Richard Cole, Led Zeppelin’s former road manager, died at 2.05am on December 2 at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London aged 75 after fighting cancer for months.
Reports of Cole’s death were first published on Facebook on December 2, with reliable sources including Tight But Loose editor Dave Lewis, Led Zeppelin collector Steve A. Jones and Richard Cole Appreciation Society administrator Sean Atkinson confirming the news.
Cole, who was born in 1946, was a close companion of Led Zeppelin band members while they were on and off the road. He is survived by his daughter Claire.
Cole worked as Led Zeppelin’s road manager from their first US tour in 1968 up to 1979, when he was replaced by Phil Carlo.
In his 1992 book “Stairway to Heaven: Led Zeppelin Uncensored,” Cole discussed his experiences touring with the band, including claims of drug use and on-tour excesses. Cole also spoke to author Stephen Davis for his Led Zeppelin book “Hammer Of The Gods.”
It was Cole’s decision to write a book recalling his memories that angered the surviving members of Led Zeppelin, however.
“There’s a book written by our former road manager, Richard Cole, that has made me completely ill. I’m so mad about it that I can’t even bring myself to read the whole thing,” Jimmy Page told Guitar World in 1993.
Despite the falling out over his accounts of his time on the road with the band, the surviving members of Led Zeppelin eventually resumed friendly relations with Cole in recent years.
Robert Plant paid tribute to Cole on Facebook on December 2, posting a photograph of them together with the comment: “Farewell Ricardo…sadly no more tall tales…brave to the end.”
Page paid tribute to Cole in a Facebook post, writing: “Richard and I went back a long way and he had been recruited by Peter Grant to be tour manager with the Yardbirds Keith Relf, Jim McCarty, Chris Dreja, and myself during our American touring schedule of underground venues. He was with me at the time that band folded and when I formed Led Zeppelin.”
“From the time of the rehearsals at my home at Pangbourne through to the touring of the USA, we witnessed the phenomena that was Led Zeppelin. He was there for the first and last concerts of the band,” he continued.
“He was a brother and a friend to the end. Goodbye my dear friend. They were special times and so were you.”
Over the past 20 years, Cole was often seen at official Led Zeppelin events including the afterparty of the band’s 2007 reunion performance in London, at the “Celebration Day” film premier in 2012 and the launch of the band’s official photo book in 2018.
Bob Spitz, the author of the new Led Zeppelin book “Led Zeppelin: The Biography,” told LedZepNews earlier this year that Cole had agreed to speak to him for the book but it was too late for inclusion.
“By the time Richard finally said yes, the book was in galley,” Spitz said. “And he had to hear from 20 people that I was a good guy before he would talk to me.”
Plant visited Cole in hospital earlier this year and was also photographed with Cole at home.
Pamela Des Barres paid tribute to Cole in a Facebook post, writing: “I am soooo sorry to hear that Richard Cole has left this plane. He was always so good to me. What a gent, and a force to be reckoned with. So many memories. He was Led Zeppelin’s road manager and so much more than that. Loyal to a fault, taking care of those lads…and I’ve never known anyone who cleaned up his act with as much class and grace as Richard did. See you down the line, dear Mr. Cole.”
Former Led Zeppelin publicist Unity MacLean also paid tribute to Cole on Facebook:
Chris Charlesworth posted on Facebook about Cole’s passing, sharing an extract of an unpublished book that Cole had written:
Bebe Buell wrote on Facebook that “Richard could be gruff, he could be tough but he also had a side to him that loved animals (his kitty named Puss Puss), loved fresh flowers and a good cake with his tea. He loved his daughter Claire and he seemed to live the life of a proper English gentleman in his final years.”
Tight But Loose editor Dave Lewis wrote on his website that he “had so many special conversations and times with him over many years –the last being when I visited him in October. Even though his health was failing it was such an uplifting occasion as we talked about those Zep glory years – his pride for it all so evident right to the end.”
Michael Des Barres paid tribute to Cole on Twitter: