Grammy winning Christopher remembers standing in for Deep Purple’s Richie Blackmore and opening for Led Zeppelin in his early days

Christopher Cross

Rock memories: Cross

Christopher Cross is best known for his award-winning easy-listening hits… but he fondly remembers his hard rock background with Deep Purple, Jethro Tull and Led Zeppelin.

As a young musician 40 years ago, his first big moment came when he hit the stage with Purple in place of guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, who’d fallen ill during a US tour.

Cross tells Spinner: “I grew up in Texas and played in a band called Flash. When Deep Purple first came over in 1970, Ritchie got ill.

“A promoter friend of mine told the band I could play guitar, and I did the gig. The promoter offered the crowd their money back but about 80 per cent stayed – that was a fun moment.”

It came a year after his covers band had toured Texas under Zep and Tull. Cross remembers: “Robert Plant saw me at the shows and thought I was a fan following the tour. I told him my band was opening – and the next night I saw him in the wings, watching us. It was awesome.

“I even bought an amp from Jimmy Page, which he remembered years later.”

Cross, real name Christopher Geppert, won five Grammys for his debut album in 1979, and is the only solo artist to have won best record, best song, best album and best new artist in the same year. He co-wrote and performed the 1981 track Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do) for the Dudley Moore movie Arthur.

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