13-Year-Old Jimmy Page Plays Guitar on TV in 1957, an Early Moment in His Spectacular Career

These days, most of our pop stars seem to come pre-print­ed from child-star fac­to­ries, their looks and sound care­ful­ly craft­ed for max­i­mum appeal. But every gen­er­a­tion has its child stars, espe­cial­ly since the advent of radio and tele­vi­sion, and many greats of the past got their start as kids, even if they made their way in a more indi­vid­u­al­ized fash­ion. Elvis made his first pub­lic appear­ance onstage at a state fair at ten years of age, fol­lowed by a local radio appear­ance when he was twelve. Ste­vie Won­der made his pub­lic debut on TV at age twelve, show­ing off his har­mon­i­ca skills at the Apol­lo the­ater and on the Ed Sul­li­van Show. And Jim­my Page—he of Yard­birds and Led Zep­pelin fame—first caught the public’s eye as the thir­teen-year old mem­ber of a skif­fle band on the BBC’s All Your Own in 1957. See the shy, fresh-faced young “James Page” above.

Page dis­cuss­es with the show’s host Huw Whel­don not just his musi­cal ambi­tions, but his aca­d­e­m­ic ones, specif­i­cal­ly his inter­est in find­ing a cure for can­cer, “if it isn’t cov­ered by then.” Page stuck with his bio­log­i­cal research, for a while, then went to art school for two years. But through it all there was the gui­tar, his true pas­sion and life’s work. By 1963, Page was work­ing full time as a ses­sion gui­tarist and seemed eager to dis­cuss his new career in the recent­ly re-dis­cov­ered tele­vi­sion inter­view above. It was at this point, as he recount­ed to jour­nal­ist Steven Rosen in 1977, that he reached a “cross­roads,” as he called it: “is it an art career or is it going to be music?”

Page obvi­ous­ly sort­ed out it out quick­ly. He may not have cured can­cer, but he did re-invent rock and roll. Last year saw the pub­li­ca­tion of Jim­my Page by Jim­my Page, a 512-page auto­bi­og­ra­phy in pho­tographs, each one cho­sen by Page him­self. His ear­ly teenage skif­fle and ses­sion years are cov­ered, all the way through his 2012 recep­tion at the White House, and every­thing in-between. In Novem­ber of 2014, Page sat down with super­star pop artist Jeff Koons at New York’s 92nd Street Y to dis­cuss the book and his life­long love of the gui­tar, includ­ing that “very embar­rass­ing” 1957 TV appear­ance. “When you’ve had a whole life­time full of music,” Page says, “there are cer­tain things that sort of come up and haunt you, and that is one of them… but it’s got a charm about it.” Indeed it does, and there are cer­tain­ly worse things that could haunt an artist of Page’s stature. See Page and Koons’ full con­ver­sa­tion above, and watch Page dis­cuss his “auto­bi­og­ra­phy with pho­tographs” below.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Jim­my Page Tells the Sto­ry of “Stair­way to Heav­en”: How the Most Played Rock Song Came To Be

Jim­my Page Gives Com­mence­ment Address at Berklee; Stu­dents Per­form Led Zep Clas­sics for Him

Jim­my Page and Robert Plant Reunite in Exot­ic Mar­rakesh, 1994

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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  • Baisakhi Chatterjee says:

    Thanks for shar­ing this. I’m cur­rent­ly work­ing on the f# minor noc­turne! they’re beau­ti­ful pieces. Afte com­ple­tion of this, I would go for gui­tar lessons.
    Don’t get me wrong, you have to be strong and con­fi­dent to be suc­cess­ful in just about any­thing you do – but with music, there’s a deep­er emo­tion­al com­po­nent to your fail­ures and suc­cess­es. If you fail a chem­istry test, it’s because you either didn’t study enough, or just aren’t that good at chem­istry (the lat­ter of which is total­ly under­stand­able). But if you fail at music, it can say some­thing about your char­ac­ter. It could be because you didn’t prac­tice enough – but, more ter­ri­fy­ing­ly, it could be because you aren’t resilient enough. Mas­ter­ing chem­istry requires dili­gence and smarts, but mas­ter­ing a piano piece requires dili­gence and smarts, plus cre­ativ­i­ty, plus the immense capac­i­ty to both over­come emo­tion­al hur­dles, and, simul­ta­ne­ous­ly, to use that emo­tion­al com­po­nent to bring the music alive.
    Before I start­ed tak­ing piano, I had always imag­ined the Con­ser­va­to­ry stu­dents to have it so good – I mean, for their home­work, they get to play gui­tar, or jam on their sax­o­phone, or sing songs! What fun! Com­pared to sit­ting in lab for four hours study­ing the opti­cal prop­er­ties of min­er­als, or dis­cussing Lucret­ian the­o­ries of democ­ra­cy and pol­i­tics, I would play piano any day.

    But after almost three years of piano at Orpheus Acad­e­my, I under­stand just how naïve this is. Play­ing music for cred­it is not “easy” or “fun” or “mag­i­cal” or “lucky.” Most­ly, it’s real­ly freakin’ hard. It requires you to pick apart your piece, play every lit­tle seg­ment over and over, dis­sect it, tin­ker with it, cry over it, feel com­plete­ly lame about it, then get over your­self and start prac­tic­ing again. You have to be pre­cise and dili­gent, cre­ative and robot­ic. And then – after all of this – you have to re-dis­cov­er the emo­tion­al beau­ty in the piece, and use it in your per­for­mance.

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