John Paul Jones Attends the KLSX Classic Rock Expo
by Rick Barrett
As a long time memorabilia dealer specializing in Led Zeppelin collectibles and autographs, 1994 closed out with a bang at a large convention in California. It was my third time to visit downtown Los Angeles for the KLSX Classic Rock Expo at the posh Westin Bonaventure Hotel (where True Lies, the Arnold Schwarzenegger action movie, was filmed).
This was the radio station KLSX's fifth convention, and one of the big drawing cards was always the lineup of celebrities making personal appearances. In the past, some great people showed up to talk to fans, sign autographs, do interviews, and occasionally perform live. Don Henley, Mick Fleetwood, Mickey Dolenz, Randy California, Brian Wilson, Paul Kantner, Kenny Loggins, and Burton Cummings appeared there in the past.
The 1994 extravaganza had another top-notch schedule of names attending the show throughout the weekend: Adam West (Batman), Warren Zevon, Greg Lake (of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer), Heidi Flice (the Hollywood Madam), Edgar Winter, Steppenwolf's John Kay, Robbie Krieger of the Doors, and Brain Setzer formerly of the Stray Cats. While I was packing memorabilia in Houston to be shipped to the show, it was exciting to learn that KLSX was finalizing arrangements to bring in Led Zeppelin's bassist John Paul Jones. By arrival time in LA, it was confirmed that he would stop by the Expo for an on-air interview with disc jockey Jim Ladd (`Innerview' host; Roger Waters' Radio KAOS DJ). The short talk was scheduled for Saturday at 4 PM and it was hopeful that Jones would sign autographs and meet fans afterwards for a little while.
Like year's past, the first day was full of activity-seeing old friends, buying and selling, meeting customers in person that we'd met by phone or through the mail, getting autographs from the guests, making trades, etc. Sales were good with Led Zeppelin items being scooped up at a steady pace. It seemed like everyone felt a buzz in the air, waiting for a chance to see John Paul. As the afternoon progressed, Jones' advance people began coordinating things with the radio station staff. It became apparent that the visit would be very brief, as the humble musician was not at all comfortable being the center of attention or interacting with the public on this scale. A KLSX organizer said there would be a moment for the radio station to have a dozen or so things signed, and to leave one item to be autographed with no expectations.
The crowd grew to a couple thousand, and fans lined up to meet and greet Warren Zevon and Greg Lake. (The ELP vocalist also performed 'Father Christmas' on acoustic guitar). With excitement in the air, fans were getting restless anticipating the arrival of Zeppelin's bassist. People had all sorts of collectibles, hoping he might sign them: gold records, vintage photos, all sorts of Zep albums, programs, etc.
Finally at almost 4:45 PM, radio personnel got the word, gathered some things, and departed to a loading dock area. The items were spread out, Jones emerged, and quickly signed the array of memorabilia. He was then escorted into the hall to loud cheers, right to a couple of chairs and microphones on a small stage. Jones and Ladd acknowledged each other, put on headphones, and waited for the producer's cue while the crowd hooted and hollered. Air time arrived and the DJ began the conversation, allowing for a few roars from fans. John Paul was noticeably apprehensive of the situation, though he sometimes smiled reluctantly. He spoke of his musical influences and background, acknowledged he was very proud of Led Zeppelin's work and what they'd created, commented on the Plant/Page reunion, how he came to work with Diamanda Galas, and their work together. When asked about his biggest memory of Led Zeppelin, he said playing live was the best. Ladd wrapped it up with a plug for the upcoming Diamanda Galas concert, and the crowd exploded in appreciation.
Jones sat for a couple minutes after the interview, as the convention promoter tried to persuade him to stay a little longer to meet his fans. "Time wouldn't permit" was the reply, and immediately afterwards he was ushered out the door. Security was lax and a zealous throng aggressively followed. Jones and his handlers hustled him briskly to the car without stopping and he jumped in the back seat. By now a large crowd engulfed the vehicle as it made its way to the street and the safety (!) of the downtown traffic.
Though many were disappointed, there was a definite feeling of appreciation that one of Led Zeppelin's legendary band members had been to the Expo. With an extremely limited performance itinerary that year with Diamanda
Galas, it turned out this was one of John Paul Jones' five interviews that were granted for the entire tour. As things gradually simmered down, we finished up Saturday's business, still chatting excitedly about what had transpired. The day ended on a high note when a large matted color concert photo was returned from KLSX, wonderfully autographed in bold marker by John Paul Jones.
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