The iconic leading man of Led Zeppelin, Robert Plant, is a well-versed pillar of the rock and roll scene. Having burst into the collective consciousness with a huge wail of a vocal, the singer soon became seen as one of the imposing figures of the heavy rock movement. It makes sense then, perhaps, that he’d have a troubling view of the softer side of music and, in particular, one instrument.
For many, the humble ukulele is not only a gateway into learning a full-size instrument but can provide untold feelings of comfort and joy, derived purely from its whimsical and lilting tone. It’s even been a favourite of many a rock star in their time, most notably including George Harrison who adored its simplicity. But, for Robert Plant, the instrument is way down on his list of favourites, as he told Matt Everitt during the Digging Deep podcast some years ago.
During the conversation with the host, Plant reiterated his lack of desire to write a memoir and while that disappointed Everitt, there was another gut punch to come. The host opened up about his devotion to the ukulele during the lockdown and called it a “great instrument.” Plant, clearly dismayed, shared his own feelings on the acoustic apparatus and it all derives from a moment on tour he’d rather forget.
Travelling with Sensational Space Shifters, Plant crossed paths with the ukulele and it has forever tarnished his view. “Skin Tyson, who sometimes masquerades in Cast, he took that feckin’ thing on the road,” he told BBC6 Music host, Everitt. “And because he’s a Scouser [from Liverpool], we had to hear every single Liverpool song from ‘She Loves You’ to ‘Ferry Cross the Mersey’ to God knows what on ukulele in every dressing room.”
“So, you’ve got Juldeh Camara from the Gambia with his one-string fiddle, lying on the floor in his string vest on a towel,” the ‘Heartbreaker’ singer continued. “Since I’m the oldest guy he used to call me ‘Uncle,’ because it’s a tradition in faraway places. And he’d say, ‘Uncle, why does he do that?’ I said, ‘’Cause he’s killing us!’”
So whether Robert Plant really hates the ukulele or he just hates the dulcet tones of Skin Tyson singing The Beatles at him is up for debate. But one thing is for sure if you have a song to sing for Plant, make sure you do it without a uke in sight.