He Turned Down a Chance to Join Led Zeppelin. but That's Not His Only Story.
- •He’s standing in the kitchen of the modest two-bedroom house that he and his wife, Annette, rent in this golf town two hours east of Los Angeles.The man who opened for the Rolling Stones at 16 wears an apron and twists an unlit American Spirit between his fingers. This is life at 66 for the greatest singer who never made it. The man who, as legend goes, turned down a chance to sing lead for Led Zeppelin. The tale is rock mythology at its best, but it doesn’t pay the rent
- •“You talk to any of his friends, they’ll tell you,” Graham Nash says. “I don’t understand why he’s not a gigantic star.”Nash first met Reid in 1966, when he was opening for the Rolling Stones as a member of Peter Jay and Jaywalkers. Around this time, Reid is a model of cool, lean and long-haired, the voices of Otis Redding, Chris Robinson and Ray LaMontagne rolled into one.
- •On a recent Monday night, Reid and Jack Douglas walked into actor Johnny Depp’s home recording studio in Los Angeles to begin work on a new song.Depp sips red wine as Reid, wearing headphones in a basement studio, creates a melody for a song Perry and Reid collaborated on. A little after midnight, everybody takes a break. They stand in the kitchen trading stories until Reid picks up one of Depp’s acoustics and launches into “To Be Treated Rite,” a heart-wrenching tune he recorded in the 1970s.
- •Flashback to 1966. Reid was paying a buddy to do his homework and, with Peter Jay and the Jaywalkers, opening for the Stones.Two years later, star producer Mickie Most released his solo debut, “Bang, Bang You’re Terry Reid” and, soon after, the follow-up, which contained the song that would become Reid’s nickname, “Superlungs My Supergirl.”
- •That’s when the Led Zeppelin legend was born.The Yardbirds were dissolving and guitarist Jimmy Page recruited Reid for his new band. Rather than reject him — that’s the way the story is often reported — Reid just asked for a few weeks. He had a contract to open for the Stones. “I said to Jim, ‘Well, you know, I’ll just do this tour and be back in a minute,’ ” Reid says. “ ‘Oh, no,’ he says, ‘we have to do it right now or you’re out.’” So Reid recommended friends for the gig, a singer named Robert Plant and drummer John Bonham.
- •If that’s not enough, Reid would get another shot at rock stardom.Guitarist Ritchie Blackmore also approached Reid about joining his band, Deep Purple. This, he flat out declined. “That wasn’t my bag,” Reid says. “I like to make a little sense out of me lyrics. They were too metal.”
- •Then Reid’s career turned.A dispute over his contract stopped him from recording for four years. And when he returned to the studio, Reid established a pattern. His records were always solid, with spectacular peaks. But other factors – from poor timing and release delays to limited promotion — would lead to commercial failure.
- •Listening to his six studio albums can almost make you angry. As so many classic rockers count their millions, Reid talks of how he might scrape together enough for a pawn shop payment.Today, he is still a jubilant storyteller, full of hugs and never stingy with a bottle of wine. His voice may no longer be as velvety and the highest notes may be harder to hit, but Reid, on his best nights, can turn any song inside out.
- •Read more of Terry Reid's stories and about where he is now by clicking the link at the top of this list.