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13 July 2010 1,262 views 5 Comments

Robert Plant and The Band Of Joy play their first date at the Orpheum Theatre in Memphis today which has been declared ‘’Robert Plant Day’’ in the city.
Here’s a round up of a press conference Robert gave yesterday at the venue, plus a question and answer session conducted with with Lindsey Miller of The Arkansas Times.
TBL welcomes reviews and feedback from the tour – email your reviews etc to garyfoy at

You can also use the comments section at the bottom of this piece to file your first hand reviews.

Robert Plant on Memphis, music and Led Zeppelin

Robert Plant is totally excited about the piece of art that the Blues Foundation presented to him at the Orpheum this afternoon. He’s also getting a star on the sidewalk outside of the theater. Today is now officially Robert Plant Day

Robert Plant plays a sold out show Tuesday at The Orpheum.

Memphis is the opening date on a 12 stop U.S. tour with Band of Joy. The players have been different in the various incarnations. The first Band of Joy was the band Plant joined as a teenager before signing on as the singer of the band that became Led Zeppelin.

In the city the day before the show, Plant said he was fired from the original Band of Joy in a dispute over the band playing too slow for Plant’s taste at the time.

“The whole deal about my doing this as a singer and writer, really, is can I walk and chew gum. Is it really such a big deal to be a great singer or is there something else about all this?” he said before remembering the band’s first incarnation. “We didn’t work a lot. We stole a lot of milk off doorsteps and siphoned a lot of gasoline. But we kept going and we believed.”

The band that will join Plant on stage at The Orpheum is the fourth incarnation.

“All these things that I’ve been able to do with such a limited gift – it’s phenomenal that I can get this far. … It’s not so much experimentation, it’s like just doing it. You can’t think about it really. You just do it and pray everybody gets off the same bus. Maybe they won’t.”

Plant has played Mud Island several times and has organized the Memphis dates with trips to North Mississippi seeking out the places in the Delta where both obscure and famous bluesmen lived and worked.

He recently took in Tutwiler, Ms. where W.C. Handy reportedly first heard the blues that he popularized and is credited with discovering.

“How can you actually discover something like that?” he wondered aloud. “I was thinking about the debt that the British musician owes to this town – to this area. It’s phenomenal.”

Plant talked about Memphis and more during a press conference at The Orpheum in which he was awarded a note in the theater’s walk of fame. He was also honored by the city with a proclamation proclaiming it Robert Plant Day in Memphis.

“Well, I wish I had had this a bit earlier in my life,” he said. “In fact, I think I did. But, that’s another story.”
The other story was the 1970 Led Zeppelin tour. The band played the Mid-South Coliseum on April 6 and before the show was honored with a proclamation and key to the city from then-Mayor Henry Loeb.
The Coliseum date was remembered in “Hammer of the Gods,” the 1985 unauthorized Led Zeppelin bio by Stephen Davis.

“That night the crowd went berserk when Jimmy (Page) pulled the trigger on ‘Communications Breakdown.’ It was a total Zeppelin blast off and soon ten thousand Southern kids were shaking like pagans,” Davis wrote. “The promoter lost his nerve when he beheld this frenzy and told Peter Grant, (the band’s manager) to pull the group off. Grant said, ‘Go and – yourself, I’m not pulling ‘em offstage.’ So the promoter pulled out his gun, stuck it in Grant’s ample ribs and said, ‘If you don’t cut the show, I’m gonna shoot ya.’ Grant stared him down and laughed in his face. ‘You can’t shoot me, ya –,’ Grant said. ‘They’ve just given us the – keys to the city.’”

Plant, who would have been onstage when all of that transpired, had a different memory 40 years on.
“About three hours later we were under house arrest for creating a riot,” he said. “I saw a cop hit somebody on the head with a night stick, so I hit him with a kind of Roger Daltrey swirl of microphone and knocked his hat off. But this time, I’m not going to do anything like that – an afternoon nap perhaps.”

Plant said he started the tour in Memphis because of the area’s musical heritage and his having a lot of personal connections to Tennessee lately.

“I’m finding it more and more difficult for people in England to understand what I’m trying to say or do. Perhaps, that’s a blessing,” he said. “So if you’re in Nashville, why would you start there? You’ve got to come somewhere where there’s a bit of pulse. Maybe I’m misguided but from what I can remember of being through here a few times, it’s a good place to be. … It’s a place where there’s a bit of soul.”

Some of the Zeppelin questions he fielded by saying he didn’t remember specific events.

