Yardbirds

The Yardbirds were an English rock band that was initially active from 1963 to 1968. Sprung from the R&B/beat boom, they issued a string of singles noted for sonic innovations like harpsichord riffing (“For Your Love”), sitar-guitar tones (“Heart Full of Soul”), and explosive reverb effects (“Happenings Ten Years Time Ago”). They served as the launch pad for three of rock’s most lionized guitarists: Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page.

Members: Jim McCarty (drums, vocals), Chris Dreja (rhythm guitar, bass, vocals, 1963-68, 1992-2013), Keith Relf (lead vocals, harmonica, percussion 1963-68), Anthony “Top” Topham (guitar, 1963, 2013-15), Paul Samwell-Smith (bass, vocals, 1963-66), Eric Clapton (lead guitar, 1963-65), Jeff Beck (lead guitar, vocals, 1965-66), Jimmy Page (bass, lead guitar, 1966-68)


The Yardbirds spawned from The Metropolis Blues Quartet, a south-west London band that featured singer/harmonica player Keith Relf and drummer Jim McCarty. In 1963, they teamed with bassist Paul Samwell-Smith, rhythm guitarist Chris Dreja, and guitarist Top Topham. The new band initially gigged that summer as the Blue-Sounds before adopting the name Yardbirds, either from novelist Jack Kerouac (On the Road, 1957) or the alternate nickname of saxophonist Charlie “Bird” Parker.

After one month, Topham cleared way for guitarist Eric Clapton, who’d co-slung in beatsters The Roosters with a pre-Manfred Mann Tom McGuinness. (Topham surfaced later in psychsters The Fox and the Christine Perfect Band.)

The Yarbirds became the house band at blues haunt the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond, Surrey, where they assumed the honors from a now-rising Rolling Stones. They were taken under the managerial wing of the club’s owner, Giorgio Gomelsky, who secured them a backing slot on a UK tour by American bluesman Sonny Boy Williamson II. (Recordings of this union were issued two years later on the Fontana release Sonny Boy Williamson and the Yardbirds.) In light of this exposure, EMI/Columbia signed the band in February 1964.


Discography:

  • Five Live Yardbirds (1964)
  • For Your Love (1965)
  • Having a Rave Up With the Yardbirds (1965)
  • Yardbirds [aka Roger the Engineer] (1966)
  • Little Games (1967)

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