Average: 4.5 (548 votes)

December 26, 1968

Denver, CO US

Auditorium Arena

Setlist:

These early U.S. dates include: Train Kept a Rollin', I Can't Quit You Baby, As Long As I Have You, Dazed and Confused, White Summer / Black Mountainside, How Many More Times.

Notes:

Led Zeppelin make their American debut on this date, as they begin a short string of shows, the first few unbilled, opening for Vanilla Fudge.

Press Review excerpt: The concert was cranked off by another heavy, the Led Zeppelin, a British group making its first U.S. tour.

Blues oriented (although not a blues band), hyped electric, the full routine in mainstream rock – done powerfully, gutsily, unifiedly, inventively and swingingly by the end of their set.

Singer Robert Plant – a cut above average in style, but no special appeal in sound. Guitarist Jimmy Page of Yardbirds fame – exceptionally fine. Used a violin bow on the guitar strings in a couple of tunes with resultant interesting, well integrated effects.

Bassist John Paul Jones – solid, involved, contributing. John Bonham – a very effective drummer, but uninventive, unsubtle and unclimactic, just an uneventful solo. [Denver Post | 12/29/68]


News Report: Denver music man Barry Fey nearly became famous for being the guy who refused to book Led Zeppelin.

It was Dec. 26, 1968, and Fey had sold out a Vanilla Fudge and Spirit concert in the Denver Auditorium Arena - what's now part of the Ellie Caulkins Opera House.

"About 10 days before the show, I got a call from the agent saying, 'Barry, I want to add an act to our show,' " Fey said. "I said, 'Ron (Terry), all the tickets are sold.'

"He said, 'You've got to do this for me, Barry, this is a big, big act. Their name is Led Zeppelin.' I thought it was a joke."

Fey turned Terry down, until the agent showed Fey the money.

"Ten minutes later Ron called back and said 'Vanilla Fudge is going to give you $750, and if you give $750 of your own money, we still can put Led Zeppelin on the show.' " Fey caved in. The concert crowd had no idea that this new heavy-metal band from Britain was added to the show. That night marked the band's American debut.

"I got up on the stage and said, 'Ladies and gentlemen, give a warm Denver welcome to Led Zeppelin,' " Fey said. "They started playing, and it was incredible. It was an unbelievable show; people were gasping. That was a big day in Denver history." (Rocky Mountain News)


Promoter Barry Fey recalls the show in his 2011 autobiography, "Backstage Past":  "The night of the concert, I get on stage to make the announcement to open the show. “Ladies and gentleman, please welcome, direct from England for their North America debut, Led Zeppelin!”

There was a smattering of polite applause. Then, Robert Plant let it rip and everybody in the audience was stunned. Frankly, I don’t know how Spirit went on after that. You didn’t have to be a genius to know Zeppelin was going to be a smash. Oh, my God. People were going crazy!

The next morning, I get a call from Max Floyd, the program director at the Denver FM rock station, KLZ.  “Who did you have on last night? Our phone lines are jammed!”

The band had given me a white copy of their album, one that hadn’t been released yet. I took the album to the radio station and they played it continuously, all day."

 

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How Led Zeppelin’s First U.S. Show Almost Didn’t Happen

How Led Zeppelin’s First U.S. Show Almost Didn’t Happen

Led Zeppelin made their North American concert debut in Denver in December of 1968 as the first band on a three band bill that also featured Vanilla Fudge and Spirit, but as concert promoter Barry Fey recalls, it’s a milestone that almost happened in a different city.

Writing in his memoir ‘Backstage Past,’ Fey remembers getting the call from Vanilla Fudge’s booking agent Ron Terry a little more than a week before the show, asking him to add another group to the Denver date, which was already sold out. Fey refused at first, but Terry was persistent and said “Barry, this group is called Led Zeppelin, they’re going to be huge.”

Still unwilling to cave in, Fey got another phone call from Terry, who told him “Vanilla Fudge has agreed to take $750 of the money you were going to pay them and they’ll give it to Led Zeppelin if you’ll pay them $750, too.”

Considering this, Fey thought about the fact that Vanilla Fudge was offering to give some of their money to a group that “no one’s ever heard of, that’s never played in North America.” That must be something that’s worth taking a look at, right? He made the deal with Terry and booked Led Zeppelin for their first North American show for the now-unbelievable sum of $750 out of pocket.

Led Zeppelin did not disappoint the Denver crowd with their debut American performance. After introing the group, Fey watched the band deliver a stunning set. To this day, he’s still amazed that Spirit managed to go on after Zeppelin finished their show. He immediately saw the future success that the group would have. “You didn’t have to be a genius to know that Zeppelin was going to be a smash. Oh, my God. People were going crazy!”

The following morning, Fey got a phone call from Max Floyd, the program director at Denver’s rock station KLZ. “Who did you have on last night? Our phone lines are jammed!” Luckily, Fey had in his possession a copy of the band’s unreleased debut album, which he took over to the radio station. They immediately put it on the air, playing it nonstop that day.

The moment would never be forgotten by Robert Plant, who spent time backstage with Fey in 2011 following a concert performance in the area, reminiscing how important that Denver date and the subsequent radio play was to his old band’s early success.

by: Matt Wardlaw
http://ultimateclassicrock.com/how-led-zeppelins-first-u-s-show-almost-d...