Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: Being an Eric Clapton fan caused me to dig into the mid-'60s music of the Yardbirds.

I realize Eric wasn't with the group very long, but his replacement, Jeff Beck, wasn't too bad.

As if those two weren't enough, they even landed Jimmy Page for a few years.

I doubt very many of the British Invasion bands can boast of having three legendary guitarists among their personnel.

Most of those groups — Beatles; Rolling Stones; Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas; Dave Clark Five; Freddie and the Dreamers; etc., etc. — had releases in the UK before they were ever known in the US.

Was the Yardbirds first American hit, “For Your Love,” really their first record, or did they have earlier ones in Britain that we never knew about here?

Finally, where did they get that name? Is there such a bird as a yardbird?
—Glenn Wiltshire, Clearwater, Fla.

DEAR GLENN: There can be numerous birds in the yard, but there are no yardbirds in the sky.

In 1963, lead singer Keith Relf discovered the term “yardbird” while reading a Jack Kerouac novel. There, the word refers to railroad bums as birds hanging around the (train) yard.

Before chosing Yardbirds as their name, the core group — Keith Relf; Jim McCarty; Chris Dreja; Paul Samwell-Smith — performed as the Metropolis Blues Quartet.

In September '63, Eric Clapton left Casey Jones and the Engineers to join the newly-named Yardbirds.

By May 1964, the boys finally had a recording contract, with Columbia. In June, their first single came out in the UK, titled “I Wish You Would” (Columbia 7823).

“I Wish You Would” did make the UK Top 30, but just barely. Their follow-up, “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” (Columbia 7391), failed to chart at all.

For the Yardbirds, however, the third time would be the charm.

The next release, “For Your Love” (Columbia 7499), zoomed up the charts, claiming Britain's No. 1 position on April 10, 1965.

About nine weeks later (June 19), the US single of “For Your Love” (Epic 9790) entered our Top 10.

In August 1964, two months after “I Wish You Would” came out in the UK, Epic issued it here (9709), making “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” the only answer to your question about pre-“For Your Love,” UK-only releases.

Eric Clapton left the Yardbirds in March 1965, leaving “For Your Love” as their only hit on which he plays.

Chronologically, his star-studded itinerary is as follows: John Mayall's Bluesbreakers; Cream; Blind Faith; Derek and the Dominoes, and then a solo career.

For the few months in 1966 when the lineup included both Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, they managed to record just four tracks — only one of which, “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago,” became a hit.

The other three are: “Psycho Daisies; Stroll On;” and “Beck's Bolero.”

The Yardbirds last charted in late 1967, and disbanded in the summer of '68.

Holdovers Jimmy Page and Chris Dreja teamed with Robert Plant and John Bonham and briefly called themselves the New Yardbirds.

John Paul Jones replaced Chris Dreja and they dropped the Yardbirds reference, and, as Led Zeppelin, became one of the '70s top bands.

Led Zeppelin called it quits in 1980, but Page and Plant resurfaced in 1984 as the Honeydrippers. Rounding out this quartet would be Nile Rodgers, and former Yardbird, Jeff Beck.

In early '85, the Honeydrippers disbanded, leaving Jimmy Page to recruit Paul Rodgers, Tony Franklin, and Chris Slade. This group chose the Firm as their name.

IZ ZAT SO? When Epic released the first Yardbirds single in the US, the title should have been “I Wish You Would,” just as in the UK.

Unfortunately, it must have been vacation time for Epic's proofreaders.

First pressings of the discs, as well as the picture sleeve, show the title as “I Wish You Could.”

Corrected copies came out almost immediately, but by then the erroneous copies were gobbled up by Yardbirds collectors.

Good thing, too, as they are now selling for $300 to $500.

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