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The song Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page credits with changing his life


When Jimmy Page moved as a child from Heston to Epsom in Surrey, there was mysteriously a guitar already present in his new house, which first piqued his interest in the blues. Ever since that critical moment, nothing has been the same for Page.

“I don’t know whether [the guitar] was left behind by the people [in the house] before [us], or whether it was a friend of the family’s—nobody seemed to know why it was there,” Page once said about the life-changing instrument.

Aged 12, Page began taking guitar lessons in nearby Kingston, but he only took a few before reverting to a self-taught approach. He also received help from his older friend, Rod Wyatt, who not only taught him the ropes of the instrument but also played a pivotal role in shaping his music taste.

Page’s guitar went with him everywhere he went and poured every waking hour he had spare in his day into mastering his artform. From the offset, he knew that he needed to have his own style, although there was still plenty of figures who influenced him.

Speaking as part of Bob Boilen’s book Your Song Changed My Life, the musician commented: “I wanted to have my own approach to what I did. I didn’t want to … do a carbon copy of B.B. King, but I really love the blues. The blues had so much effect on me and I just wanted to make my own contribution in my own way.”

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Reminiscing about his precious first instrument, Page remarked: “It was a campfire guitar … but it did have all the strings on it which is pretty useful because I wouldn’t have known where to get guitar strings from. And then [Rod] showed me how to tune it up … and then I started strumming away like not quite like — not quite like Lonnie Donegan, but I was having a go.”

The late musician rose to prominence in late 1955, a time when he recorded an uptempo version of ‘Rock Island Line’, a number that made him a star and put him at the forefront of the skiffle scene. For Page, that track made him fall deeper in love with the guitar, and he tried to emulate Donegan from the comfort of his bedroom.

“He really understood all that stuff, Lonnie Donegan,” Page continued. “But this is the way that he sort of, should we say, jazzed it up or skiffled it up. By the time you get to the end of this he’s really spitting it out … he keeps singing ‘Rock Island line, Rock Island’ [and] you really get this whole staccato aspect of it. It’s fantastic stuff! So many guitarist from the sixties will all say Lonnie Donegan was [their] influence.”

Skiffle had fallen out of fashion by the time Page’s musical career had begun to take off. By this point, he’d also become one of the most technically proficient guitarists on the London circuit, which all happened due to Donegan’s divine creation.

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