The first time Robert Plant heard Elvis Presley: 'It was an opiate'

By: Thomas Leatham
Source: Far Out Magazine
April 7, 2023

Elvis Presley could merely open his mouth and fans across the world would be utterly entranced by what came out of it. Elvis inspired the onslaught of rock and roll bands of the 1960s, including one of rock's finest exports, Led Zeppelin. Singer Robert Plant owes much of his introduction to genre to Elvis, as confirmed in a number of press pieces throughout the years.

Plant discussed the first time he heard The King while in conversation with Jools Holland. He said: 'There was this sort of haze behind me of English ballads', Plant remembered of his early memories with music. 'The BBC wasn't very kind to youth culture in those days, but every now and then on Two Way Family Favourites on a Sunday lunchtime, some servicemen would send messages back to Mom and Dad and request a song'.

The song that played that fateful day was one of the most important pieces Plant would ever hear. 'And it was 'Hound Dog'. Elvis', he said. 'That was the kind of lock-in. It was an opiate. Something happened when I heard the sound of that record. It certainly made me put my stamp collection to one side for a bit'. Like many young people in the mid-20th Century, Plant was captivated by Elvis' voice, and it turned him into an instant fan of rock and roll.

Plant also discussed the age he was when he first heard 'Hound Dog' in 2022 on BBC Radio 4. 'It was around the time when 'Hound Dog' came out, so I might have been about eight or nine', he said. The Led Zeppelin singer then went on to tell the story of the time he 'was fortunate enough to cross paths with' the King of Rock and Roll.

'We [Led Zeppelin] went to see him several times', Plant said. 'He was talking to us, and he said, 'Well, how do you get on with soundchecks and stuff?' Led Zeppelin didn't really do a lot of things like that. But when we did [it was to] try out new equipment or whatever it might be. I'd wanted to sing an Elvis song, and he said, 'What is it?'

The chance for Plant to sing a song by the man who had first introduced him to the pleasure of rock and roll must have almost been too much to bear. Still, Plant calmly told one of his heroes, 'Well, it's a song called 'Love Me'. Although, after the soundcheck, Plant sadly thought that maybe Elvis hadn't heard him sing the song.

However, the rock icon was happy to find that Elvis indeed heard the 'Love Me' cover, and he even caught Plant backstage to give his nod of approval. Plant concluded: 'So we talked about things and said good night and walked down the corridor. Suddenly I'm hailed, and I turn around, and Elvis is swinging out of the room on the doorframe and does an Elvis to me, which we all do and start singing this song. So the two of us are like the ultimate pub singers that night'.

Elvis Presley and Memphis Mafioso Red West are on their way to the Felt Forum in Los Angeles on May 11, 1974. Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Bonham attended the sold out evening concert.
Elvis Presley and Memphis Mafioso Red West are on their way to the Felt Forum in Los Angeles on May 11, 1974. Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Bonham attended the sold out evening concert.

Articles about Elvis Presley Robert Plant on CBS's The Late Show with David Letterman February 4, 2011
Articles about Elvis Presley Elvis Presley meets Led Zeppelin | May 11, 1974

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