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November 2023

Researcher discovers identity of "Stick Man" on Led Zeppelin IV cover half a century later

More than 50 years after a photo Robert Plant found in an antique store graced the band's classic LP, the identity of "the stick man" has been revealed.

Led Zeppelin IV 4 Stick Man
Led Zeppelin IV 4 Stick Man
Image.. Atlantic Records

The "Stick Man" featured on the cover of English rock band Led Zeppelin's 1971 fourth studio album was a late-Victorian-era thatcher, according to the Wiltshire Museum in southwest England in a statement.

The story goes that singer Robert Plant discovered in an antique store the photo of the elderly man carrying a bunch of twigs on his back. That photo was then colored, framed and placed on the wall of a dilapidated house to create the image that adorns what is now considered one of the greatest and best-selling albums in rock history.

However, the true identity of the man on the 1971 LP remained unknown for 52 years until researcher (and Led Zeppelin fan) Brian Edwards of the University of the West of England - working on another project - found the same photo in a photo album titled "Reminiscences of a visit to Shaftesbury. Pentecost 1892. A present to Auntie from Ernest," featuring the work of photographer Ernest Howard Farmer.

The caption to Farmer's photo said only that the man was a "Wiltshire thatcher," but additional research of the area revealed that the man's name was Lot Long (or Longyear), a widower in Mere who died in 1893, just a year after the photo was taken. Long was about 70 years old at the time of the photograph.

Led Zeppelin IV Cover

Farmer, the photographer, died in 1944, decades before his picture would appear on IV. Before his death, he became the first head of the school of photography at Regent Street Polytechnic. Following the discovery of the photo album, the Wiltshire Museum will hold an exhibition of Farmer's work, including Long's original photograph.

"Through the exhibition we are showing how Farmer captured the spirit of the people, villages and landscapes of Wiltshire and Dorset, which were such a great contrast to his life in London," said David Dawson, director of the Wiltshire Museum. "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."

Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin Members (Left - Right) John Paul Jones, John Bonham (Died 25 Sep. 1980), Jimmy Page And Robert Plant, Pose In Front Of Their Private Airliner The Starship In 1973
Image.. Hulton Archive/Getty Images


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