Jim McCarty was one of the musicians who heard the teenage screams as a member of a top British Invasion rock band, the Yardbirds. With a legacy of spawning guitar gods, the group still features McCarty and will play a show on June 3 at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe.
Those guitar legends who passed through the revolving Yardbirds lineup were Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. Clapton left to join John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers and then became a superstar on his own. Beck left to start his own group and similarly became an in-demand rock and jazz player. Page stuck around till the end of the group’s heyday and almost kept part of the name for his newest lineup, as the New Yardbirds, before deciding to re-christen the band Led Zeppelin.
Now in the band’s lineup is American guitarist Johnny A., best known for his 2001 instrumental radio hit, “Oh Yeah,” that still gets some spins on stations such as KTHX-FM in Reno. He and McCarty are joined in the current Yardbirds by bassist Kenny Aaronson, singer and harmonica player Myke Scavone and guitarist/singer John Idan.
The start of the Yardbirds’ journey in rock is 1963, when they formed in London right in the middle of a revival of electric blues music in the country. They signed to Columbia Records in February 1964 and released a live set as their first record. The group’s first big UK hit was a studio recording called “For Your Love” and it reached the top 10 in the U.S. as well.
With Clapton’s departure, Beck joined the band in March 1965 and the group switched to a more guitar-heavy, early psychedelic sound. Among the group’s hits during this time period were “Heart Full of Soul,” “Shapes of Things” and “Over Under Sideways Down.” All three made the top 20 in the U.S., where the band did its first tour in the summer of ’65.
Joining in 1966 at first as a new bassist, Page eventually teamed with Beck for a double-guitar version of the Yardbirds. This lead to another hit with “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago” and the group’s appearance in the classic art film “Blow Up,” where they played a frantic, guitar-smashing version of the blues song “Train Kept a-Rollin’.”
Later in 1966, though, Beck left the band and Page stayed on as the main lead guitarist. One final album called “Little Games” was released the next year and the group toured a lot in America, fostering the garage-rock and psychedelic-rock scenes in the process. The group put out one more single, “Goodnight Sweet Josephine,” in 1968 before the band evolved with new members into Led Zeppelin.
The band earned a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992, the same year that McCarty and original bassist Chris Dreja formed a new version of the band.