Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



UK R&B/rock band formed '63 by Keith Relf (b 22 March '43, Richmond, Surrey; d 14 May '76, electrocuted), harmonica, vocals; Paul Samwell-Smith (b 8 May '43, Twickenham, Middlesex), bass; Chris Dreja (b 11 Nov. '46, Surbiton, Surrey), rhythm guitar; Tony 'Top' Topham, lead guitar. Relf and Samwell-Smith were in a Metropolitan Blues Quartet, became Yardbirds adding Jim McCarty (b 25 July '43) later in '63. Topham stayed on at art school, replaced by Eric Clapton (ex-Roosters), already a fine blues guitarist. Resident at Richmond's Crawdaddy Club, its manager Giorgio Gomelsky signed them to Columbia (EMI); version of Billy Boy Arnold's 'I Wish You Would' flopped; poppier 'Good Morning Little Schoolgirl' (by Sonny Boy Williamson) almost made top 40 and illustrated the dichotomy between pop and blues that led Clapton to leave for John Mayall after Graham Gouldman's blatantly commercial 'For Your Love' reached no. 3 UK/6 USA '65. Though the single's hook relied on Brian Auger's harpsichord, Clapton's guitar was evident in Five Live Yardbirds '64 that showcased the R&B stage act. Jeff Beck took the job Jimmy Page declined; 'Heart Full Of Soul' '65 (UK no. 2/USA 9) represented a new direction; 'Evil Hearted You', third Gouldman-penned single, had Gregorian chant-infl. B-side 'Still I'm Sad', written by McCarty and Samwell-Smith: two-sided hit no. 3 UK '65. Meanwhile Sonny Boy Williamson And The Yardbirds was recorded '65 with the visiting bluesman. 'I'm A Man' was a USA-only hit (no. 17); transatlantic '66 hits 'Shapes Of Things' and 'Over Under Sideways Down' had psychedelic and Indian sounds respectively, Beck's guitar sounding more like a sitar. But anarchic stage act (featured in Antonioni's 'Swinging London' film Blow Up '66) led to Samwell-Smith leaving (to prod. Cat Stevens, etc); Page now accepted his standing invitation, first on bass then as twin lead with Beck, Dreja switching instruments. Hit 'Happenings Ten Years Time Ago' saw Beck daringly using feedback on record, but he departed under a cloud after illness and reported eccentricities, and the remaining quartet's alliance with Mickie Most led to recording of unsuitably poppy material: they split '68. Little Games '67 was a compilation of Most sessions and remains unsatisfactory; the only official studio LP was Yardbirds '65, also known as Roger The Engineer and reissued under that title by Edsel. Relf and McCarty formed folk duo Together, then founded Renaissance (aka Illusion); later joined Medicine Head and Shoot respectively. Page formed Led Zeppelin. McCarty, Dreja, Samwell-Smith and ex-Medicine Head vocalist John Fiddler became Box of Frogs and made eponymous LP '84 with help of Beck, etc trading on Yardbirds' past: predictably bigger in USA (no. 45 LP) than in UK; second LP Strange Land '86 had guests Page, Rory Gallagher, Ian Dury etc on various tracks. The Yardbirds were famous for axe heroes Clapton, Beck, Page; also infl. 'progressive' music of the '70s. Compilations on CD '96 incl. Clapton's Cradle with the Sonny Boy album and other tracks; Smokestack Lightning and Blues, Backtracks And Shape Of Things are two-CD sets from Sony Special products. YEARWOOD, Trisha (b 19 Sept. '64, Monticello GA) One of the finest female country vocal stylists to come to prominence in the '90s. Grew up on a farm, the youngest daughter of a banker and school-teacher. Early musical influences were Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris and the Eagles; performed at local talent contests in her teens; followed parents' advice to get an education, attending U. of Georgia, then moved to Nashville '85 to attend Belmont College on a music business course. Worked in publicity dept. at MTM Records; then came several years singing demos. At this time she met a young Garth Brooks; he asked her to sing on his first album and repaid the favour a few years later singing on her recordings and writing songs for her. She was signed to MCA '90 and debut single, 'She's In Love With The Boy' raced to no.1 country '91. Refusing to record just 'radio-friendly' songs, and concentrating on more lyrical themes, her singles success has been inconsistent, but she still achieved half-dozen no. ones and over a dozen more in the top ten '91-7 incl. 'Walkaway Joe' (with Don Henley), 'The Song Remembers When', 'XXX's And OOO's (An American Girl)', 'Thinkin' About You' and 'Believe Me Baby (I Lied)'. Less that two years into her career the book Get Hot Or Go Home: Trisha Yearwood - The Making Of A Star by Lisa Rebecca Gubernick was published, uncovering the behind-the-scenes development of a modern country star. The publication was justified by Yearwood's stature in the music business; each of her albums have gone platinum; she sang on such groundbreaking albums as Common Thread, Red Hot Country and Rhythm, Country & Blues and has toured Europe and Australia, one of the few country acts of the '90s to have built a world-wide following. Albums inc. Trisha Yearwood '91, Hearts In Armor '92, The Song Remembers When '93, The Sweetest Gift '94, Thinkin' About You '95, Everybody Knows '96 all on MCA.