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Yardbirds Drummer Jim McCarty Recalls Breakup Of The Band As Led Zeppelin Was Formed

Yardbirds Drummer Jim McCarty Recalls Breakup Of The Band As Led Zeppelin Was Formed

Yardbirds Drummer Jim McCarty Recalls Breakup Of The Band As Led Zeppelin Was Formed
March 12
10:37 2019

In Part 1 of this interview series with Yardbirds drummer Jim McCarty, the rocker discussed the three stellar guitarists – Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page – who were in the group, his favorite tune, “Shapes of Things,” and why Clapton left the group. Here, McCarty talks about his experience on the road with with The Beatles, singer Keith Relf and why The Yardbirds ultimately broke up as Led Zeppelin formed, among other things.

The Yardbirds today, with Jim McCarty on drums.Composite image © Trevor Heath. Godfrey Townsend photo by Lisa Cutner-Pierot

Jim Clash: Didn’t you guys play with The Beatles in the day?

Jim McCarty: We did play with The Beatles, at a gig in Paris. It was a very odd show because it was all men in the audience, a few thousand. When The Beatles played, the guys would all join in [laughs]. But the crux of the story is that we shared the backline to make it easier for the groups. There was another French band there, as well. As we went on before the Beatles, I was playing Ringo’s kit, and it was in the days when they didn’t mic up the drums. So I was playing quite heavy for 20 minutes or half an hour. When we got to the last song, I looked down and I’d gone right through the snare! I was really embarrassed. I thought, ‘Oh no, I’ve broken Ringo’s snare.’ It was bad news for a couple of minutes, until I spoke to the road manager and he was fine, said he’d fix it up. And then Ringo did sort of a joke and waved his fist at me. It was funny in the end.

Clash: What were The Beatles like?

McCarty: They were good fun, they were nice. [Paul] McCartney was the friendliest one. We were looking for a hit at that time before we did “For Your Love,” and we hadn’t come up with anything. John Lennon gave us this record and said, “Why don’t you do this?” It was called, “The Breaking Point” by Chuck Jackson, a Burt Bacharach song. But we didn’t think it was suitable for us, so we never did it. It was a bit too smooth, not really us.

Clash: How did you start drumming?

McCarty: When I was in my teens, I was in The Boys’ Brigade, a semi-military organization. We had a bugle band, and I used to play the snare. That’s how I got into playing drums. I used to like that sort of snare style, and I think I brought some of that into The Yardbirds, with “I’m a Man,” a bit of a marching thing. But I also mixed it up with jazz. There was a military/jazz element.

Clash: Who were your early influences?

McCarty: Buddy Rich, Gene Kruppa, the classic guys. I also liked Hal Blaine and, you know, Keith Moon and Ginger Baker, my more contemporary favorites. I met Ginger a few times. He’s not the easiest guy to get on with, is he [laughs]? But he’s a great drummer. He was taught by another jazz drummer, Phil Seamen. I saw him play, too, and he was very good, but a bit odd. I think he was a heroin addict. They [Baker and Seaman] were painted with the same brush.

Clash: You worked with singer Keith Relf in The Yardbirds and in Renaissance. What was he like?

McCarty: I got on great with Keith. He was a bit frail physically, only had one lung. He had lots of chest problems – asthma, emphysema – which affected his breathing quite a lot, a shame. But he was a very sensitive, creative guy. We used to hang out a lot together, talk about all sorts of weird and wonderful things on the road.

Clash: What happened at the end to The Yardbirds? Why did you break up?

McCarty: We just petered out. We were so tired, on the road for three years, playing every night. We lost all the creativity in the band. It wasn’t quite the same with the four-piece lineup [Keith Relf, Chris Dreja, Jim McCarty, Jimmy Page]. Keith and I decided to leave to do something totally different, which we did with Renaissance. But there was already a tour booked with Vanilla Fudge. So Jimmy [Page] went and did it with Robert Plant, John Bonham and John Paul Jones. They called it The New Yardbirds for the first tour. Chris Dreja got shunted out in favor of John Paul Jones. But Chris had rights to the name. He stopped them from using The New Yardbirds, sent them a lawyer’s letter or something. So legally they couldn’t carry on with it. They changed it to [Led] Zeppelin.

(Editor’s Note: In the third part of this series of interviews with Yardbirds drummer Jim McCarty, the rocker plays word association, talks about the British Invasion and reveals what’s different about his audiences are today.)

Interview Part 1: What Are Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck And Jimmy Page Like? We Asked Yardbirds Drummer Jim McCarty

Interview Part 3: Yardbirds Drummer Jim McCarty Opines On Cream, Mickie Most And ‘Heart Full Of Soul’

James M. (Jim) Clash, a New York-based journalist and Fellow at The Explorers Club, covers extreme adventure and culture. He owns a ticket to fly in space with Virgin Galactic.

I write about extreme adventure and those who do it. I’ve bobsledded with the Olympic team; piloted a super-boat at 140 mph; flown to 84,000 feet at Mach 2.6 in a MiG; s…

Source: Yardbirds Drummer Jim McCarty Recalls Breakup Of The Band As Led Zeppelin Was Formed

About Author

Martin Nethercutt

Martin Nethercutt

Martin A Nethercutt is a writer, singer, producer and loves music. Creative Director at McCartney Studios Editor-in-Chief at McCartney Times Creator-in-Chief at Geist Musik President (title) at McCartney Multimedia, Inc. Went to Albert-Schweitzer-Schule Kassel Lives in Playa del Rey From Kassel, Germany Married to Ruth McCartney

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