The Story Of The Man Who Sold Jimmy Page His Famous Guitar

Jimmy Page performs on stage at Madison Square Garden for the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary Concert in New York City, New York, May 14, 1988. (Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

Michael Corby was residing in London in 1974 and forming The Babys, the group that would introduce John Waite to the world, when he unexpectedly met with Led Zeppelin. At that time, he was not aware that he would eventually sell his favorite guitar to the most famous guitar hero of the time.

Corby, the former guitarist of The Babys, recently shared a fascinating tale about a chance encounter with Led Zeppelin in 1974. Corby was in London at the time, working on putting together The Babys, and was in possession of a three-pickup original Gibson Les Paul “Black Beauty.” A friend of Corby’s manager informed Jimmy Page’s guitar roadie about Corby’s prized possession, and Corby was summoned to Led Zeppelin’s rehearsals at a disused cinema in Fulham, owned by Emerson Lake & Palmer.

“I was living in Battersea, South London, and was engaged in putting together a rock’n’roll band which subsequently became known as The Babys. An associate of my manager, the late Adrian Millar, called Noddy Mackenzie was friendly with Raymond Thomas who was Jimmy Page’s guitar roadie.”

To Corby’s surprise, he found himself jamming with Led Zeppelin for two weeks while he and Jimmy Page argued over the price of the guitar. While Corby had no intention of selling his favorite guitar, he eventually found himself parting with it, and it became the red, bastardized 1952 Les Paul that Page is now famous for playing.

“After informing Raymond that I was the custodian of a three pick-up original Gibson Les Paul ‘Black Beauty’ I found myself commanded to appear at the court of Led Zeppelin at their rehearsals in a disused cinema in Fulham, owned by Emerson Lake & Palmer.

“Little did I know that I would find myself jamming with the godfathers of rock on and off for the next two weeks while Jimmy and I argued over the price of a guitar that I had not had the least intention of selling when I set out.

“The instrument in question was to become Jimmy Page’s now celebrated red, bastardised, 1952 Les Paul. How I managed to end up parting with it and how I spent so many hours jamming with Jimmy and the entire line-up of Led Zeppelin is something I still have difficulty in coming to terms with to this day.”

During their time together, Jimmy asked Corby to show him some of the licks he had been playing. Corby was thrilled to have the opportunity to play with one of the godfathers of rock, but he also gained an intimate and memorable insight into Page’s playing. What Corby had taken months to learn, Page had learned in hours.

“After about ten days of attending endless arguments regarding the price of my own favorite Les Paul and having reached a point where the matter was almost settled, I was more than surprised when Jimmy asked me if I would show him some of the licks I had been jamming with him. Here was a man whose life and style had enriched my very being, what chance did I have of keeping my guitar?

“I made less than no protest at all and Jimmy lead me to a small ante room where I dutifully showed His Royal Musicalness my sacred library of chord structures. It was at that moment and in private that I had the most remarkable, intimate and memorable insight to his playing. What I had taken months to learn he had learned in hours.”

Looking back on the experience, Corby still finds it difficult to come to terms with how he managed to end up parting with his prized guitar and spending so many hours jamming with the entire line-up of Led Zeppelin. Nevertheless, it was a memorable and intimate experience that he will never forget.

“My ego was crestfallen but I had expected nothing less. God knows, I was still in shock that he had even spoken to me let alone played with me, allowing me to play his treasured ’59 Tigerstripe in an old Marshall Major 200 amp that he had acquired from Jimi Hendrix while Bonzo, Plant and John Paul Jones joined in.”