“There’s a lot of pain in some of the stuff. It was not a joyride, in those days,” he said. “I guess in truth the best album for people reaching some kind of strange maturity was ‘Presence’ because that’s got a lot of pain in it. That’s got a lot of reality in it. It’s charged. And it’s uncomfortable. I had a girlfriend – I used to play ‘Achilles Last Stand’ really loud, not long ago. And she turned to me one day and she said, ‘I wouldn’t like to get left alone in a room with this.’’”

“What happens to me now. I don’t know,” Plant said at the end of the session. “I guess I’m in the same boat as this theater – they’ll paint me gold again in three years.”

Many thanks to Stephen Humphries

See link at



Q&A: Robert Plant

Posted by Lindsey Millar on Mon, Jul 12, 2010 at 11:20 PM

Thursday, in one of the season’s most anticipated concerts, Robert Plant, the iconic voice of Led Zeppelin, comes to Robinson Center Music Hall. After piling up Grammy gold last year for “Raising Sand,” his critical and commercial hit project with Allison Krauss and T-Bone Burnett, Plant’s headed to town with new collaborators in advance of a September 14 album release. He’s calling the group and the album Band of Joy, a name resurrected from his pre-Zeppelin band with John Bonham. This time around, his band mates include singer/songwriter Patty Griffin, producer and guitarist Buddy Miller, multi-instrumentalist Darrell Scott, bassist Byron House and percussionist Marco Giovino. The album, like “Raising Sand,” is another dip into the Great American Songbook, with songs ranging from “Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down” to Los Lobos’ “Angel Dance” to a pair of tracks from Minnesota indie rockers Low.
I spoke with Plant on Monday about shifting styles, Townes Van Zandt, Helena and more.

How’s it going?

Excellent. I finally got back to my ancient home away from home. I’m staring across the Mississippi River. So, yeah, I’m rockin’.

The tour begins tomorrow night there in Memphis. So you’ve got some time to tour around?

Well, you know, I’ve got some stuff to do here and I’ve got some friends to see. I met Elvis many, many years ago when I was in Zep, so I got to know people who were around him too, and they know people who were around Jerry Lee. And I’ve got good connection with friends down in Clarksdale, Mississippi, too.
In a lot of ways your solo career has been if not about defying expectations then at least jumping around a lot stylistically. So I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that you’re not following your massively successful collaboration with Alison Krauss and T-Bone Burnett with another record with Krauss and Burnett?

You shouldn’t be surprised. And you wouldn’t be surprised to know that sooner or later they’ll be a Union Station record out and then there’ll be another summer and another winter and there’ll be another Plant and Krauss record out, I guess.

This is a wonderful world of music, especially with great hindsight and more and more knowledge and a little more maturity. It means that so many things are possible, even though you kind of lose the great panoramic vista of enormous success that comes or doesn’t come. Every dog has his day, and my day is a different color quite regularly. My plan is to stimulate, so that I can sing with true meaning. I can’t bluff it. To be a singer and just to repeat everything that he is and has been, I’d be a hell of a one trick pony, so I can’t do that.

If you get together with people and you can make stuff work in four hours, you know you’re on course for making a blinding collection of songs in a new zone. That has a very familiar ring because that’s what happened in 1968, 1969 and 1970 and on through the Zeppelin world. We never went back to the same spot.
On paper, though, this project looks similar to working with Burnett and Krauss: you, plus a really respected roots producer in Buddy Miller and a really respected female folk vocalist in Patty Griffin. But early reports indicate it’s a departure, in terms of its sound, from “Raising Sand.”

There’s a lot more going on in the nether regions. It’s a punchy record. It drives a lot. It’s a little to The Electric Prunes, I guess. Occasionally, there’s enough spook there to think you might be getting ready for a Cocteau Twins gig. Buddy wasn’t involved in the recording of “Raising Sand.” But he played with us throughout the tour. It was that relationship that I struck up with him at that time and the great dynamism of music — the love it all — that got us into this new zone. It’s really powerful.

You’ve got a really eclectic assortment of songs on the album — from acts as diverse as Los Lobos, The Kelly Brothers, Townes Van Zandt and Low. Can you talk about the song selection? Did you and Miller pick the songs you’d cover together?

I’ve been carrying Low songs in my car for about eight or nine years. That “Great Destroyer” album I used to play it a lot. I thought it’s quite removed from where I’ve been going, but I know Buddy’s got that spook stuff covered. Around Christmas time, I said, ‘Let’s touch it and see what we could do.’ It was at that point that he suggested that Patty could come along and really make the thing work. She was in Nashville and came by and tried it out and it was a very strong and sensuous vocal link. It’s really just what we want. It’s great.

