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Auditorium Arena - December 26, 1968

  • 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.
srapallo's picture
on September 20, 2007 - 1:56pm
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Average: 4.5 (569 votes)
December 26, 1968
Denver
CO
United States
us
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.

Note: 

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. (Early official itinerary originally listed Vancouver as the their first date).

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."

 

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. (Early official itinerary originally listed Vancouver as the their first date).

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."

 

Setlists: 

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.

Comments

ron creel's picture

I went to that show too … I will always remember the date because it was right after Christmas and my parents bought me tics to the show …. I went with two other people who are now dead …. Guess times fly’s eh … anyway, I agree about the bow, it thru me for a bit because I have never seen that done before (maybe with Zappa, I will have to think about that) … the thing I remember most about the show and Zep, I was blown away with Plants vocals … they were out of this world and different compared to any other vocalist I had ever heard. Ron creel

Ernest Garcia's picture

I WAS AT THIS SHOW AND I ALWAYS BRAG ABOUT IT BEING ONE OF MY ALTIME FAVORITES, I ALSO SAW PAUL McCARTNEY & WINGS & EMERSON LAKE & PALMER & YES THERE, AND THE WHO AT MAMMOTH GARDENS!!! WHAT A SHOW THAT WAS.
THANKS DENVER I LOVE YOU

EAG

UCR's picture

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...

Steve Lafreniere's picture

Okay, here's what I remember:

I'd been going to concerts since September 1967 when the Family Dog opened on West Evans. I saw Big Brother, Blue Cheer, Canned Heat, the Doors, and the Allmen Joy (later the Allman Brothers) there, and more. Although I was 14 years old I could get in because the Dog was a ballroom with no alcohol served. My parents would actually drop my friend Doug and I off in this teeming crowd of longhairs, all considerably older than us. I still find it hard to believe! After 11 pm curfew, though, we'd have to hide from the bouncers, usually up in the light show balcony (thank you, Diogenes Lantern folks!). We used to also see in-the-round shows at the Arena, so by the time Zeppelin came to town on December 26, 1968, I was an old hand.

I was really into both Vanilla Fudge and Spirit, but for some unremembered reason I didn't have tickets to their Arena show. But a few days beforehand the local FM station (can't recall which) began playing "Good Times, Bad Times." If you weren't young then it would be hard to explain how insanely great and NEW that song sounded at the time. I was floored by it. I'd been into the Yardbirds, and the first Jeff Beck Group album, so I knew my way around that brand of British blues. But Led Zeppelin 1 was beyond that. It was like a bomb going off, especially in laid-back hippie Denver.

Then just before Christmas it was announced that Led Zeppelin were going to join the bill at the Fudge/Spirit show. I'm not sure if it had already sold out, or if I just didn't have the money (although tickets to shows then were only $4.00-$5.00) but I couldn't buy a ticket. No problem, I went anyway, just to hang outside!

Zeppelin were already playing (you could hear Robert Plant wailing through the walls) when a limo pulled into the backstage lane where I was standing with some other kids. The doors popped open and out stepped Carmine and Tim of the Fudge. Wow. I was starstruck. I must have said something to Tim because the next thing I remember is walking past the door guards with him, carrying his bass guitar case. All love and respect to Tim Bogart, I'll never forget that gesture to a 15-year-old kid!

Once inside he took his case and headed his way and I headed into the balconies. From there I watched Zeppelin perform the last couple songs of their set. Page was bowing his guitar and the crowd was going ga-ga. I remember that Plant had a funny hairdo, kind of halfway between the foppy one on the back of the album and the stallion mane of later years. Not quite there! Bonzo's drums weren't gigantic yet and John Paul Jones seemed hardly on the stage. But even with the crap sound of amps at that time, the music was thunderous. It really was like "Chapter Two of rock music will now begin!"

I saw them every time they came to Denver after that. And Plant would always mention that Denver is where "we got our start." I hope that wasn't just a "Hello, Cleveland!" kind of comment, but that their first US show proved to them that they COULD storm America for the next few months. And then storm the world.

I'm still a big Zep fan (to this day, Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You makes me tear up in just the first few notes), so it's an honor to tell my tale on their official site. Thanks very much!

