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The Yardbirds Biography

Last updated: 07/17/2012 12:00:00 PM

The Yardbirds were one of the important bands in the 1960s London blues / pop / rock scene.

Early repertoire consisted of blues covers by the likes of Howlin' Wolf, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley.

Numerous personnel changes mean there isn't a definitive Yardbirds line-up. However, Keith Relf (vocals), Chris Dreja (rhythm guitar, later bass), Jim McCarty (drums) and Paul Samwell-Smith (bass, until mid-66) formed the stable part of the band, initially with Top Topham on lead guitar.

Their first album, "Five Live Yardbirds" was recorded with Eric Clapton on lead guitar at London's Marquee Club.

Clapton left, not pleased with the pop direction of the band, just before the single "For Your Love" brought the Yardbirds fame both throughout the UK and internationally.

The second LP, known today as "Roger the Engineer" but originally as "The Yardbirds", featured Jeff Beck, the lead guitarist who was a member during their most successful period.

"Little Games", the third album, was not released in the United Kingdom, as popularity declined.

And the final LP was barely released at all, being a live set which pointed the way to Led Zeppelin, formed by Beck's replacement on lead, Jimmy Page. This album is currently only available on bootlegs.
A succession of not only lead guitarists, but also managers and producers, mean that their LP and CD discography is rather disjointed.
Since splitting in 1968, Topham, Clapton, Beck, Page, Relf and McCarty have enjoyed varying levels of recording success. Relf died in 1976 after being electrocuted at home. Samwell-Smith became a music industry producer (after some production experience with The Yardbirds), and Dreja a photographer.