Did Emerson Lake and Palmer almost lose Keith Emerson to Yes?

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Well, this would have completely rearranged progressive rock.

The late Keith Emerson says he was once asked to join Yes, receiving a late-night query during a period in which Rick Wakeman had come and gone — even while his own band, Emerson Lake and Palmer, were in the midst of their 1970s hey day.

The decade would see Wakeman exit Yes in 1974, to be replaced by Patric Moraz through 1976. Rick Wakeman then returned, only to depart again in 1980. That apparently left an opening for Keith Emerson.

“I got back to England, after a very successful tour — and my phone rings at 11:30 at night,” Emerson remembered. “It was their then-manager Brian Lane.”

Emerson, still getting over being jetlagged, says his answer was blunt: “I couldn’t believe that I’d been asked if I want to join Yes. My response was: ‘Brian, why would I want to do that? I’ve just come off a tour playing 14,000-seat stadiums — sold out. I’ve got my own band. Why would I want to join Yes?'”

The retort from Lane? “Well, there’s no harm in asking.”

Ironically, previous to the formation of Emerson Lake and Palmer, Keith Emerson had tried to lure both Steve Howe and Chris Squire — both subsequent stalwarts in Yes — to his own bands in the wake of the Nice’s dissolution.

Rick Wakeman would have three more post-1970s stints with Yes through 2004. Keith Emerson died on March 10, 2016; he was 71.

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