Stan Reznicek's picture

I attended this concert, and remember myself and the crowd being awestruck by Led Zeppelin-- our reaction was "what did we just see?" after their set. The Rocky Mountain News review says Johm Beaham's drum solo was "uneventful"-- I remember being blown away by a drum solo during which the drummer play part of the time with his bare hands. Maybe the reviewer and I were at different shows. After Led Zeppelin, the rest of the show was pretty ho-hum. Spirit was "musical" as the review says, I don't even remember Vanilla Fudge being there.

JG's picture

I went to see Spirit, and they were terrific. Vanilla Fudge was the headliner, but they did not impress me much--besides, they had to follow Spirit. LZ was unheard of, and this was well before their first, and uy favorite album came out. By spring of '69, I did not know a soul who did not love the first LZ album. Yes, there was a revolving stage, and I remember tech probs as a result. I don't remember the sound for this set being great, and I have to admit that I was underwhelmed by LZ's performance. Hate to admit, but again, I was anticipating Spirit. I did like J Page bringing out the fiddle bow--that was something I'd never heard before.

Jerry Norman's picture

To use a phrase of the day, the concert was Far Out. I went to see Vanilla Fudge and Sprit but was simply blown away by the unannounced group, Led Zeppelin. I can remember thinking who is this band and what are they playing. It was a sound like we had never heard before, really. The singing was simply unimaginable. I have never forgot this concert since it was my first real concert at the wonderful age of 16. Wow, I only wish I could have been one of the lucky ones to see then at the reunion performance in Dec of 2007. Thanks for the memories.

Doug Benson's picture

Went to see Vanilla Fudge, and had not (up to that time) ever heard of Led Zeppelin. Though their set was short, they rocked! They were so different......moody, powerful, and LOUD! Became a lifelong fan that night. Saw them twice more, in '70 and 75. Barry Fey sure was good to Denver.

Rocky Rodriguez's picture

I went to spirit with vanilla fudge but do not remember Led Zeppelin, I do Remember the concert that was Iron Butterfly and Led Zeppelin. The Marquee read in big letters IRON BUTTERFLY and beneath that in small letters, introducing Led Zeppelin. They kicked ass! They blew us all away, in fact Iron butterfly could not lift the vibe again until they ended with Inagadavida and set the stage on fire. This was a revolving stage called concert in the round! After Zeppelin in which they did about a 20 minute dazed and confused version , Iron butterfly should've been embarassed! I was embarassed for them. I fell in love with Jimmy Page. I could not have been that high from only one joint nor hallucinated this concert. The announcer said it was their first performance in the US, where was that review? I was 13 at the time so my brain was intact!

Bill Everard's picture

I was at this show. I think this was either their first US show or at least first tour. Don't remember a whole lot about it other than it was great. I think they had a round stage at the Auditorium that also might have revolved. Oh, to be 16 out with a cute date again at a Zeppelin concert!

Gary's picture

Steve that is a awesome story ! I went and put" Babe" on right after I read it. I am to young to have seen them, but my dad saw em 5 times in Dallas and Ft.Worth. I remember he told me they would see them in Dallas one night and then Ft.Worth the next night. My GOD I love them man!!!!!!

Joey Furtek's picture

Reading this story is the closest I will ever get to being there myself. I was only born in 75'. My best experience was when i purchased the groups 2003 DVD. I am glad DVD's do not wear-out.

Pam's picture

Thanks for sharing that is an amazing story. I only wish I was a little older so I could have seen these amazing bands, today music is just so uneventful for me.

George Scott's picture

I saw Led Zeppelin's debut concert on Dec 26th, 68. Zeppelin was astounding, had never heard anything to compare them with. Seems the show started late due to a snafu with the revolving stage. I remember that their was some excitement due to a rumor about a new band with Jimmy Page who most everyone was familiar with from the Yardbirds. When they started, it was clear that the rest of the show would be a letdown. Jimmy Page played the guitar with a violin bow...nobody had ever seen or heard anything like it! Spirit was ok, doing their "Fresh Garbage". Vanilla Fudge was one of the worst live performances I ever heard. After that concert, it was all about Zeppelin. Every day after school for nearly the entire next semester, I would stop by the neighborhood record store to bug them for the debut album, which did not disappoint. We'd listen to it all night long, playing pool in the basement drinking 3.2 beer. I only saw them once, but my brother saw Zeppelin again when they opened for Iron Butterfly 

Rick Schmidt's picture

Just read this last review and wondering if we know each other?

