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Robert Plant surprises Madison record store with a visit

'It was all very fun and exciting and completely unexpected,' says B-Side Records owner Steve Manley

Madison’s B-Side Records, which received a surprise visitor in Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant, pictured on Wednesday, June 12. Anya van Wagtendonk/WPR

A Madison record store owner had an unexpected visitor earlier this week when Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant walked into B-Side Records on Monday afternoon.

Plant “kind of gave me a glance as he walked by. And I recognized him but didn’t say anything,” owner Steve Manley recalled. “So, he just went to the back of the store and started browsing, and I left him alone.”

After about 20 minutes, Plant approached Manley again. He wanted to know what was playing over the store’s speakers. It was the 2023 LP “The Window” from Chicago indie group Ratboys.

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Manley posted what happened next on Facebook: Plant bought the Ratboys record on vinyl and posed for a picture.

“Excuse us while we calm down,” Manley wrote underneath.

Manley told WPR it was exciting to introduce a newer band — who had recently played on the nearby UW-Madison student union terrace — to “the biggest rockstar in the world.”

Plant was in Madison after playing a concert over the weekend with bluegrass legend Alison Krauss. Manley, who has worked at the shop for more than 40 years, and owned it “for 15 years, maybe more,” said it was the biggest celebrity visit he’d received.

Steve Manley helps out customers at B-Side Records in Madison, Wis., on Wednesday, June 12. The store, which Manley owns, received a surprise visitor in Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant earlier this week. Anya van Wagtendonk/WPR

And it was a personal coup for Manley, who said he grew up listening to Led Zeppelin and saw Plant perform in Chicago a few years ago. So he asked the rock star to sign one of his own albums: 2017’s “Carry Fire.”

“He really liked his own record. And he said, ‘This is great. Great record. Why don’t you put it on?’ So I did,” Manley said.

“And he said, ‘Turn it up.’ So I did,” Manley added. “It was all very fun and exciting, and completely unexpected.”