Jimmy Page is often thought of as a quintessential rock guitar hero, being in the same class of talent as peers such as Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and the late Jimi Hendrix. Page and Beck, who grew up near each other in England and both spent time as guitarists for the Yardbirds, were among the first guitarists to help popularize the use of electronic feedback and distortion with the Roger Mayer fuzzbox.
Jimmy Page began learning guitar when he was 12. His early influences were rockabilly guitarists Scotty Moore and James Burton, who both played on recordings made by Elvis Presley, and Johnny Day who played guitar for The Everly Brothers. The Presley song "Baby Let's Play House" was an early favourite on his first electric guitar, a second hand 1949 Gibson. Page's musical tastes however also encompassed acoustic folk playing particularly that of Bert Jansch and John Renbourn, and the blues sounds of Elmore James and B.B. King. At the age of 14, Page appeared on ITV's Search For Stars talent quest programme.
After graduating from school with an initial aim to work as a lab assistant, Page's love of the guitar saw him switch to playing for Beat poet Royston Ellis before joining his first band, Red E Lewis and The Red Caps. Page was then asked by Neil Christian to join his band, The Crusaders, which gave him his first taste of touring life and an appearance on a November 1962 single, "The Road to Love". Living from out of the back of a van and intermittent wages however, led Page to take up a totally different focus in painting at Sutton Art College in Surrey. While still a student, Page would often jam on stage at the Marquee with bands such as the Cyril Davis All Stars, Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated and with guitarists Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton. He was spotted one night by John Gibb of The Silhouettes, who asked him to help record a number of singles for EMI, "The Worrying Kind" and "Bald Headed Woman". It wasn't until an offer from Mike Leander from Decca Records that Page was to receive regular studio work. His first session for the label was the recording "Diamonds" by Jet Harris & Tony Meehan which went to Number 1 on the singles chart in 1963.
After brief stints with the band Mickey Finn, and Carter Lewis and The Southerners, Page committed himself to full-time session work. His studio output in 1963 included Brian Pool & The Tremeloes' "Twist and Shout", Heinz's "Just Like Eddie" and in 1964, The Rolling Stones "Heart of Stone", Marianne Faithfull's "As Tears Go By", The Nashville Teens' "Tobacco Road", Dave Berry's "The Crying Game", and Lulu's hit "Shout". Under the auspices of producer Shel Talmy, Page recorded The Kinks "You Really Got Me" (1964) (although there is a dispute on whether Page or Dave Davies played lead]), the guitar part on Them's "Baby Please Don't Go" (1965), and recorded a lead guitar part on The Who's first single "I Can't Explain", although there is disagreement over whether or not it was used. In 1965 Page was hired by Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham to act as house producer for the newly formed Immediate Records label, which also allowed him to play on tracks by John Mayall, Nico, and Eric Clapton. Page also formed a brief songwriting partnership with then girlfriend, Jackie DeShannon. It is estimated that Jimmy Page appeared on 60% of rock music recorded in England between 1963 and 1966.
After being invited to replace Eric Clapton in The Yardbirds on March 20, 1965, Page instead turned down the offer and suggested his friend Jeff Beck. On May 16, 1966, drummer Keith Moon, bass player John Paul Jones, keyboardist Nicky Hopkins, Jeff Beck and Page recorded "Beck's Bolero" in London's IBC Studios. The experience gave Page an idea to form a band with John Entwistle on bass (instead of Jones), however the lack of a quality vocalist and contractual problems sent the project down like a "lead zeppelin". Within weeks Page was again offered to join The Yardbirds and at first played bass guitar with the group after the departure of Paul Samwell-Smith, before finally switching to twin lead guitar with Beck when Chris Dreja moved to bass. The musical potential of the line-up however was scuttled by interpersonal conflicts caused by constant touring and a lack of commercial success. Despite the departure of Keith Relf and Jim McCarty in 1968, Page wished to continue the group with a new line-up. After a handful of shows on their first tour, The New Yardbirds renamed themselves Led Zeppelin.
Page's past experiences both in the studio and with The Yardbirds was critical in the success of Led Zeppelin in the 1970s. As a producer, composer and guitarist for the band, he was one of the major driving forces behind the rock sound of that era, with his trademark Gibson Les Paul guitar and Marshall amplification. His use of distorted fuzz guitar ("Whole Lotta Love"), slide guitar ("Tangerine", "In My Time of Dying"), eastern scales ("Black Mountain Side", "Kashmir"), acoustic guitar ("Gallows Pole", "Bron-Yr-Aur") and recording techniques made Led Zeppelin a prototype for all future rock bands. Page also put to use his bowed playing technique he developed during his session days, and experimented with feedback devices and a theremin.
After Led Zeppelin broke up in 1980, Page attempted to form a supergroup with ex-Yes members to be called XYZ however it came to naught. In 1982, he was commissioned by director Michael Winner to record the soundtrack to the film Death Wish II. Page made a successful return to stage with the ARMS Charity series of concerts in 1983 which honoured Small Faces bass player Ronnie Lane. Page then linked up with Roy Harper for an album and tour. In 1984, Page recorded with Robert Plant in the guise of The Honeydrippers. Various other projects soon followed such as The Firm, with Paul Rodgers, session work for Graham Nash, Box of Frogs, and Robert Plant, a solo album Outrider, a collaboration with David Coverdale in Coverdale Page, and a live album with The Black Crowes. He also reunited with Robert Plant to do two albums and successful tours in 1995 and 1998. They did an MTV UnLedded special showcasing their album No Quarter, a compilation featuring restyled Led Zeppelin songs. Page has been one member of Led Zeppelin that has always left open the option for a group reunion.
Since 1990, Jimmy Page has been instrumental in remastering the entire Led Zeppelin back catalogue and is currently involved in various charity concerts and charity work particularly the Action for Brazil's Children Trust (ABC Trust), founded by his wife Jimena Gomez-Paratcha in 1998. His daughter, Scarlet Page, is a respected photographer.