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Led Zeppelin, Groupies and the Mud Shark Story

Led Zeppelin, Groupies and the Mud Shark Story

Led Zeppelin, as the premier rock band of the 1970s, received royal treatment wherever its band members went, while stories and myths accompanied them also. Of those, few are more famous than the mud shark incident.

Part of rock lore, an example of rockstar debauchery, and likely exaggerated and misquoted, this is what we know of the mud shark incident (or Red Snapper at Edgewater Inn) and the unlikely connection to fanatical American groupies.

Led Zeppelin’s Myth-Making and Genre-Defining Success

Led Zeppelin’s albums were veritable events during the 1970s, and these were sold by the truckloads. They were one of the first bands to play in arenas filled to the brim with fans. However, the British foursome also carefully cultivated an air of mystery about them. Their journey, punctuated by tales that blur the lines between the apocryphal and the monumental, encapsulates the essence of rock ‘n’ roll’s hedonistic zenith and its profound cultural impact.

From the alleged mud shark incident that has been debated and dissected across generations to the mystical allure of “Stairway to Heaven,” whispered to contain hidden messages when played backwards, Led Zeppelin crafted a legacy as enigmatic as the runes and symbols that grace “Led Zeppelin IV.” It’s this blend of mythos and music, of lore and legend, that cements their place not just in the pantheon of rock gods but in the very fabric of 20th-century folklore.

Oh, yes, they made some of the greatest rock music of all time along the way. But enough of that. What about the shark and the groupies though?

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Groupies and the Mud Shark Story

Diving into the murky waters of rock ‘n’ roll stories, the tale of Led Zeppelin and the infamous Mud Shark incident stands as a testament to the wild spirit that defined an era. This story, wrapped in the enigma of debauchery and excess, marks a moment when rock gods walked the earth, and their escapades became the stuff of legend. It’s a sordid tableau set against the backdrop of Seattle’s Edgewater Inn.

This story, as outlandish as it is infamous, took place in the summer of ’69 at the aforementioned Edgewater Inn, a hotel known for its unique amenity: guests could fish directly from their windows. The narrative, as relayed by Carmine Appice of Vanilla Fudge and immortalized by Frank Zappa in song and Stephen Davis in writing, became something of an urban legend blur. According to the tale, a groupie was subjected to an unconventional encounter involving a mud shark, allegedly caught from the waters below by members of Led Zeppelin and their entourage.

Richard Cole’s Recollection of the Edgewater Inn Story

The story was first told in detail in “Hammer Of The Gods,” Stephen Davis’ famous 80s biography of Zep. In it, road manager Richard Cole claims that the incident involved him and drummer John Bonham. The two had caught a few fish from the window of the hotel. Later in the night, they used pieces of the shark in a bizarre erotic game involving a red-headed groupie that was tied to the bed.

Cole, later denied the stories, or at least claimed everything occurring in the Zep-camp was consensual. The former road manager stated: “It was nothing malicious or harmful, no way!…She might have been hit by a shark a few times for disobeying orders, but she didn’t get hurt.

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Is the Red Snapper Story Actually About Vanilla Fudge?

Another myth is that Vanilla Fudge, early hard-rock pioneers and touring partners for Led Zeppelin, were actually involved. It’s been said that singer Mark Stein may have filmed the incident using an old  Super 8 camera.

Vanilla Fudge’s drummer, Carmine Appice, later recalled the event and seemed to confirm part of the story. He says that the woman was romantically involved with him and that the two were filming each other. He also claims that a group of partygoers next door, which included Led Zeppelin’s entourage, came into their room. The mud shark was used to slap the poor woman who was tied, by her own accord, to the bed.

Appice says that the story must be viewed from the lens of the times. He claims that “you have to understand that those days were so different. It was all peace and love and women walking around with no bras and see-through blouses. It was a really crazy time, birth control pills were just coming out and, politically and socially, everything was different.

Is there any proof this ever happened? Well, singer Robert Plant debated Cole’s recollection of the event. And, if the video ever existed, it never surfaced. However, Appice says that while DJing for a radio station, they received an on-air call from a woman claiming to be the one from the story. She said that she was happy and had moved to Alaska. Is that the happy ending we needed?

And, that, as Frank Zappa would say, “The Mud Shark dancing lesson.”

About author

Eduard Banulescu is a writer, blogger, and musician. As a content writer, Eduard has contributed to numerous websites and publications, including FootballCoin, Play2Earn, BeIN Crypto, Business2Community, NapoliSerieA, Extra Time Talk, Nitrogen Sports, Bavarian FootballWorks, etc. He has written a book about Nirvana, hosts a music podcasts, and writes weekly content about some of the best, new and old, alternative musicians. Eduard also runs and acts as editor-in-chief of the alternative rock music website Mr. Banulescu is also a musician, having played and recorded in various bands and as a solo artist.
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