I've always been a believer. I never felt it was a mass hallucination": The mystery of the Led Zeppelin gig that may never have happened

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On 20th January 1969, Led Zeppelin performed one of their earliest US gigs at a community centre in a small town in Maryland. Or did they?

On the night of Richard Nixon's Presidential inauguration on 20th January 1969, Adrienne Ledford skipped her Christian Doctrine class and hitchhiked through the snow to Wheaton, Maryland, to see Led Zeppelin perform at a local community centre. This event occurred just three days after the release of the band's debut album. As the song "Communication Breakdown" gained popularity on local radio station WHMC, interest in the band skyrocketed.

"People started to talk about this band, and I said, 'we just saw them at the youth centre!'" recalls Ledford, who attended the show with only 50 other locals. The turnout was so low that Zeppelin’s manager, Peter Grant, had to persuade promoter Barry Richards to provide petrol money for their next gig.

Similar to legendary shows like The Sex Pistols at the 100 Club or Guns N’ Roses at The Marquee, this concert has become the stuff of legend. However, unlike those gigs where countless fans claim to have been present, there's no solid evidence that the Wheaton performance actually happened.

This intriguing mystery became the focus of the 2014 documentary "Led Zeppelin Played Here" by Jeff Krulik, known for the iconic "Heavy Metal Parking Lot." In the film, Krulik interviews local historians, journalists, fans, and music industry veterans in an effort to untangle myth from reality.

Krulik explained the origins of the project in a 2014 interview with Classic Rock: "I wanted to highlight a forgotten pop festival in our area, but then I heard about this alleged Led Zeppelin concert and realized it could be a great story arc." Despite numerous testimonies from fans and industry insiders, no concrete proof—such as contracts, ticket stubs, or photographs—supports the event's occurrence. Even the venue's director at the time denies it happened, and Led Zeppelin's own archive lists the show as an unconfirmed rumour.

Local journalist Mike Oberman remarks in the film, "Barry’s an embellisher... maybe he believes it happened." Krulik admits to the challenges of proving the concert's existence but remains a believer in its plausibility. The documentary concludes with Krulik's attempt to ask Jimmy Page about the show at a Kennedy Center gala, leaving the audience to ponder the mystery further.

Krulik's goal with the film was to set the record straight about this obscure piece of rock history, shedding light on a time when rock concerts were less about industry and more about the music itself.