How Jimmy Page accidentally became a session musician

Jimmy Page

Before becoming an era-defining guitarist with Led Zeppelin and The Yardbirds, Jimmy Page worked as a popular session musician in London during the swinging 1960s. However, it was never his intention to work in this field. It happened by chance, allowing him to collaborate with a number of the decade’s most prominent figures.

Music was always a passion for Page, but it was not his only focus as a young man. Painting was another creative outlet that caught his interest. It became his priority after enrolling at Sutton Art College. He’d previously toured and recorded with The Crusaders as a teenager. But after a bout of glandular fever, art became his primary passion.

Despite studying art five days a week, Page’s love of music remained strong. He was a regular at The Marquee Club in London on Thursday evenings. He started as a spectator, watching performances, but this eventually led to a weekly spot that changed his life.

In a 2017 interview with the Academy of Achievement, Page stated, “I used to go every Thursday to see various artists who were there. I met somebody who had been in a previous band, who was a piano player and singer. He said, ‘You can play the interval band here if you want?'”

Jimmy Page went on, “I said, ‘Fine’. I had never met him before, so I said, ‘Okay, let’s do that’. So, every Thursday night, I played in the interval band, and at some point, someone asked me to play on a record. I play on this record. And because I have a very distinct style, you can tell it’s a different guitar player on this record. I’m getting a lot of offers, but I’m still in art college.”

For a time, he was living a double life. He was trying to balance his musical career with his studies. However, once he received an extended break from his studies in the holidays, Page couldn’t keep up with all of the requests that kept flooding his inbox. And it became clear it was no longer sustainable to be a student.

Page’s talent quickly made him stand out. He began recording multiple sessions per day for various record labels. Page reflected on his decision to leave his studies. He said, “Somebody else could use my place, but I’m having so much fun with these recording sessions.

Despite being a hired gun, Page was given artistic freedom during these sessions. It allowed him to improvise and improve his guitar skills. It was an apprenticeship that taught him the mechanics of recording music, allowing Led Zeppelin to get off to a fast start when they formed.

During his time as a session musician, Page appeared on albums by Rod Stewart, Lulu, Tom Jones, Marianne Faithfull, John Mayall with Eric Clapton, Nico, Cliff Richard, Donovan, The Rolling Stones, Joe Cocker, and many others.

Page would likely have pursued a career with a band if he hadn’t become a session musician. But Led Zeppelin would not have formed if this exact sequence of events had occurred. This period of his life was never planned. But it proved to be an invaluable experience, demonstrating the importance of rolling with punches, which can often lead to a better destination than one could have imagined.

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