Session Man Supreme: The Pre-Fame Adventures Of Jimmy Page

Long before he assumed rock god status with Led Zeppelin, Page was an in-demand guitar for hire on the London session circuit.

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Jimmy Page - Photo: RB/Redferns
Photo: RB/Redferns

Before he became one of the great guitar heroes in rock history, Jimmy Page was a hired gun with a formidable reputation in the business. When Led Zeppelin were just a twinkle in his eye and even his time in the Yardbirds was some way off, the musician born in Middlesex on January 9, 1944 was, it’s no exaggeration to say, a teenage prodigy.

Page has always acknowledged the influence of his American guitar heroes, notably Elvis Presley’s right-hand man Scotty Moore and the blues giants of his childhood such as B.B. King and Buddy Guy. His precociousness even landed him on UK television, when he was barely a teenager, during the skiffle boom.

Even while he was still a student, Page was already playing in bands at London’s famous Marquee club, which led directly to his early session work. Early live work included dates with British artist Neil Christian and his group the Crusaders, and he had some lessons from another future virtuoso, John McLaughlin.

Jimmy appeared on his first No.1 soon after he had turned 19, playing acoustic rhythm guitar on Jet Harris and Tony Meehan’s “Diamonds,” recorded on January 2, 1963. He went on to many sessions with fellow guitarist-for-hire Big Jim Sullivan, including on Dave Berry’s version of “My Baby Left Me” and then his 1964 hit “The Crying Game.” He played on other Berry tracks with Sullivan, drummer Bobby Graham, Alan Niven (bass) and, sometimes, big band trombonist Don Lusher.

Marianne Faithfull - As Tears Go By (Official Lyric Video)

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By then, the flood gates were opening. Rarely credited, Page played the memorable lead lines on Them’s “Baby Please Don’t Go” and was on other classics of 1964 such as the Nashville Teens’ “Tobacco Road,” Marianne Faithfull’s “As Tears Go By,” and even Petula Clark’s “Downtown.”

She Just Satisfies

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Page didn’t make it as a solo artist, his 1965 Decca single “She Just Satisfies” proving to be his only release in his own name. But other recognition for the young blade included work for the Kinks (for example on “Revenge” and “Bald Headed Woman”), Nico, and Chris Farlowe. There were bookings, too, for other British talents such as Tom Jones, Billy Fury, and Lulu, and on Donovan’s “Sunshine Superman” and “Hurdy Gurdy Man.”

The guitarist appeared on Brenda Lee’s 1964 hit “Is It True” and, often, with future prolific pop producer Mickie Most, in his days as an artist. Page also did sessions for less well-remembered British groups of the day such as the Primitives, the Lancastrians, and the Masterminds.

The go-to session man

His frequent session partner was his later Led Zeppelin colleague John Paul Jones, who told Uncut magazine in 2008: “I remember him having a reputation almost before I turned professional [in early 1963], when he was with Neil Christian and the Crusaders. It was always, ‘You’ve got to hear this guy.’ In fact, I never actually heard him before we worked together, but yes, I knew of his reputation.”

Even when Zeppelin’s formation was imminent and Page had become much more widely known to the public, he would lend his artistry to major hits. That’s him playing the searing guitar intro on Joe Cocker]s 1968 No.1 cover of The Beatles’ “With A Little Help From My Friends,” recorded when he was still only 23.

“I think he was the youngest session musician until I came along,” said Jones. “We were always really glad to see each other on the sessions, because it meant that you had a young, hip rhythm section.”

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  1. Justo Hernandez Rodriguez

    January 9, 2017 at 7:33 pm

    JIMMY Page, and the drummers Hal Blaine,Earl Palmer and Bernard Purdue are some of the session musicians who had recorded with a lot of people in the history of the Music Industry…

  2. Scott Nicum

    January 9, 2017 at 9:05 pm

    Ritchie Blackmore did even more session work than Page. Sometimes together I believe. It must have been a fantastic time to be a musician.

    • Aussierob

      January 10, 2017 at 3:42 am

      Really? First time I’ve heard that Ritchie was a prolific session musician. Jimmy sure was – he was on hundreds of sessions.

  3. Diane Weisenberger

    March 30, 2019 at 8:20 am

    Jimmy is THE MAN. I can always pick out his session work. What a gift to humanity. Keep on rocking Jimmy.

  4. Billy Jones

    January 9, 2022 at 3:56 pm

    Along with John Paul Jones, he also played on The Everly Brothers’ album “Two Yanks In England”. The Hollies were the main backing band.


    January 10, 2022 at 5:43 am

    He also played on many P J Proby tracks including the solo on Proby’s 2nd single ‘Together’and all members of Led Zeppelin are on Proby’s 1968 album ‘Three Week Hero’.

  6. K Law

    May 15, 2023 at 2:37 am

    I think that it was Them guitarist Billy Harrison who played the lead on Baby Please Don’t Go. Page was there but played a rhythm part on the tune.

  7. Mic Smith

    August 3, 2023 at 10:46 pm

    Yes, Page has acknowledged that Billy Harrison of Them took the lead guitar lines on Baby Please Don’t Go. Page’s 1965 single She Just Satisfies is on Fontana not Decca. The recording date of 2 January 1963 is most likely incorrect as the single was reportedly released on 4 January 1963 according to . The truth behind Page’s session work is a book yet to be written and its almost impossible to trace everything he did back then as the scene was hectic and he was very prolific, but certainly its an area worth studying in depth.

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