Like a music business Zelig, British rocker Terry Reid performed at Mick and Bianca Jagger’s wedding, called Graham Nash his best friend and let Jimi Hendrix crash at his London pad.
He opened for Cream, recorded with the Replacements and collected royalties for his songs cut by Cheap Trick, John Mellencamp and the Raconteurs.
But while beloved by music cognoscenti, Reid will always be known by some as the singer who declined a chance to front Led Zeppelin.
In 1968, Yardbirds guitarist Jimmy Page was putting together a new band with bassist John Paul Jones. Peter Grant, who comanaged both Page and Reid, invited the singer to jam with them. But Reid had a handshake agreement to open 40-some shows for the Rolling Stones in the U. S.
“Peter Grant said, ‘I don’t want you to play with the Stones.’ I said, ‘Well, give me the money. The Stones are paying me a lot of money.’ ”
Grant wouldn’t offer money, and he couldn’t wait for Reid to return. So the singer recommended two musicians he’d just seen in concert — drummer John Bonham and singer Robert Plant.
Page’s band, Led Zeppelin, is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Reid remains a footnote in rock history, still plugging away on the fringes.
The 69-year-old singer-songwriter will make a rare Minneapolis solo appearance Friday at the Cedar Cultural Center. He might do a Dylan tune or tell a story about recording with the Replacements on their final studio album, 1990’s “All Shook Down.”
The Minneapolis band needed to rent some guitars in Los Angeles, and a studio technician suggested Reid’s vintage collection. When Replacements leader Paul Westerberg learned who owned the guitars, he got on the phone with Reid and insisted that the British rocker come with his guitars.
At the studio, Westerberg asked him about tunings for certain Reid songs. “So I sat there and played my songs for an hour,” recalled Reid, who has lived in the States since 1972.
Then Westerberg asked Reid to sing on the end of a new tune called “Someone Take the Wheel.”
Jamming with Jimi
Reid is a garrulous storyteller who needs little encouragement.
Want to hear about Hendrix?
“Jimi was just a character. He was from another planet. I never heard anybody play the way he did. He was the kindest, softest, nicest guy you ever knew.”
So nice, Hendrix couldn’t bring himself to boot the party crowd out of his apartment. “About 3 in the morning I’d get a phone call,” Reid reminisced. “So he’d come and crash at mine. Then he’d get me going and we’d each start playing guitar. The first time he played me ‘The Wind Cries Mary,’ I’m watching his hands. And he says: ‘Curtis Mayfield, right?’ ”
How about Nash?
“He mentored me. I met him when I was 14. I followed around [Nash’s group] the Hollies,” Reid said.
Nash and Plant are among the musicians giving testimonials about Reid’s underappreciated contributions in the 2016 documentary “Superlungs.” The movie takes its title from a song Reid used to sing that was written by Donovan. Of course, there’s a back story.
“Superlungs My Supergirl” is about a 14-year-old who spends all day rolling joints in her school. Mickie Most, who co-managed Donovan and Reid, thought the song would ruin the image of the red-hot singer of “Sunshine Superman” and “Hurdy Gurdy Man.” So he pitched the song to his other client.
“It became a real English underground sort of thing,” Reid said. “And it gave me a nickname.”
Reid’s biggest royalties probably have come from Cheap Trick’s “Budokan II” live album, which featured his “Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace,” which the band originally recorded on its 1977 debut.
Wants to record with Plant
With Reid, it always comes back to Zeppelin, though.
“I don’t see Jimmy. He keeps to himself,” Reid said of Page. “Robert, I see all the time. We keep talking about how we should do something together in the studio. We do actually sing very well together. You’d be amazed. He’s gotten up onstage with me a couple of times.
“If we pick the right key and worked out the harmony or whatever, so it’s not just a jam. My mother makes jam.”
None of Reid’s eight solo studio albums ever earned anything more cult status.
Knowing he’s more of an influence than a star, the veteran said he has no regrets.
“I love what I do,” he said with genuine enthusiasm. “I wish I was Ray Charles. But would you want his life? I’m totally happy with the life I have. My four kids are doing good; it takes a load off my mind. Life is good.”