Obs-Tweedle was a Walsall-based 1960s rock band notable for singer Robert Plant's appearance prior to joining Led Zeppelin. The band also featured Bill Bonham, a distant cousin of future Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, on keyboards.
Contrary to popular myth, the band name was never titled Hobbstweedle or connected with J. R. R. Tolkien literature, despite Plant's interest in that author's work. The name Obs-Tweedle originated from Bill Bonham's father and band manager, William Bonham, Sr., who allegedly selected the words from a dictionary when they couldn't agree on any names. Obs is an abbreviation for 'obscure', and Tweedle means 'sound'; which may have reflected the band's offbeat repertoire at the time. The name also tied in with the band's Black Country humour as a double entendre.
The band were formerly known as the Answer, a group which had toured Europe, and renamed themselves after ex-Band of Joy singer Robert Plant joined their line-up. Plant and his future wife Maureen Wilson were in the audience at one gig at Dudley Zoo to see the Answer perform, when Plant was invited to join the band after their singer Tommy Burton experienced a bout of food poisoning. Both Bill Bonham and Plant lived in upstairs rooms at the Three Men in a Boat public house in Bloxwich, a venue which the band also used for rehearsals. Their first ever performance was held there on Wednesday 13 March 1968. The Three Men in a Boat pub was owned by Bill Bonham's father, and would also be the future destination in which manager Peter Grant would send the telegram to confirm Plant was in Led Zeppelin, and later dozens of telegrams to get local John Bonham to sign-up with the band.
Other members which passed through the Obs-Tweedle line-up included Richard Brown on guitar, Pete Bickley on bass guitar, and John Trickett and Mac Bailey on drums. Their music was influenced by the West Coast sounds of America, in particular Moby Grape and Buffalo Springfield, of which Plant was a fan. Plant later admitted 'the band overplayed and there was a lot of hubbub and flash but no real content'. The band recorded a number of songs for a demo on 15 May 1968, but these tracks have never surfaced since with their current status unknown. Songs recorded included covers of 'Mr. Soul', and 'Rock and Roll Woman', with local producer and engineer Terry Rowley (from the Montanas and Trapeze).
The New Yardbirds
It was whilst performing with this band at the West Midlands College of Education in Gorway on Saturday 20 July 1968, that Yardbirds Jimmy Page, Chris Dreja, and manager Peter Grant first saw Plant. Page had been recommended Plant by Terry Reid, who had been Page's first choice vocalist for what would become Led Zeppelin. As Grant recalled later: 'This big guy [Plant] with a University of Toronto sweatshirt appeared to let us in backstage and I remember Jimmy saying, 'Crikey, they've got a big roadie!' He came back and it turned out to be Robert Plant! Jimmy loved Robert straight away.'
Plant later explained: 'I was appearing at this college when Peter [Grant] and Jimmy [Page] turned up and asked me if I'd like to join the Yardbirds. I knew the Yardbirds had done a lot of work in America - which to me meant audiences who want to know what I might have to offer - so naturally I was very interested.'
After hearing him sing, Plant was subsequently invited to Page's home in Pangbourne, Berkshire to discuss musical ideas, and play records including Muddy Waters' 'You Shook Me', Joan Baez's version of 'Babe I'm Gonna Leave You', Fairport Convention's 'If I Had a Ribbon Bow', Larry Williams' 'She Said Yeah', and 'Justine' by Don and Dewey. Within days Plant was offered the job of vocalist, at the end of July 1968. Obs-Tweedle briefly continued for a fortnight after Plant left, and finally folded when Bill Bonham was invited to join Terry Reid's backing group on keyboards and bass guitar, via recommendation by Plant. Bailey joined First Chapter.
- Daniels, Neil (2008) Robert Plant: Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Page and The Solo Years. Church Stretton, Shropshire: Independent Music Press. ISBN 978-0-9552822-7-0 (OCLC 181422774).
- Hornsby, Laurie; and Lavender, Mike (1999) Brum Rocked!: the Story of the People and Places That Shaped Birmingham's Role in the History of Rock. Birmingham: TGM. ISBN 978-0-9536951-0-2 (OCLC 43337781).
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