Led Zeppelin guitar man Jimmy Page is known for having an interest in mystical things — just take his Zoso symbol for example. While his main guitar was the Gibson Les Paul Standard, or “Number One”, he also played a special Fender Telecaster for a time that became somewhat of a canvas for his visual expressions.
Jimmy Page received his 1959 Telecaster as a gift from Jeff Beck in 1967, who had previously been playing it as his main guitar with the Yardbirds. The pair had become friends early on, and Page actually recommended Beck as a guitarist for the band after they had invited him to join when Clapton left in 1965.
Beck joined and when things were going well, he gifted the guitar to Page as a sign of appreciation for getting him into the Yardbards. Soon, Page also joined the band after bassist Paul Samwell-Smith quit the band abruptly one night. He actually played the bass at first before switching to guitar after Chris Dreja joined the band.
It was during his time in the Yardbirds that Page added his personal embellishments to the guitar, as it was painted white off when he initially received it from Beck. Page painted the guitar with a more yellowish tone and added eight circular mirrors to the body of the guitar, as one of his earliest mystical expressions.
“I got to the point where I wanted to consecrate this guitar and really make it my own,” he told Fender in a fantastic interview taking place at their factory in 2019. “Being there in the Yardbirds I was having to build my own identity within that group.”
Page recalls enjoying the way that the light reflected off the mirrors while he was playing. He says that he was able to do things with the light, such as shine it on people while he was playing, and it kept him moving and added to the overall performance.
Soon, though, he was ready for another change. He decided to strip the guitar down to its unfinished ash body and give it his own personal paint job. This is where the Dragon Telecaster was born.
Page recalls wanting to give the guitar a psychedelic look, so he used day-glo poster paint to make it pop and created his iconic dragon-influenced design. He played this guitar for
Of course, Page stayed with the Yardbirds until they broke up in 1968 and then went on to form Led Zeppelin. When he went into the studio with Led Zeppelin to record their groundbreaking first album, the Telecaster with it’s psychedelic dragon paint was the instrument that he used.
While he did play the Telecaster in the studio and on that first Led Zeppelin tour in early 1969, by late 1969 he had switched over to the Gibson Les Paul, which became the guitar that Led Zeppelin was most known for.
According to a 2021 interview with Joe Walsh of the Eagles from the Wong Notes Podcast, Page was not satisfied with the guitar at the time. He was having issues with the pickup and kept having to make on-the-go repairs to have it functioning during each night of their tour.
He was looking to make a change to the Les Paul, but was having trouble finding one. Walsh happened to have an extra one and gave it to Page in a trade. That is the guitar that became Page’s “Number One”. But that’s a story for another article.
However, he did still have love for the Telecaster, and he played it on the solo for “Stairway to Heaven,” and probably would have continued to play it occasionally if it hadn’t been ruined by a “friend”.
After he received the Les Paul from Joe Walsh, Page recalls leaving the Telecaster behind after going on tour with Led Zeppelin, in 1969 or 1970. He left it with a friend who was looking after his house, who was also a quirky artist on his own.
When he returned home, the friend approached Page excitedly and told him that he had a gift for him, and handed over the Telecaster, which was formerly painted with the Dragon design. Now with its own original paint job done by this friend, complete with wiring that had been completely marred in the process.
The guitar was essentially unusable at this point, and needless to say Page was not happy. He had the whole thing stripped down to bare wood and it remained that way for many years, somewhere in a corner.
However, in 2019, when Page was working on the 50th anniversary stuff for Led Zeppelin, he kept seeing himself with the dragon guitar in old photos. This inspired him to pull the old, ruined Telecaster out of that dusty corner and get to work restoring it to its old glory.
For this he worked with a graphic designer and carefully recreated the dragon paint job using the old photos. He was so pleased with the result that he reportedly approached Fender to see if they would be interested in making replicas. Of course the dollar signs in their eyes lit up and they were more than happy to produce replicas of Dragon Telecaster, and even took it one step further and made replicas the Mirror Telecaster as well.
Watch an animated video from Fender where Page explains the origin of his 1959 Telecaster below.Follow @extrachill on Instagram!