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Yardbirds

The Yardbirds are an English rock band that had a string of hits in the mid 1960s, including “For Your Love”, “Over Under Sideways Down” and “Heart Full of Soul”. The group is notable for having started the careers of three of rock’s most famous guitarists: Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page, all of whom were in the top fifteen of Rolling Stone’s 100 Top Guitarists list (Clapton as #4, Page as #9, and Beck as #14). A blues-based band that broadened its range into pop and rock, The Yardbirds were pioneers in the guitar innovation of the ’60s: fuzz tone, feedback, distortion, backwards echo, improved amplification, etc. Pat Pemberton, writing for Spinner, holds that the Yardbirds were “the most impressive guitar band in rock music”. After the Yardbirds broke up in 1968, their current lead guitarist Jimmy Page founded what became Led Zeppelin.

The bulk of the band’s most successful self-written songs came from bassist/producer Paul Samwell-Smith who, with singer/harmonica player Keith Relf, drummer Jim McCarty and rhythm guitarist/bassist Chris Dreja, constituted the core of the group. The band reformed in the 1990s, featuring McCarty, Dreja and new members. The Yardbirds were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992.

Beginnings

The band formed in the south-west London suburbs. Relf and Samwell-Smith were originally in a band named the Metropolis Blues Quartet; after being joined by Dreja, McCarty and Topham in late May 1963, they decided to change the name, and after a couple of gigs in September 1963 as the Blue-Sounds they settled on The Yardbirds.

At Kingston Art School in late May 1963 they first performed as a backup band for Cyril Davies, and achieved notice on the burgeoning British rhythm and blues scene in September 1963 when they took over as the house band at the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond, succeeding The Rolling Stones. They drew their repertoire from the Chicago blues of Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, Sonny Boy Williamson II and Elmore James, including “Smokestack Lightning”, “Good Morning Little School Girl”, “Boom Boom”, “I Wish You Would”, “Rollin’ and Tumblin’”, and “I’m a Man”.

Original lead guitarist (Anthony) Top Topham left and was replaced by Eric Clapton in October 1963. Crawdaddy Club impresario Giorgio Gomelsky became the Yardbirds’ manager and first record producer. Under Gomelsky’s guidance the Yardbirds signed to EMI’s Columbia label in February 1964. Their first album was “live”, Five Live Yardbirds, recorded at the legendary Marquee Club in London. Blues legend Sonny Boy Williamson II invited the group to tour England and Germany with him, a union that later engendered another live album.

Discography

Studio Albums

For Your Love – Coming soon 08/11/2011

Compilations

The Jeff Beck Years – http://www.bopping-elf.co.uk/yardbirds-the-yardbird-years-featuring-jeff-beck/

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