Thu. Sep 28th, 2023

Led Zeppelin had a major impact on music, and not just because of their songs. Peter Grant, their boss, revolutionized group leadership. But Led Zeppelin was not his first foray into show business. Before guiding that group, and before Allen Klein took over The Beatles, Grant threatened Klein and practically shook him down for $12,000 in a show of the managerial practices he used when Led Zeppelin formed. Grant and Klein’s reigns over two of the world’s largest bands briefly overlapped. Klein saw Jimmy Page’s star power when managing the Yardbirds, and he stayed with him when he founded Led Zeppelin in 1968. Klein took over The Beatles just as the band was dissolving. Their paths collided in 1966, as it turned out.

Grant hoped to land Donovan as his big break in talent management. According to Bring it on Home author Mark Blake, he approached Klein about working together on the singer’s next release, and Klein promised a portion of the revenues if Grant made it happen. Despite the fact that Donovan hired a new management, the future Led Zeppelin impresario took care of his own demise. Grant assisted Donovan in the creation of “Sunshine Superman,” Donovan’s highest-charting record in England (it peaked at No. 2) and his only No. 1 smash on the Billboard charts. (Incidentally, Page and Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones played on the song).

Grant’s strategy then met a hitch when Klein refused to pay up. The individual who helped The Rolling Stones secure two different six-figure recording contracts couldn’t come up with the $12,000 he owed. Grant then threatened Klein if he didn’t come up with the money. According to Brown, Grant was alleged to have broken Klein’s hand in a desk drawer. (An armed guard apparently chose not to intervene in that version of the story). The future Led Zeppelin leader claimed to have pushed the American out of his chair. In any case, Klein quickly dispatched a minder to withdraw Grant’s $12,000 from the bank.

That wasn’t the last time Grant threatened (or actually used) force to get his way. During one of the band’s first rehearsals, Grant had a run-in with Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham. Page was upset when an enthusiastic Bonzo got a touch too creative with his stick work. Grant threatened to injure Bonham if he didn’t perform the way the guitarist desired. Bonham agreed. The issue has been resolved. Zep’s manager, a former wrestler, made use of his formidable physical stature at least once. He, Bonham, and tour manager Richard Cole were among those involved in a brutal backstage brawl during a 1977 concert in Oakland.

Grant was an imposing presence due to his gruff look, enormous stature, and threats of violence to get his way. But, at the end of the day, he did it all for the sake of the musicians he represented, none of whom were bigger than Led Zeppelin. Grant assisted Zep in obtaining the largest advance for a rock band in 1968. It didn’t hurt that the band’s debut album was fantastic, and that Page held the rights to it because he paid to record it. Nonetheless, Led Zeppelin’s manager refused to take anything less than what Page desired.

Before he got at ease in the spotlight, singer Robert Plant was a self-conscious frontman. Grant withheld early bad Led Zeppelin reviews to keep Plant’s stage nervousness at bay. The band’s grueling touring schedule aided the singer’s rapid acclimatization to performing, but Grant’s scheme to conceal evaluations guaranteed his shaky confidence was never entirely broken.

Peter Grant threatened Allen Klein over a $12,000 debt before becoming manager of Led Zeppelin. Violence (or the threat of violence) and Grant’s larger-than-life height made him an intimidating presence, but all he did was for the artists he managed. With him at the lead, Led Zeppelin rose to become one of the most popular and well-paid bands on the planet.

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