A ROCK legend was in the North-East yesterday to say farewell to one of the most talented drummers of his generation.

More than 150 mourners, including Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, braved the arctic conditions to pay their respects to drummer Michael Lee, who played with bands including the revived Thin Lizzy, Aerosmith and Guns ‘N’ Roses.

Darlington-born Mr Lee, 39, who was born Michael Gary Pearson, played with Page when he reunited with Led Zeppelin’s front man Robert Plant.

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The funeral was held at Darlington Crematorium.

Mr Lee, who was epileptic, was found dead at his flat on Tuesday last week. A postmortem examination revealed he died of a seizure.

Floral tributes were left by Led Zeppelin lead singer Robert Plant, who wrote: “What a waste. Too soon. I’m so sorry, I always enjoyed your enthusiasm and ideas. Robert P”.

Tony Jepson, lead singer of the Little Angels – the Scarborough band Mr Lee started his professional career with – was among mourners who gathered for the service, which was taken by lay preacher Lesley Stegner.

John Sykes, of Thin Lizzy, and rock band the Quireboys also left floral tributes.

At yesterday’s service, Mr Lee’s cousin, 50-year-old Steve Metcalfe, paid tribute to the self-taught drummer.

“He was one of the most determined, ambitious, talented men I have ever known.”

He recalled how, despite playing with some of the world’s most famous rock and roll artists, the Grammyaward winning drummer was just as happy to spend the evening drumming at an open mic night at the Quaker House pub, which Mr Metcalfe runs in Darlington.

“I just hope the good Lord has a decent drum kit for him to play,” he added.

The service, which included prayers and a reading of Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, ended with Aerosmith’s Don’t Want To Miss A Thing.

He also leaves a brother, Tony, and a sister, Janet.

Mr Lee is best known for his work with Page and Plant after he landed a gig in Plant’s solo band in the early Nineties and stayed with the singer when he reunited with Page in 1994.

The drummer toured extensively with the Zeppelin duo and was credited on every song on their 1998 Walking into Clarksdale album.

Mr Lee also drummed for the reformed version of Thin Lizzy, The Cult, Little Angels, The Quireboys, Echo and The Bunnymen, and Lenny Kravitz.

After the service, Daniel Stanton, of Coallier Entertainment, a company which worked with Thin Lizzy in the past, said: “Michael will sadly be missed by so many.

“I have received endless calls from fans, friends and family members surrounding Michael’s death.

“The guys in Thin Lizzy are crushed, I have spoken to people in the Robert Plant camp who have also expressed the same. We will all miss him.”

● The Northern Echo was given permission to attend the funeral of Mr Lee