Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Stairway to Wyre Farm - Robert Plant and Black Sabbath

Little Wyre Cottage can be seen Top right
Aileen Parker related a story she had heard while she was studying in London in the early 70's. She wasn't quite sure of all the details so we began to research the story a little. The story seemed to involve the school's Assistant Cook Gladys Plant being the Aunty of Led Zeppelin front man Robert Plant and a tale of Robert attended a party held by teacher Neil Cummings at Little Wyre Cottage at the school (formerly the abode of Mr and Mrs Chopping).

Aileen told us -
after  I went off to college and then to London, apparently Neil Cummings and his wife had a party at Wyre Cottage (white house at the end of the track after the cedar dorms) and Robert was one of the party goers. So I was told!"

We couldn't confirm the story but learnt quite a bit along the way and it now turns out that it was two members of Black Sabbath instead who attended the party.

Rosemary Webb-Rehill told us -
"Early 70's. Gladys was one of dad's (Eric Webb the Bursar) cooks. I knew her well. She used to wear garlic around her neck to keep the evil spirits away. She died very quickly of cancer at quite a young age. She lived in one of the farm cottages on the left hand side on the road to Bridgnorth. Steve (my brother) may know the name as it was the cottage that my friend Angie lived in when I was very small. I think I would have known had there been a connection.."

I knew Robert Plant came from the Birmingham area so did a search on Google and found he had quite a lot of connections with nearby Kidderminster! We can't say that  Robert Plant ever came to Wyre Farm Camp school or was related to Gladys Plant but he came very close on many occasions!

According to this BBC site
"Robert Plant was educated at Stourbridge Grammar School and later at Kidderminster College, although he spent a lot of time hanging around with the Stourbridge Art School crowd who were heavily into music and the beatnik scene of the time....He later joined Kidderminster blues outfit the Crawling Kingsnakes, replacing Al King on vocals.   While performing at Old Hill Plaza with the Kingsnakes, where he was also master of ceremonies, Robert was approached by John Bonham who said "You're not a bad singer, but the group needs another drummer", and recommended himself." 

It goes on to say that John Bonham (AKA Bonzo)
" Bonzo joined the band and along with Maverick, lead; Roy Price, rhythm, and Terry Edwards, bass, Crawling Kingsnakes MK 2 was formed and they rehearsed in a hall in Clows Top."

Clows Top is not far from the school, a few miles along the B4202 past Mawley Hall and comes into the story again a bit later on.

Band of Joy - I Gotta Find My Baby - with Robert Plant and John Bonham 1968

It would be a little while before Robert and John would be invited to join the reformed Yardbirds, after Keith Relf. First there was Band of Joy, Kidderminster. " Band of Joy are probably best known for briefly containing half of Led Zeppelin - Robert Plant and John Bonham - and for the fact that Noddy Holder - the implausibly bewhiskered front man of Slade - was (briefly) one of their roadies."

As is well known, later in 1968, Robert Plant and John Bonham were invited to join the reformed Yardbirds after singer / front man Keith Relf left, by the bands last guitarist - Jimmy Page. They rebranded as Led Zeppelin and the rest is history of course!

However Robert Plant has never strayed far from his roots, both musical and geographic. He lived on a farm near Kidderminster through much of his career (Jennings Farm at Blakeshall, Woverley near Kidderminster). His lyrics draw on his long-standing interest in Celtic legends, and his music is still faithful to his boyhood idols. Robert Plant lived on Jennings farm near kidderminster early 70's - which he and his wife bought after he became famous and then moved to a cottage in wales (hence the celtic mythology in some of his later lyrics).

Rosemary Webb Rehill - Oh Robert Plant was from Kidderminster. I know he went to school there but I'm just not sure about him being connected to our Gladys. His sister went to the convent with me in Kidderminster, although she was quite a few years after me. I think her name was Tess or something like that. She's quite a famous musician too if I remember corrrectly.

So far I've not found any evidence that his sister is famous but it is a tenuous link with the school through Rosemary!

More recently Robert Plant has recorded with his early band - Band of Joy and there was a recent gig in Rockfield in Wyre Forest at the Rockfield studios

Neil Cummings is in this picture I think

Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath) had a house at Clows Top, as did Glen Tipton of Judas Priest (other side of Blakedown.)


So although the story about Robert Plant wasn't correct, there are certainly a lot of connections in the area. However Aileen managed to get in contact with teacher Neil Cummings and she told me -

"Have just spoken to Neil and Glenys Cummings, now living in Spain, they left Cleobury only 13 years ago. I got it wrong it wasn't Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin it was the guys from Black Sabbath that they had round to Little Wyre. Neil started in 73 and yes the Choppings lived in Little Wyre for a short while, and also the Deputy Matron, name not to mind , before them. Have told them about the site and they will visit it. There still seems to be some recognition re Robert Plant they remember someone having a farm near Kidderminster"

Michael Breslin tells us - Interesting. Neil Cummings lived in the Cottage at the back of the school alright with his wife and (2?) sons. He was a bit of a practical joker and one of the more laid-back staff teachers who taught biology. I always thought of him as a bit Hippy-ish but that might have been because of the "green" connection in cultivation - they grew some vegetables in their yard. Rumour had it that he had connections with Black Sabbath and that Tony Iommi, the drummer, was his best pal. Funny when you mention a connection with Robert Plant. I was there 73-78 

We will update this page if any further information comes in about the party at Little Wyre Cottage.

Tommy Iommi

1 comment:

  1. I'm facebook buddies with Alison Plant, Robert's little sister. She went to the convent with me. I asked her about Gladys and no, she was no relation.