Kevin Oliver Jones – aka ‘John Paul Jones’ in Led Zeppelin tribute band Hats Off To Led Zeppelin answers the phone with the least rock n’ roll of greetings.
“Hi, it’s been a manic morning, but I’ve dropped the kids off at school now so I’ve got a bit of peace and quiet!”
I’m not sure I was expecting a hungover croak and tales of a debauched previous night exactly – but for someone whose main job is playing in a rock band – he’s incredibly jovial and down-to-earth. “Well, I spend half the week changing nappies and the other half rocking out on stage!” he laughs.
Hats Off To Led Zeppelin was borne of a decade long dream of drummer Simon Wicker who placed an ad online three years ago looking for fellow Led Zep fans to join him. Kevin, who had always been a fan of the band – answered the ad and drafted in vocalist Peter Eldridge and guitarist Jack Tanner who he knew from previous work in musical theatre.
What Kevin thought might be “a bit of fun”, quickly turned into a full time job: “When we first got together to play, it just sounded electric straight away.” Within 8 months, the band had gone from early visions of small pub gigs, to full theatre shows.
The band are looking forward to playing in the Regent Theatre in Stoke on Wednesday 30th October. The concert is in in aid of raising awareness for Breath of Life – a Staffordshire based charity supporting people with breathing problems. “These smaller charities often get overlooked” explains Kevin, “we said that if we were ever to play in Stoke that we would support them and it’s a great way to raise awareness and cash for them so that they can do more to help people. I’ve played in Stoke with various shows and I have really fond memories of it.”
When critic Dave Lewis went to see the band play in 2010, he put the gig in his top 10 of year on influential Led Zeppelin blog site Tight But Loose. This was exciting enough for the band, but shortly afterwards – Warren Grant – the son of Led Zeppelin’s manager Peter Grant, went to see the band in Bournemouth and liked what he saw.
“He said we were the best Led Zeppelin tribute he’d seen. A lot of tribute acts are just about dressing up and impersonating the band which can be a bit mocking. Our focus is more on just rocking out and having fun – he could see that we weren’t trying too hard to emulate them, we were just four guys having fun on stage – which is exactly what they were.” Keen to get involved, Warren quickly took on the role of band manager.
This success has continued into official endorsement from the Agents Association of Great Britain and a place in the top 50 tribute acts – accolades they will be celebrating at the National Tribute Awards in the Lichfield Garrick next month. “It’s been an extraordinary ride but all of this proves we’re doing something right” says the multi-instrumentalist.
Kevin does admit however, that there is still a degree of acting to what they do: “There is an element of acting any time you get on stage, but it does help that we’ve all already got the long hair and love of Led Zeppelin already!”
This is likely helped by his background in musical theatre. “I started out as a child actor” says Kevin, adopting a mocking drama-luvvie accent.
At the age of nine he successfully auditioned to be in a West End production of Oliver and from there got an agent, “and I haven’t done a proper day’s work since!”
He’s starred in a number of musicals including Thriller, The Buddy Holly Story and Summer Holiday. His parents have been incredibly supportive of his career so far – which is no surprise given his dad is a retired drama teacher.
After spending much of his teens playing in rock bands, Kevin first got into Led Zeppelin at college. Already a fan of bands like Bon Jovi and Gun n’ Roses, looking back through the rock canon of their influences soon led him to the classic rock band.
Kevin admits that it’s nice to have the mixture of rock and musical theatre in his work, but playing in Hats Off To Led Zeppelin has undoubtedly been his career highlight so far.
“It’s every teenager’s dream to play in a rock band, but as you get older you realise there are other ways to make money in music other than trashing hotel rooms!”
“In fact,” he laughs, “we’ve played festivals with other tribute acts and met some really lovely people. There were hooks on the windows in the hotel so there was no way to throw TVs out… But the truth is we all wanted to be in bed with a cup of cocoa anyway!”
On stage, him and his bandmates may be emulating rock prowess of the classic band on stage, but off stage things they’re just four guys who love music and playing together on stage… when they’re not changing nappies.
To find out more about the band, go to www.hatsofftoledzeppelin.co.uk.Hats Off To led Zeppelin will be playing in Stoke's Regent Theatre on Wednesday 30th October. For tickets call the box office on
0844 871 7649. We have two pairs of tickets to give away to two lucky readers! Find out the details of this fantastic competition here.