Dragon: the Jimmy Page Telecaster that changed rock music forever

Jimmy Page has two greatest interests in life: guitars and dragons, putting aside things like family and little moments of happiness that we sometimes take for granted. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that the guitarist for Led Zeppelin fused the two and made rock history.

Page recorded all of the Led Zeppelin albums using a legendary guitar. The musician has painted over the basic, stripped Ash body of the 1959 Telecaster. To give the body the appearance of a dragon, he added a scattering of psychedelic swirls in the colors green, orange, yellow, blue, and red. The guitar, dubbed “Dragon,” was to revolutionize rock music for all time.

It was a beautiful instrument with a lovely sound; the blues tone of the Fender guitars of the era was ideal for what Led Zeppelin finally accomplished, as their hard rock and twisted takes on the genre were enough to establish them as legends. Even now, their sound can still be heard in solos, fills, and riffs.

It’s interesting to note that Jeff Beck initially gave Page the guitar as a gift. John Owen, a friend of Beck’s and the Deltones bandmate, first purchased it in 1961 for £107. Since Owen was having trouble playing the Burns “Tri-Sonic” for Deltones solos, Beck persuaded Owen to switch guitars. According to Martin Power in Hot Wired Guitar: The Life of Jeff Beck, “Owens agreed to swap for a while”, “though when confronted with the difficulties of controlling the Burns’ seemingly endless knob configurations each night, [he] soon asked for his Telecaster to be returned.”

How Beck got back the Telecaster is a mystery, but he did, keeping it until the Deltones broke up and he joined The Yardbirds. During this time, he preferred playing the Fender Esquire, but he always carried a Telecaster with him in case something happened to the first instrument.

In 1966, Beck decided to give Page the guitar as a token of appreciation for all the aid he had given him in his formative years. Page applied the famous embellishments in 1967 after leaving the guitar unaltered for a year. Although it’s unclear where he got the idea, it wouldn’t be incorrect to speculate that Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd, who had only moments earlier adorned his Esquire with metal-style discs, may have been the source.

Later, Page would utilize the Telecaster as his go-to guitar for all Led Zeppelin compositions, crafting hits like “Baby, I’m Gunna Leave You,” “Dazed and Confused,” and, of course, the legendary “Stairway To Heaven.” According to legend, Elvis only ever switched guitars once, during the song “You Shook Me,” when he decided to give a Gibson Flying V that someone was attempting to sell him a chance.

One of the key elements of the current rock music revival is the Telecaster. Many popular bands have been credited to Led Zeppelin as their inspiration, and if you listen closely, you can hear their influence on contemporary music. In that way, the Dragon is a guitar that has shaped the world of music as we know it and is an integral component of the rock genre.

Page confirmed, “I still have it, but it’s a tragic story. I went on tour with a ’59 Les Paul that I bought from Joe Walsh, and when I got back, a friend of mine had kindly painted over my paint job. He said, ‘I’ve got a present for you.’ He thought he had done me a real favour. As you can guess, I wasn’t real happy about that. His paint job totally screwed up the sound and the wiring.”

Peace be with you, Dragon. Rock will always remember you.


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