Page began his career as a studio session musician in London and, by the mid-1960s, alongside Big Jim Sullivan, was one of the most sought-after session guitarists in Britain. He was a member of the Yardbirds from 1966 to 1968. In late 1968, he founded Led Zeppelin.
Page is widely considered to be one of the greatest and most influential guitarists of all time. Rolling Stone magazine has described Page as "the pontiff of power riffing" and ranked him number 3 in their list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time". In 2010, he was ranked number two in Gibson's list of "Top 50 Guitarists of All Time" and, in 2007, number four on Classic Rock's "100 Wildest Guitar Heroes". He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice; once as a member of the Yardbirds (1992) and once as a member of Led Zeppelin (1995). Page has been described by Uncut as "rock's greatest and most mysterious guitar hero".
Page was born to James Patrick Page and Patricia Elizabeth Gaffikin in the west London suburb of Heston on 9 January 1944. His father was an industrial personnel manager and his mother, who was of Irish descent, was a doctor's secretary. In 1952, they moved to Feltham and then to Miles Road, Epsom in Surrey, which is where Page came across his first guitar. "I don't know whether was left behind by the people before , or whether it was a friend of the family's—nobody seemed to know why it was there." First playing the instrument at age 12, he took a few lessons in nearby Kingston, but was largely self-taught:
When I grew up there weren't many other guitarists ... There was one other guitarist in my school who actually showed me the first chords that I learned and I went on from there. I was bored so I taught myself the guitar from listening to records. So obviously it was a very personal thing.
Among Page's early influences were rockabilly guitarists Scotty Moore and James Burton, who both played on recordings made by Elvis Presley. Presley's song "Baby Let's Play House" is cited by Page as being his inspiration to take up the guitar. Although he appeared on BBC1 in 1957 with a Höfner President, Page states that his first guitar was a second-hand 1959 Futurama Grazioso, later replaced by a Fender Telecaster.
Page's musical tastes included skiffle (a popular English music genre of the time) and acoustic folk playing, and the blues sounds of Elmore James, B.B. King, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, Freddie King and Hubert Sumlin. "Basically, that was the start: a mixture between rock and blues."
At 13, Page appeared on Huw Wheldon's All Your Own talent quest programme in a skiffle quartet, one performance of which aired on BBC1 in 1957. The group played "Mama Don't Want to Skiffle Anymore" and another American-flavoured song, "In Them Ol' Cottonfields Back Home." When asked by Wheldon what he wanted to do after schooling, Page said, "I want to do biological research cancer, if it isn't discovered by then."