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Led Zeppelin Former Roadie Recalls Band’s Early Days on the Road

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Evening Standard / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

If you’ve read (and believe) the now-legendary stories in the book ‘Hammer of the Gods,’ then you’d think that life as Led Zeppelin‘s roadie would have been a decadent, hedonistic existence. However, the band’s former roadie Henry “The Horse” Smith recently recalled his early days as the band’s road manager to Backpage, but chose to adopt the “what happens on the road, stays on the road” philosophy when discussing those times.

Smith roadied for the band from 1968 through 1973 and did offer an overarching view of Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and company. He also revealed that he left this sweet gig because he wanted to remain active and working, which isn’t always feasible when Zeppelin went off tour to work on new albums.

Smith, now 64, also roadied for Aerosmith, so it goes without saying that he has seen a lot. In the interview, he spoke about his years on the road with Zeppelin. Here are some of the choicest cuts from the lengthy chat.

He promises he won’t ever put pen to paper or spill the detailed beans about most of what he witnessed, either, since “the things I did and saw with Zeppelin were in the spirit of friendship. To write a book about Led Zeppelin would be to give up that friendship and I value that too highly to stab them in the back.” What a loyalist. And by the way, he got his nickname not from the size of his, uh, junk, but the fact that he could lift two Fender bass amps and a put them in the bus like it was nothin’.

On the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll:

“Everybody was getting everything, including the roadies. Let me put it to you this way; some of the things we did that were accepted in the ’60s would not be accepted today.” He did say that designer drugs were not a part of the landscape and pot was more the drug of choice.

On “sloppy seconds”:

The roadies weren’t getting the band’s cast offs, either! “I know that there were times when the roadies got more action than the band. Sometimes in the morning a band member would be kicking two women out at the same time a roadie would be kicking two women out,” Smith said.

On witnessing the writing process of the second Led Zeppelin LP:

He was right there, up close and personal! Smith recalls, “I was with Jimmy and Robert in this isolated cottage when they were writing the songs. An entire album’s worth of songs came together in two weeks and it was amazing to watch how the creative process works. Robert was good about asking me what I thought. He would be singing melody lines, bouncing ideas off me and asking what I thought.” Roadie-hood has its privileges.

On being faithful on the road:

“They did what they did on the road but, at the end of the tour, they always went home to their wives,” Smith admitted about the married members, which was everyone but Jimmy Page at the time.

You can read the rest of this fascinating interview here.

 

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