In 1966, Jimmy Page joined the blues-influenced rock band, The Yard birds, to replace bassist Paul Samwell-Smith. Page soon switched from bass to lead guitar, creating a dual lead-guitar line-up with Jeff Beck. Following the departure of Beck in October 1966, The Yardbirds began to wind down. The Yardbirds played their final gig in July 1968 at Luton College of Technology in Bedfordshire, England.
Drummer Jim McCarty and vocalist Keith Relf authorised Page and bassist Chris Dreja to use “The Yardbirds” name to fulfil the band’s obligations. Page and Dreja began putting a new line-up together. Page’s first choice for the lead singer was Terry Reid, but Reid declined the offer and suggested Robert Plant, a Stourbridge singer for The Band of Joy and Hobbstweedle. Plant eventually accepted the position, recommending former Band of Joy drummer John Bonham. When Dreja dropped out of the project to become a photographer (he would later take the photograph that appeared on the back of Led Zeppelin’s debut album), John Paul Jones, at the suggestion of his wife, contacted Page about the vacant position. Having known Jones from his session days, Page agreed to let him join as the final member.
The four played together for the first time in a room below a record store onGerrard StreetinLondon. Page suggested that they attempt “Train Kept A-Rollin'”, originally a jump blues song popularised in a rockabilly version by Johnny Burnette, which had been covered by The Yardbirds. “As soon as I heard John Bonham play”, recalled Jones, “I knew this was going to be great …
The band completed the Scandinavian tour as The New Yardbirds, playing together for the first time in front of a live audience at Gladsaxe Teen Clubs inGladsaxe,Denmark, on 7 September 1968. Later that month, they began recording their first album, which was based upon their live set. The album was recorded and mixed in nine days, and Page himself covered the costs. After the album’s completion, the band were forced to change their name after Chris Dreja issued a cease and desist letter, stating that Page was only allowed to use the New Yardbirds name for the Scandinavian dates. One account of how the new band’s name was chosen held that Keith Moon and John Entwistle suggested that a super group containing themselves, Jimmy Page, and Jeff Beck would go down like a “lead balloon”, a British idiom for disastrous results. The group dropped the ‘a’ in lead at the suggestion of their manager, Peter Grant, so that those unfamiliar with the phrase would not pronounce it “leed”. The word “balloon” was transformed into “zeppelin”, perhaps an exaggeration of the humour, and to Page the name conjured the perfect combination of heavy and light, combustibility and grace