The Day on the Green Files: 4 senators were involved in campaign to ban Led Zeppelin from the US

Four influential US senators contacted the US State Department beginning in September 1977 passing on calls to ban Led Zeppelin from the country, newly released US government records exclusively obtained by LedZepNews reveal.

The lobbying effort began in the wake of the 1977 Day on the Green festival in California, where backstage violence erupted involving Led Zeppelin’s employees and three festival employees on July 23, 1977.

Following the violence, letters were sent to four US senators in an attempt to prevent Led Zeppelin from again touring in the country. All four of those senators passed the messages to the State Department, which then sent the correspondence to the US embassy in London.

LedZepNews is revealing the lobbying campaign as part of The Day on the Green Files after we obtained the full text of the cables from the National Archives. The messages are being made public for the first time, giving a remarkable insight into a campaign that would have threatened Led Zeppelin’s career had it been successful.

Paul Sarbanes, a Democrat senator for Maryland, contacted the State Department on September 8, 1977. He forwarded a letter written by the father of one of the men assaulted, with the senator calling the situation “disturbing” in his own letter about the incident.

The start of the August 24, 1977 letter written by Gus Matzorkis to Senator Paul Sarbanes.

“I would appreciate you giving this matter whatever consideration you feel appropriate and consistent with the law,” he wrote to Douglas J Bennet, the State Department Assistant Secretary for Congressional Relations.

Sarbanes was joined in writing to the State Department about Led Zeppelin by Charles Mathias, a Republican senator for Maryland as well as Democrat Ohio Senator Howard Metzenbaum and Robert P Griffin, a Republican senator for Michigan.

The September 8, 1977 letter written by Senator Paul Sarbanes to the State Department about Led Zeppelin.

Senators Sarbanes and Griffin were both members of the influential US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations at the time.

On September 22, 1977 the State Department sent an operations memorandum to the US embassy in London requesting information on Led Zeppelin’s visa status.

The September 22, 1977 operations memorandum sent from the State Department to the US Embassy in London requesting information on Led Zeppelin’s work visas.

The American consul in London was also alerted to the issue, the documents show, and the US embassy in London began compiling a file on the backstage violence in case Led Zeppelin applied for work visas in the future.

“The Embassy at London is concerned over the allegations made by Mr Matzorkis and give their assurance the information he provided will be considered should the group apply for visas in the future,” Bennet wrote in a February 10, 1978 letter to Sarbanes.

Despite interest from four senators, the campaign to ban Led Zeppelin from the US does not seem to have been effective beyond establishing a file on the group in the US embassy in London. Led Zeppelin planned to tour the US in 1980, indicating the band had no difficulty in obtaining new work visas.

No documents about Led Zeppelin exist in the papers of Mathias at Johns Hopkins University or in the papers of Griffin at the Clarke Historical Library at Central Michigan University, archivists contacted by LedZepNews have confirmed, meaning LedZepNews’ reporting is the first time the lobbying campaign has been made public.

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