Let’s talk about some of the other song choices. You’ve got The Kelly Brothers.

Yeah, there’s some amazing DVDs that you can get, something like seven or eight DVDs of stuff that’s maybe not very mainstream from that period. Maybe a little OV Wright or ZZ Hill and the Kelly Brothers are there right in the middle of it. It’s just a great period of music.

I saw some YouTube footage of them. They had really fantastic pompadours.

That’s right. And the bolero jackets! We all wanted to look like that, but a white boy from Worcestershire with spots —

Has trouble pulling that off?

Yeah, it doesn’t work really. Frayed jeans and beatnik sandals were a bit more apropos. Later on, I did get into pointy-toe shoes, and I don’t seem to have left that behind.

Can you talk about the Townes Van Zandt song, “Harms Swift Way”?

It’s kind of drifted around. His — I’m not going to say “reading” because that’s really where we know we’ve gone right up our own sphincter — his music was dramatic at times, sometimes lost and sometimes hugely found, and this was, maybe, according to one aficionado, the last thing he ever wrote. It’s not a very happy tune in its original form. And basically it’s not happy-ed up now, but at least it’s got a driving beat and sounds like it just dropped off “Sweetheart of the Rodeo.”

I know the album is to be called “Band of Joy,” but are you and Miller and Griffin and others also Band of Joy?

Yeah, everything is Band of Joy.

Why did you decide to revive the project?

Because my original Band of Joy, which was right up to meeting Jimmy Page, was like nothing mattered. You just had to get the music right — at the expense of everything. There was a very buccaneer approach to it. John Bonham and myself drove the band, but we were ably supported at that time by musicians who felt that the most important thing on the planet was to get it out and express it rather than follow Herman’s Hermits and The Tremeloes or Freddie and the Dreamers into some American teen scene moment. It was a kind of buccaneer band. I felt that I’ve got nothing to lose. I’m singing good. These people are amazing. I find that I’m learning way more by being with these people. Every day is a day when I learn something fresh.

What should people expect on the tour?

Tunes from everywhere. Tunes from 1968 in a studio in London. Tunes from 1988 in a studio in London. Tunes from 2008 in a studio in Nashville. And it’s not sedate.

So you’ll be doing “Raising Sand” and Zeppelin songs?

There’s room for “squeezing my lemon” and “baby, baby.” Also, “I got a woman with plenty of money/She’s got the money and I’ve got the honey” doesn’t seem like a bad thing to sing. It’s not too challenging cerebrally anyway.

This’ll be your first time performing in Arkansas, right?

No. I was in Little Rock about 10 years ago. I remember driving in from West Helena.

I was going to ask about that. I knew you’d been in Helena and sat in at KFFA with Sonny Payne.

That’s right. Nicely and quite righteously for me and him there was no connection with me being a musician*, I was just a passerby. That made it so much better for me because I could talk about things like the last Sonny Boy sessions on Arhoolie before he died.

You should come back in the fall. The blues fest they have in Helena is going to be bigger than usual. They’ve got BB King and Dr. John and Taj Mahal.

Oh really. How did they manage to do that? It’s just on the levee there on Main Street in downtown Helena, right?

It’s sort of struggled in years past, and they really struggled when the company who owns the name to King Biscuit took it back and they had to rename it the Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival, which, obviously, doesn’t have the same ring to it.

You know what’s really sad is when you come over the bridge on Highway 49 there used to be years ago a sign that said “Welcome to West Helena, the home of Sonny Boy Williamson” that fell in the grass and no one had the bloody propensity to put it back.**

I was in Tutwiler [Miss.] this year to unveil a plaque for WC Handy, and this husband and wife came up to me from Cornwall in the UK and they were looking for clues. I think these things are part of the heritage of an area that can use as much tourist dollar as possible.

I’d be a bad journalist if I didn’t ask: Is there any chance for another Led Zeppelin reunion?

You know, sometimes there’s a hell of a lot of interference on the line.

[Laughs] Fair enough.
*The story goes that, when asked by Payne what he did in England, Plant said, “I play a bit of tennis.”
**I called Delta Cultural Center director Katie Harrington in Helena to ask about the sign. She couldn’t think of what Plant might be talking about, but said that a marker for the Mississippi Blues Heritage Trail that references Sonny Boy Williamson and “King Biscuit Time” sits outside the DCC. She added, “Helena is paying more attention to its past, preserving what it can, saving what it can.”

Rock hero Robert Plant honored with spot on Orpheum’s Sidewalk of Stars


Pic by Mike Brown

Memphis honoured a “Golden God” of rock on Monday, as Led Zeppelin singer and solo artist Robert Plant was given a spot on the Orpheum theatre’s Sidewalk of Stars.

An afternoon event at the Orpheum honouring Plant served as a warm-up to his concert at the Downtown venue tonight, kicking off a 12-date U.S. tour.

The presentation recognized Plant, a long-time exponent and explorer of the Southern and American roots music, for his “tireless efforts to preserve blues” and work to ensure “the success of the Mississippi Blues Marker Trail, which leads directly to Memphis.”

A group of local luminaries, including Joe Whitmer from the Blues Foundation and Grammy chapter president Jon Hornyak, spoke as part of the 30-minute ceremony.

Whitmer presented Plant an art piece depicting Beale Street’s historic New Daisy Theatre. Hornyak joked that he had nothing to give Plant, as he’d already won every conceivable Grammy honour.

“Well,” joked Plant, “you’ve got another 24 hours to come up with something.”

Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau head Kevin Kane then read a proclamation from Memphis Mayor A C Wharton officially declaring July 12 to be Robert Plant Day in the city.

Plant was presented with a miniature replica of his sidewalk star by Orpheum president Pat Halloran. The full-sized version will be installed in the Beale Street sidewalk next to the theatre in the coming weeks.

Speaking eloquently on the rich history of the region and tracing his own musical journey in the footsteps of seminal blues figures such as Sonny Boy Williamson, Sleepy John Estes and W.C. Handy, Plant recognized “the great debt” a generation of British acts owe to the pioneering artists of the American South.

“We always looked to and tried to emulate this music,” said Plant.

Plant’s latest project revives the name and spirit of his pre-Zep “experimental blues” outfit, Band of Joy. The new version of the group features a crew of Nashville and Americana musicians including Buddy Miller and Patty Griffin. A new Band of Joy album will be released in September on Rounder Records.

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  • Paul Luskin said:

    Plant doesn’t want to tour the World with Page singing Roll out the Barrel. Much as I love Page, he needs to come up with something fresh to interest Plant. Page needs to ditch the guitar gadgetry and the, at times, over-produced meandering stuff that he’s done in recent years. He’s at his best with just his Les Paul and an amp knocking out some blues and those great, simple but magical riffs. Easier said than done, but if there’s one guy who can do it, it’s Mr. McGregor. Back to the egg Pagey!

  • Shayne Smith said:

    Well, as usual Plant moves in a different direction. He doesn’t want to be a “one trick pony” or be “everything that he was”. I have to respect that but I still feel that he is at his best as the singer for Led Zeppelin. I just wish he would agree to make new music with Page, Jones and Jason. Why not do that? That’s where he’s best. Can you imagine what the music would be like with a combination of influences between the three? No tour. Just new music. Percy are you listening??

  • Kathy Urich said:

    It’s so wondeful to see Robert continue to do what he loves, its really inspirational; he marches to his own drum and we all get to reap the benefits. I only wish that he was playing in the Midwest, those of us in Iowa, Illinois etc. love the blues as well. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on the CD.

  • Mark Williams said:


    like many of those whose followed Plant’s solo career for the last 28 years…..we’ve been rewarded with shows that have ~ 70 % Led Zeppelin content. Robert does’nt want to ‘do’ Led Zeppelin again but he’s still happy to do new renditions of Zep songs with his new ‘Buddies’ (Buddy etc,bot not his old buddies. All very well but really,why can’t he do both ?.A few keynote thank-you shows with JPJ,JP & Jason would be the right thing to do for all the loyal following that put him there in the first place.

    But no, Robert does what he wants……

  • Kurt Anderson said:

    Ever onward. You have to respect this guy, he’s always looking for the next fork in the road and you never know wich way he’ll go. We just have to follow along and see where he leads us. We all have to admit that Zeppelins day is done. Those of us who were too young to see it live will have to settle for the videos and keep exploring with the survivors wherever they want to take us. If it’s in the cards and they get excited about doing something new we’ll all be there to enjoy it with them but Robert, Jimmy, and John’s hearts will have to be fully in it for it to succeed. As for me I can’t wait for Roberts show in Clearwater Fl. on July 30.

    Jimmy! Where Are You?!? We want new music from you too!!!

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