The Yardbirds Profile:
Formed: 1963 in Surrey, England
The Yardbirds were one of the most influential and groundbreaking of all of the early-1960s British blues-rock bands, their impact felt far beyond their fleeting commercial success. Best-known, perhaps, as the first notable band for three of rock's greatest guitarists - Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page - the talents of these phenomenal instrumentalists often overshadows the Yardbirds' enormous legacy.
The Crawdaddy Club
Formed in the early-1960s as the Metropolis Blues Quartet, by 1963 the band was known as the Yardbirds. Featuring vocalist Keith Relf, guitarists Chris Dreja and Andrew Topham, bassist Paul Samwell-Smith, and drummer Jim McCarty, the band quickly made a name for itself with an electrifying blend of classic blues and raucous R&B. Eric Clapton came in to replace Topham, and the Yardbirds took the Rolling Stones place as the house band at The Crawdaddy Club.
The band first recorded behind blues great Sonny Boy Williamson as his backing band. The first proper Yardbirds album was Five Live Yardbirds, recorded live in 1964 at the Marquee Club. The band began to add elements of pop, rock, and jazz to its sound, and after their smash hit "For Your Love," Eric Clapton left the band in 1965 to play pure blues with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers.
Beck & Page
The Yardbirds brought guitarist Jeff Beck in to replace Clapton. Incorporating fuzz, feedback, and distortion into his arsenal, Beck brought a new dimension to the band's sound during his tenure. A string of hit singles followed, and when Samwell-Smith left the band in 1966, Jimmy Page was brought in to play bass. Recognizing Page's talent, Dreja moved to bass and Page took over as second guitar. Unfortunately, the "dream line-up" of Beck and Page only recorded one single together.
Beck left the Yardbirds in 1966, later forming the Jeff Beck Group. The band continued to tour and record as a quartet, but by 1968 the Yardbirds were through. Relf and McCarty left to form the folk-rock band Renaissance, and Page formed the "New Yardbirds" to fulfill touring obligations, this band later becoming known as Led Zeppelin. In 2003, Dreja and McCarty put together a new Yardbirds band to record and tour.
Recommended Albums: It doesn't get any better than Five Live Yardbirds which features Clapton's earliest work, but the latter-day Birdland is a heck of a lot of fun, too!