Imagine iconic rock singers Robert Plant and Roger Waters, as well as guitarists Jimmy Page and Dave Gilmour, performing on the same night at the same venue.
It never happened, but the Greatest Rock Show that Never Was is coming to the Chatham Capitol Theatre Sept. 15.
Tribute bands Michael White and the White, and Floydium will perform the classic songs of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd.
White, reached at his Toronto home by The Voice, has been doing Zeppelin tribute shows since the late 1970s.
In fact, he said his uncannily similar vocals to that of Plant, Led Zeppelin’s frontman, served as a hindrance and a help to the performer over the years.
“I got rejected by about a dozen record companies for sounding too much like Led Zeppelin. They said I sounded too much like Robert Plant,” he said. “That was back in the late 1970s.”
But that soon became a bonus, as a club owner friend of his said to him, “If you sound so much like Led Zeppelin, why don’t you do Led Zeppelin?”
So at the next show, his band, The White, learned a full set of Zeppelin songs and dipped their toes into the tribute waters.
They were pulled under.
“We played. The place was sold out. Word spread, and Dick Clark Productions came to see us and signed us to a regional contract,” White said. “They sent us to all the amusement parks around the U.S. We went to St. Louis, Texas, all over the place. We got a taste for what it’s like on the road.”
White said the band played everywhere. They once left early from their base in Los Angeles to play in Denver, travelling in a rented van and trailer. They would stop in towns along the way and ask at bars if they could play there on their way back.
“We drove to Denver and then we had like a dozen dates on the way back. We did that to Seattle, to Texas, and so on,” he said. “We played every nook and cranny. That’s how we’ve played over 8,000 shows.”
“Every nook and cranny” includes the old Aberdeen in Chatham. White said that’s where he played the last time he was in Chatham.
White said he first came to Canada 37 years ago.
“I loved it and told my band I was going to move here. I’m American by birth but Canadian by choice,” he said.
Over the years, White has performed with the likes of Alice Cooper, Keith Emerson, Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue, Steve Morse of Deep Purple, Toto’s Steve Lukather, Rick Wakeman and Alan White of Yes, and George Lynch of Dokken to name a few.
He’s played or recorded with some of the cream of Canadian rock talent as well, including the late Jeff Healey, Randy Bachman of The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, and Rik Emmett of Triumph.
White’s time on the road performing Led Zeppelin songs drew the attention of Plant.
“I drew the attention of Robert Plant. He took me to Atlantic Records and introduced me. He helped me record,” White said. “The ironic part is I got a record deal because I sounded like Robert Plant.”
While Led Zeppelin is a blend of blues and rock music, Pink Floyd is more psychedelic and progressive rock based.
“It’s different music, but the same basic genre. This is an idea I had for a lot of years. I was just looking for the right place and the right way to do it,” he said. “I’ve known these guys for a long time. Floydium are great players. They really capture the spirit of Pink Floyd.”
The show will be a time warp, with most of the material for both bands reaching back to 1975 and before.
The time warp will extend into the overall vibe of the show.
“There will be liquid light show images, and an old-school concert feel,” White said. “When you walk in the theatre, it will be like you stepped back in time; like you were at the Fillmore back in 1975. I encourage people to wear tie-dyes and come casual.”
White also works with helping to see high schools maintain their music programs. Since 2007, he’s helped various schools in southern Ontario raise more than $50,000.
“I like to support youth music programs. I’m distressed by the amount of cuts to the arts,” he said. “Any kind of youth music program that would be interested, I would try to make it work and raise money for their program.”
He said the rewards are simple and special.
“It’s great to see the smiles on the kids’ faces when they’re playing, and to look out and see their parents smiling when their kids are playing,” White said.
He encourages any local high school music teachers to reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.