I was there too, and was also a 15 year old kid who hung out at the Family Dog

and all the other hippy/music places in Denver.

 

About all I remember was thinking that the trapazoidal amps the LZ had looked

cool, that the singer (RP) looked a bit like a rooster, and that the drummers

hands must hurt. Ha.... boy did my first assesment miss the mark.

 

Pat Sullivan's picture

I attended this concet with a previous commenter, Stan R.   I was 17 and it was one of my first rock concerts. The main draw was Spirit and of course didn't know Led Zeppelin had been added at the last minute.  Great show, one that's stuck in memory.  Serendipitous really to be part of rock history.  .     

Herb Allison's picture

It was difficult to find new music and new bands in the late 60's, there was really no outlet to discover it other than live performances. Music that was being played on the radio was popularized through the label/radio payola business plan for bands at that time and was already a proven money maker. Even so most of the music was pretty good because the promoters (think Ahmet Ertegun, Berry Gordy, Bill Graham, Sam Phillips) had pretty good taste. There were a few "underground" and short distance broadcast radio stations at the time that played a lot of obscure, new and different tunes from their basement hideouts and dad's garages (one step away from the FCC pigs). One in particular was in Boulder I remember - a college station I think. 

Anyway, the best way I found to hear new music was to pick out an album based on how cool the album cover was and have my kleptomaniac friend Pat Grasser steal it from the drug store at the Northglenn Mall. That's how I discovered Led Zeppelin. When I spied that crashing and burning blimp on a cover I knew it had to contain some awesome tunes - plus Jimmy Page had been in the Yardbirds so it must be great! I took it straight home and lit up a joint and put it on the turntable. I was blown away. I immediately had a new favorite band. I told all my friends about this fantastic new group, better rock blues than Blue Cheer, like Robert Johnson on acid! 

Then, incredibly, a few days later I heard at the last minute they were going to open up for Spirit and Vanilla Fudge. I had to go no matter what. The Fudge was OK and I'd seen Spirit banging fists on the drums before, but I had to see Led Zeppelin! So a few penniless and ticket-less friends and I hitchhiked to downtown Denver the night of the concert and right after they opened the venue we started banging on emergency exit doors until someone opened one and we busted in. We ran straight into the auditorium and quickly blended in.

I distinctly remember Fey introducing the band and Robert Plant stepping up to the mic and humbly saying "Hello Denver, this is our first concert in the United States and we're kind of nervous, we sure hope you like us..." and then busting into their first song. The rest is history.

 
Chris's picture

Led Zeppelin did not release their first album until 1969...January to be exact...the 12th to be even more precise.

 

Cheers....

Some Dude's picture

The band called The New Yardbirds (Zeppelin line-up) toured as New Yardbirds in 1968. They changed their name to Led Zeppelin and did their first show October 25th of that year at Surrey University in the UK (5 days after the last New Yardbirds show). After 10 shows as Led Zeppelin in the UK they then played Denver as Led Zeppelin December 26, 1968. 

Bonham forever. 

Tony 's picture

I was there, I was 14 praise god I was there one of my best memories tony davie

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Comments

I attended this concet with a by Pat Sullivan (not verified)
Quite . . . by Some Dude (not verified)
Not quite... by Chris (not verified)
Just read this last review by Rick Schmidt (not verified)
1968 by Tony (not verified)
I saw Led Zeppelin's debut by George Scott (not verified)
Response to Steves story by Joey Furtek (not verified)
1st US concert @ the Auditorium Arena by Rocky Rodriguez (not verified)
LED ZEPPELIN by Ernest Garcia (not verified)
AWESOME STORY STEVE!!!!!!! by Gary (not verified)
Thanks for sharing that is by Pam (not verified)
First US show! by Steve Lafreniere (not verified)
First Zep Concert I ever Saw by ron creel (not verified)
Denver show. by JG (not verified)
Denver Show by Bill Everard (not verified)
Went to see Vanilla Fudge, by Doug Benson (not verified)
Far Out Concert by Jerry Norman (not verified)