On June 15, 1972, Jeff Curtis went to see Led Zeppelin perform at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island. He would leave with a guitar case belonging to Jimmy Page and hold onto it for 47 years.
The case, an original Liften guitar case, famously came with 1958-1960 Gibson Les Paul guitars. While only about 1,500 Sunburst Les Paul guitars were made during this time period, they are regarded as the most prized and demanded guitars by rock musicians and known for their incredible tone. Such notables who played and recorded with 1958-1960 Les Pauls include Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Slash, Jeff Beck, Keith Richards, and many other guitar gods.
Jimmy Page owns two of them, but his favorite is his 1959 Les Paul sold to him by Joe Walsh around 1969. Jimmy recorded pretty much all of his iconic Led Zeppelin songs with that guitar, starting with Zeppelin’s second album. Page used a telecaster on the first album before he acquired his ’59 Les Paul.
That summer, Led Zeppelin was in the middle of their eighth U.S. tour, and two heavy nights at Nassau Coliseum served as the final East Coast dates of the summer. After the show, Mick Hinton, John Bonham’s drum tech, who Jeff had met the year before at Madison Square Garden, invited Jeff to the stage after the show. Jeff was in the stands behind the stage and shouted to Mick, “How do I get down there?”
Hinton picked up and tossed a guitar case to Jeff, who then walked down, past two security checkpoints with the case in hand, up onto the stage, and handed it back to Mick. For years, the case was “hidden under a pile of junk deep in an attic” as Curtis shared with NYS Music. Living in Westbury, Curtis is a guitarist who can be found at open mic nights across Long Island and has performed in Hawaii, California and Sweden.
Curtis shared the full story on Facebook how he wound up with the original case, and was recently able to return it to Jimmy. Read below their photo for the full story.
After the few minutes it took to pack up the drums, he says to me, “You can have that.” I was speechless, to say the least! “Where will the guitar go?” He took me over and showed me Jimmy Page’s number one Les Paul guitar in its brand new anvil road case. The case I was given was being discarded that night since its back was crushed and no longer afforded protection to the guitar. Talk about being in the right place at the right time!
So began my decades-long possession of a genuine rock n’ roll artifact. But I also realized from that point onward that it was something I couldn’t talk about. While there have been a small handful of friends over the years who were aware that I had it, I had kept this a deep secret over the past 47 years in fear that someone might either burglarize my house or worse, threaten me in order to steal it. For this reason, I had decided a couple of years ago that I no longer wanted the guitar case.
Despite its certain significant monetary value to a collector, I had also decided that I wouldn’t ever sell it since making money off someone else’s fame is simply against my principles. I decided that I would find a way to personally return it to Jimmy Page. But how to accomplish this? How would I get in touch with the right people to set up a meeting?
Back in July, I went to see the Play It Loud exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Jimmy Page’s number one Les Paul guitar was one of the instruments on display. I got the idea that maybe I could be put in touch with his people via the exhibit’s curator. A few days later, I called the museum and spoke with the curator’s assistant who asked me to send an e-mail with photos, which I did. About two weeks later, I got a call from a gentleman, Perry, who works with Jimmy. He asked to set up a meeting to personally examine the case and take several more detailed photos. About a month later, I received word that Jimmy wanted to meet me and have the case returned.
So, on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in a hotel lounge in New York City, my two daughters, a close friend and I had the pleasure of a 1-hour sit-down and conversation with Jimmy, with him finally getting the guitar case back. When I opened it up, the look on his face was priceless: “What memories this brings back!” “Thank you so much!” In person, he is a genuinely warm and very welcoming gentleman. We talked about Led Zeppelin, he asked about my musical influences, asked my daughters what type of music they enjoyed and various other topics. I gave him copies of both my CDs, which he said he would listen to. He also had brought me a special limited box set edition of Led Zeppelin 2 and signed its book as well as another book I had brought with me. I can honestly say that after the first few minutes, my nervousness completely disappeared and it felt like I was talking with an old friend. Nevertheless, the experience of having had the opportunity to sit down with the very person whose music not only greatly influences my own but also inspired to me to initially pick up and learn to play the guitar almost 50 years ago is something that I will never forget!
Thanks so much Jimmy and thank you Perry! Mission accomplished.
After sitting with Page for an hour, Curtis said of the legendary guitarist, “It was like talking to an old friend.” He continued, “Jimmy was a real gentleman to sit and talk with, not a hint of ego. He asked my daughters about their musical interests, and asked about my influences as well. He made us all feel very comfortable. But it took a week to kind wrap my head around the experience of meeting him for that long.”
This article was originally published by Under the Radar – Covering the Long Island Music Scene and appears as a special to NYS Music. Under the Radar and NYS Music work in partnership to provide readers with in-depth coverage on the local music scene across Long Island. For more, visit BreslauBombers.com.