Jim McCarty discusses Jeff Beck’s ouster from the Yardbirds: ‘He had to go’

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The Yardbirds, famous for such 1960s-era tracks as “For Your Love,” “Over Under Sideways Down,” and “Heart Full of Soul,” served as a launching pad for three of rock’s most recognizable guitarists — Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. Co-founding drummer Jim McCarty recently returned to the band’s separation from Beck, which actually happened on tour after a October 1966 stop in Texas.

“Jeff was always very keyed up, very wound up when he played, and a sensitive guy,” McCarty told PressConnects.com. “so he ended up deserting us a bit when we were on tour. He wasn’t showing up for gigs, and in the end, he had to go.”

It was with Jeff Beck that the UK-based band first mounted a American tour, just before Page joined and the group briefly worked as a five-piece unit. Most of the Yardbirds’ hits came courtesy of original bassist/producer Paul Samwell-Smith. Bassist Chris Dreja, McCarty and singer/harmonica player Keith Relf made up the core 1960s group.

Of course, Eric Clapton (1963-65), Jeff Beck (1965-66) and Jimmy Page (1966-68) would each eventually land in the Top 5 of Rolling Stone’s 100 Top Guitarists list — Clapton at No. 2, Page at No. 3 and Beck at No. 5. Around the time of its induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992, the band reformed behind Dreja and McCarty. Jeff Beck eventually reconciled with the pair, appearing on a track from 2003’s Birdland.

“Well, we all went through quite a bit of exhaustion; it was very hard work,” McCarty said. “We’d be playing somewhere every night and traveling or doing a recording session or doing interviews or photo sessions. All the money we made was from playing live. There weren’t big record royalties in those days. Of course, we all got really tired, and some people cope with it better than others.”

McCarty, 68, continues with the current Yardbirds, which includes vocalist/harmonica player Andy Mitchell, lead guitarist Ben King and bassist David Smale. Dreja left the tour last September after suffering a stroke. McCarty said Dreja’s speech was not affected, and he is at home recuperating.

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