Terry Reid, "the greatest singer who never made it"
04-15-2016, 08:49 PM,
Terry Reid, "the greatest singer who never made it"
Quote:Even Superlungs has to pay the pawn shop

If you don’t love it, hang it up,” Terry Reid declares on a recent Saturday afternoon. “If your only guide is how much you earned, go get a job.”

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 — he’s just cooked up a lunch of Indian-spiced chicken — and twists an unlit American Spirit between his fingers.

Money has come up because, a few minutes earlier, Elliott Salter called. Reid let the voicemail pick up and listened as the West Hollywood pawn shop owner left a message.

“You need to start getting me money every month, Terry, or I’ve got to sell the guitars,” Salter said. “I love you dearly, but your love doesn’t pay my bills.”

Reid offers one of his throaty cackles at the turn of that last phrase. He’s not angry or annoyed. Salter is a good guy. And sure, he’d love to play those cherry red Gibsons and that Rickenbacker steel guitar again.

“It’s just I can’t afford to get them out,” Reid says. “Everything I get at the moment, I’m being honest, goes into the bills.”

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 or replace the ’99 Lincoln with the smashed right headlight sitting in the driveway.

...There he is, on German TV in 1969 or at Glastonbury in ’71, a model of cool, lean and long-haired, the voices of Otis Redding, Chris Robinson and Ray LaMontagne rolled into one.

“The style of what he was doing, that kind of opening up, he had a flexibility and power and control,” says Robert Plant, a friend from before Led Zeppelin formed. “So he could go, as Esther Phillips said, from a whisper to a scream in split seconds.”

Graham Nash, then in the Hollies, first met Reid in 1966, when he was opening for the Rolling Stones as a member of Peter Jay and Jaywalkers.

“You talk to any of his friends, they’ll tell you,” Nash says, “I don’t understand why he’s not a gigantic star.”

Jack Douglas heard Reid in the late ’60s. Later, Douglas would go on to produce Aerosmith and John Lennon. He also produced the cover of Reid’s “Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace” on Cheap Trick’s 1977 debut.

“Just that voice,” Douglas says. “It’s a white guy who sounds like a black guy. And for the kids, that was the coolest thing.”

...Reid grew up in farming country, about 80 miles north of London. Walter always encouraged his playing, buying him guitars, driving him to gigs and persuading his wife, Grace, to let their only child be.

“He said, ‘Look, you’ve got a choice,’ ” Reid remembers. “ ‘Either he gets a job picking up potatoes in a pouring field or he does this. And he’s so happy doing this, so leave him alone.’ ”

Before long, Reid was paying a buddy to do his homework and, with Peter Jay and the Jaywalkers, opening for the Stones. That was 1966. 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 lead to 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 actually 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.’”

Here, Reid laughs.

“I said: ‘Hang on. I’ll tell you what I’ll do. If you call Keith Richards and tell him I’m not going on the tour and B, pay me what he’s going to pay me,’ I said, ‘let’s give it a shot.’ ”

That, he knew, wasn’t about to happen. So Reid recommended two friends for the gig, a willowy singer named Robert Plant and drummer John Bonham.

And 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.

“I like to say my records weren’t released,” Reid says. “They escaped.”

Listening to those 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 pawnshop payment.



Forum Jump:

Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)