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Exeter music-making master Hugh Manson and his world-famous guitars are set to be stars in the biggest and most eagerly awaited rock reunion for years.

Led Zeppelin, the heavy metal super group which formally disbanded amid tragedy 27 years ago, are coming back together for a one-off concert at London's cavernous O2 Arena, and many of the instruments they will be using for the massive gig will come from Mansons Guitars, of Fore Street.

Hugh, who has worked with and for the band for over 25 years, will be at the concert looking after the instruments along with one of his top Exeter technicians, Seth Baccus, the Fore Street shop manager.

Hugh, who makes his one-off guitars at his workshop just outside Sandford, near Crediton, has been a regular at Led Zeppelin's secret rehearsal venue in London during the build-up to the sell-out concert. The band will perform together for the first time in 19 years in tribute to the late founder of Atlantic Records, Ahmet Ertegun, who signed the band in 1968.

The group's three original members - singer Robert Plant, guitarist Jimmy Page and bassist John Paul Jones - will headline the November 26 concert, with late drummer John Bonham's son, Jason, on drums.

Hugh, who at 53 can remember Led Zeppelin from the first time around, said: "It is going to be absolutely fantastic. Rehearsals have been hard work but great fun.

"I have just finished making one new guitar for the concert and am now working on another, which will be a spare. It is a four-string bass which is extra long - at least that is the best way to describe it.

"Some of the songs will be in a lower key than usual and, while you can tune a guitar to accommodate almost any note, the best way is to make an instrument to do the job - and that's what this is.

"In fact, all the basses used by the band in the concert will be ours."

Hugh, who has toured the world with Led Zeppelin, its bassist John Paul Jones and another supergroup, Yes, said: "It is a wonderful story that a little shop like ours should be providing so much for the biggest-ever and best- ever band. And a lot of that is down to the wonderful staff we have: Seth, Tim Stark and Jason Morris, who has been voted guitarist of the year for The Whole UK."

In-between it all, Hugh is also working a new guitar for Matt Bellamy, front man for Devon's own top group Muse.

Mansons, launched by three friends in 1992, has become one of the most highly-regarded guitar shops in the business.

Fifteen years ago he launched the shop in New Bridge Street with friends Jay Henson and Adrian Ashton, of Shaldon, who graduated from the Musician's Institute in Los Angeles with a diploma in electric bass guitar and founded the UK's only bass periodical, Bass Guitar Magazine.

The shop's reputation grew rapidly over the years.

It has supplied guitars and amps to some of the UK's best-known musicians, including Oasis, Stereophonics, Muse, Billy Bragg and The Lightning Seeds.

Martin Barre, from Jethro Tull, and Steve Howe, from Yes, are also regular customers. Many of the musicians are regular callers to the Exeter shop. The store started with around 30 guitars and now stocks hundreds.

In 2003, the shop moved to McCoys Arcade in Fore Street.


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