Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant’s modest upbringing in the West Midlands was a world away from the life of pioneering figures like Elvis Presley. The notion that he would grow up to stand shoulder to shoulder with The King seemed farcical, at best.
A large portion of Plant’s childhood was filled with daydreaming, glaring out of the window, picturing and hoping of one day becoming a rockstar. Despite it feeling improbable, this pipedream offered him a form of escapism, one that he clung to as though his life depended on it. While many have this dream as a child, few go on to achieve it in the emphatic way that the Led Zeppelin crooner has done.
With Led Zeppelin, Plant created countless memories which will forever be special, but few will be as unforgettable as spending a wild night in Los Angeles with Elvis Presley. At the time they first met, Plant had already become one of the most recognisable voices in rock ‘n’ roll, whereas Presley was firmly on the decline. Even though Led Zeppelin were the victors when it came to relevancy, the King still had an aura that separated him from anyone else on the planet.
The pair would cross paths on two more occasions, yet that first meeting lives long in Plant’s memory and is an anecdote that he has gleefully wheeled out on several occasions. Speaking with the LA Times, Plant recalled to Cameron Crowe about hanging out with Elvis after The King’s show at the Forum in LA in 1974. “When I met Elvis with Zeppelin, after one of his concerts in the early Seventies, I sized him up. He wasn’t quite as tall as me. But he had a singer’s build. He had a good chest — that resonator. And he was driven,” the singer said.
“So when we were leaving, after a most illuminating and funny 90 minutes with the guy, I was walking down the corridor. He swung ’round the door frame, looking quite pleased with himself, and started singing that song: ‘Treat me like a fool…’ I turned around and did Elvis right back at him. We stood there, singing to each other,” Plant added.
Plant revealed more about this encounter he shared with Presley at the LA Forum with Howard Stern, admitting: “He knew that we were selling tickets faster than him and he wanted to know what kind of phenomena this was, and then he found out we were into Muddy Waters, Carl Perkins, him and all that great music.
“He had the top floor of a hotel in Inglewood opposite the forum,” Plant recalled. “It was like one of the Royal Suites that you have in America, you don’t have a Kingdom here, but by the looks of it, something’s going on,” the singer told the legendary radio host.
Meeting Elvis realised a childhood dream for Plant, with the Led Zeppelin man adding: “Slowly and slowly the room was filling up with women, mostly and Elvis’ dad, Vernon. All the woman looked like Sandra Dee, more or less.”
Elvis was impressed with his new English friends and, following the meeting, he invited them to visit him in Memphis, and they duly accepted. The perceived image of Elvis in the last years of his life is of a man who is a shadow of his former self, Plant’s anecdote plays up to the kind of cliched behaviour that we’d expect from The King and how he was firmly living up to the moniker right until the bitter end.