Led Zeppelin IV is the most popular album from Led Zeppelin, one of the biggest bands ever. The 1971 recording, which includes classic rock radio favorites “Stairway to Heaven,” “Black Dog,” and “Rock and Roll,” has sold over 37 million copies worldwide; in the United States alone, it’s gone 24 times platinum, good for fifth all-time. But a mystery has always surrounded the album: who is the stick man on the cover? We finally have an answer.
University of the West of England researcher Brian Edwards was browsing a photograph album when he noticed a familiar image: a crouched man carrying a basket of sticks on his back. The caption for the picture read only “Wiltshire thatcher,” but according to the Guardian, “further research suggests the thatcher is Lot Long (sometimes Longyear), who was born in Mere in 1823 and died in 1893. At the time the photograph was taken, Long was a widower living in a small cottage in Shaftesbury Road, Mere.”
At the time of Long’s death, Led Zeppelin was 75 years from forming. The “Stairway to Heaven” guitar solo would have broken his brain.
The photograph was taken by Ernest Farmer, who died in 1944. But his work will be on display as part of an exhibit at the Wiltshire Museum. “Through the exhibition, we will show how Farmer captured the spirit of people, villages, and landscapes of Wiltshire and Dorset that were so much of a contrast to his life in London,” said Wiltshire Museum director David Dawson. “It is fascinating to see how this theme of rural and urban contrasts was developed by Led Zeppelin and became the focus for this iconic album cover 70 years later.”
You can read our ranking of the best Led Zeppelin songs here.
Led Zeppelin is a Warner Music artist. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.