earlier on in your The Lifetime of Atlantic and the lifetime of everybody from Gonne records to roulette to whatever it is, we're dealing in forty fives. So how do you know I was buying my Atlantic stuff in England, not even thinking about an album album's most logically or a compilation of singing albums.

M22 They were just the best of the right, you know, the best of Del Shannon on top or whatever is Bobby Darin. Yeah. You know, your work with Bobby Darin is the classic sound of Darin, but in his earlier days and he was kind of really there in that smooth land that he created.

M23 But to begin with, it was all singles. It was all about until he got cultured and he started doing the splash splash. Yeah. But then that didn't deal in in the one shot three minute we didn't have a splash.

M5 Splashes We all went, well, listen, Led Zeppelin, as you know, in retrospect, as serious music, it wasn't there was no attempt for a commercial hit.

F7 There was just serious music done by people who are absolutely dedicated to their work.

F8 And and there really nothing, nothing, I must say this about about their management and the style and the group is that nothing was allowed to interfere with the importance of the music. Nothing was allowed to really get in the way of me. And there was never a question of criticizing what the group had done by the management or by the record company. It was that's what it was. And we accepted it because it was a serious work of music. It wasn't an attempt to sell records or to be commercial or to be liked. And that came. Then came. Incidentally, accidentally, however, you want to say they came in huge waves and didn't just come, you know, in the beginning of the beginning, then have a rough time, weren't that known right away. But by the time that first record got out and the waves started coming right after the first storm and, you know, the people were just first termer.

F9 Oh, yeah. I want to ask you, have you seen that first video the other night? It was their town in serious condition. Look at it now. I mean, this is so evident. I mean, the.

F10 Absolutely. Well, you know, you don't you don't find the combination of great musicianship on the part of every one of them.

F8 This is not a group which had like a weak member, which most almost every group had one or two weak members. And this is a group with no weak member and a fabulous lead singer, which I mean, the whole thing, you know, was it was a dream come true.

F7 I mean, it was like, you know. And, of course, you know, and and there were musicians. Well, with that they didn't just appear out of nowhere, you know, then they came with with very good, good pedigree.

M22 And we were basing most of our skills again on American musicians. I mean, John Paul Jones, his absolute and total study of Motown bass player of the stuff that parliament would do in P Funk, George Clinton, that sort of stuff. Ray Brown. Yeah. You know, as diverse as from Ray Brown to, you know, Bootsy Collins and across the aisle like that. Bang, bang, Bonzo's.

M23 Listen to Bernard Purdie. Yeah, it was listen to the guy who played the Little Richard Band and the upstaters, fantastic drummer. And he was listening to Alfonz Mouzon, you know, and we all went and always had to go to see Buddy Rich. I mean, the American music. Paty was listening to Otis Rush. Yes. To the whole everybody from James Burton through. And I was listening to your man, Ray Charles. You know, I just I mean, you can't tell now because I knew I couldn't do drown in my own tears.

M22 I couldn't hold a candle to it, but I absorbed like Presley and Ray Charles. Yes, but but. But what came out? Yeah, what came out of it, and that's what makes you know, it's no good.

F1 Listen, if you if you're able to do all of that, you'd be a lounge singer.

M7 Yeah, but I mean, that's I mean, meaning to tell you about my next move to me, there's a little bar behind the Plaza Hotel, and I played with the WHO last year, Jones Beach.

M23 And I came back into town and I wanted a cocktail. So I went next round the corner into this blacked out black carpet, black curtains, black smoke mirrors. And there's a guy with a huge cock singing Darin stuff. And he said, We know you're in here tonight, Robert. We knew you were coming, so we'd run this little number of this lady who's sure.

M24 Thank you. Thank you. Glitters is gold and she is by it.

M2 But I can do this out the way. So off I went. I was doing I was scat singing Stairway to Heaven and I was the lounge singer. That was great.

M16 And then I did Nature Boy Fantastic again.

M2 And as we went along down the road, shadows taller then.

M3 Yes, it was amazing to many gin and tonics. But I am now. Yeah, they call them the pop singer in England. We don't have any lounges. I know.

M22 Yeah. Yeah. And did recently on a holiday in the Yucatan in Mexico, I went with the senior vice president of European affairs, Mr. Phil Carson, and I found myself doing Elvis songs in a karaoke bar.

M2 So I know now where I get my best gigs photographed. It was.

Robert Plant with Ahmet Ertegun
Interview Date:
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
cpb-aacip-504-b56d21s39p, cpb-aacip-504-6688g8g225, cpb-aacip-504-q23qv3ct5t, cpb-aacip-504-057cr5nt0m, cpb-aacip-504-rn3028q767, cpb-aacip-504-nc5s75773w
"Robert Plant with Ahmet Ertegun, Atlantic Records: The House that Ahmet Built." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 29 May. 2003,
(2003, May 29). Robert Plant with Ahmet Ertegun, Atlantic Records: The House that Ahmet Built. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET).
"Robert Plant with Ahmet Ertegun, Atlantic Records: The House that Ahmet Built." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). May 29, 2003. Accessed May 24, 2022


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