Led Zepplin tribute band Whole Lotta Led on their career and upcoming Norwich show
- Credit: David J Pym
Ahead of Whole Lotta Led's return to Norwich on Thursday, ADAM AIKEN caught up with Norfolk-born lead singer Lee Pryor.
Lee Pryor is speaking from his home near Brighton. But he's not like the legions of all the other 60-somethings enjoying life on the south cost.
Pryor is about to hit the road again with his band, Whole Lotta Led, and head to Norfolk – the county where he was born.
The Led Zeppelin tribute band have won plaudits for their live shows which, for most of us, are as near as we'll ever get to seeing the real thing. They are semi-regulars at the Waterfront, in Norwich, where they draw bigger audiences than many 'original' acts, and they are back there this week.
Check out the local listings and there are plenty of tribute acts on the circuit – some of them very impressive. But Whole Lotta Led are different from most of their peers. There's no dressing up, there are no wigs – it's all about the music.
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'Some of the other bands out there are really good, but we're musicians, not actors,' says Pryor. 'If you're not trained in acting, you can't pull it off.
'I don't need to stand there with my shirt open (I couldn't at my age, anyway!) and stuff a sausage down my trousers just to look the part.'
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Pryor joined Whole Lotta Led – who have been around for nearly a quarter of a century – in 2012, and is regularly struck by the reactions of the audience.
He says a lot of people – often women (as traditionally it was men who liked Zeppelin and they are now bringing their wives to gigs, but sometimes it's the other way round) – tell him afterwards they hadn't appreciated the breadth and depth of the music. There are still people discovering the music of Zeppelin for the first time, and who are only just realising that they were no 'heavy metal' group but a band that mixed Robert Plant's iconic lyrics with rock, blues, funk, jazz and a bit of soul.
And for those who aren't new to the music, the gigs often take them back in time.
'It's all about people's memories,' he says. 'Music often brings things back in a way that a photograph doesn't. It stirs those memories and emotions from a long time ago.'
On Thursday, Whole Lotta Led – with Nick Ferris on guitar, Geoff Hunt on bass, Martin Weetman on keys and Charlie Hart on drums – will be playing Led Zeppelin II in full, to mark the 50th anniversary of the album that brought us Heartbreaker, Ramble On and Whole Lotta Love. The second half of the show, which is likely to last for two-and-a-half hours, will be filled with other Zeppelin classics.
'We like mixing up the set,' says 67-year-old Pryor. 'There's always the songs people expect to hear, like Kashmir, Stairway to Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, but we keep setlists from when we've played places before and try to do something a little different when we come back.'
Pryor was born in Great Yarmouth before his family moved south when he was a few years old. But he regularly returned for holidays and to help his grandmother in her guesthouse.
And while Aerosmith have their own Rock 'n' Roller Coasters in California and Paris, Pryor has his own favourite fairground attraction a little closer to home.
Having spent his childhood summers helping at his grandmother's guesthouse in Paget Road, he has a soft spot for Joyland and, on a recent visit to the town, was thrilled to find that the funfair was still going strong – and he couldn't resist having a go.
'The Snails are still there!' he says. 'When I went back I had to have a go on them, and on the Tubs!'
And, in a way, that seems fitting for the congenial and down-to-earth Pryor. He and his fellow bandmates, who have earned the backing of Zep guitarist Jimmy Page, have the talent to be doing their own thing but they are happy paying homage to their heroes.
And they are definitely worth checking out. Whether you remember Zeppelin from the old days or whether you just want to see what the fuss was all about, you're not going to get a find a better tribute than Whole Lotta Led deliver.
• Tickets to Whole Lotta Led's show at The Waterfront on March 14 are available for £16 advance from the UEA Ticket Bookings website