- Category : Entertain-Music-Instrumentalist
- Type : PSE
- Profile : 6/2 - Role Model / Hermit
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : LAX Distraction 1
Drummer James McCarty was a founding member of one of the ‘60s Britain-to-America invasion groups, “The Yardbirds.” “The Yardbirds” were one of the important bands of the ‘60s, instrumental in the transition from the London rhythm and blues scene to pop-rock and psychedelia. Although there were many personnel changes over the years, the original founding members included Eric Clapton on guitar, Keith Relf on vocals, Chris Dreja on rhythm guitar, Top Topham on lead guitar and Paul Samwell-Smith on bass. Their first album, “Five Live Yardbirds” was recorded with Eric Clapton on lead guitar at London’s Marquee Club. The group’s biggest hit single in Britain and the U.S. was “For You Love,” released in 1965.
McCarty began his drumming education at age 14 on a marching band snare drum with lessons from school. His early pop inspirations included “Buddy Holly and the Crickets” and “The Everly Brothers.” Early jazz percussion influences included Buddy Rich, Art Blakey and “The Dave Brubeck Quartet.” McCarty played in school bands before and after graduation. Paul Samwell-Smith had attended the same school and they knew each other. Paul eventually introduced him to the early “Yardbird” group members and, after auditioning, he was brought on board.
McCarty stayed with “The Yardbirds” from its formation in 1962 (under the name “Metropolitan Blues Quartet”) to the breakup in July 1968. The group’s popularity peaked in the first couple of years in Britain and the U.S. and then steadily declined after a succession of lead guitarists, managers and producers. Eric Clapton who had become a focal point of the group, was not pleased with the group’s pop direction and left in 1965, replaced by Jeff Beck.
After leaving “The Yardbirds” in 1968 McCarty formed the progressive folk-rock band “Renaissance” with “Yardbirds” vocalist Keith Relf. They recorded two albums which were not successful and went through several membership changes including a new singer with a three-octave range, Annie Haslam. Their breakthrough albums finally happened in 1972 with “Prologue” and in 1973 with “Ashes Are Burning.” These albums featured extended musical passages and soaring vocals by Haslam. A third album, “Turn of the Cards,” used very ornate writing styles and had mystical overtones.
Unhappy with the stress of an excessive touring schedule the band was undertaking, McCarty and Keith left “Renaissance” in 1973. McCarty began to write material for Dave Berry (British pop singer and teen idol of the ‘60s) and Dave Clark (of “The Dave Clark Five”), among others, before attempting to re-form “Renaissance” in 1976. Sadly, the new band’s plans were destroyed by Keith Relf’s accidental electrocution death in 1976. The group continued on, however, taking the name of their second “Renaissance” album, “Illusion.”
In 1983, McCarty joined former “Yardbirds” Chris Dreja and Paul Samwell-Smith as “Box of Frogs.” In the late ‘80s McCarty launched his own solo career, which produced four albums that melded his blues-rock heritage with new age philosophies and musical textures. He also worked with the band “Stairway” in 1988 and worked again with “Illusion” in 1990. In 1994 he released the solo album “Out of the Dark.”
“The Yardbirds” were inducted into the “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” in 1992. In 2003 a reunion of “The Yardbirds,” including Chris Dreja, Jim McCarty and new members Gypie Mayo (lead guitar), John Idan (bass and lead vocals) and Alan Glen (backup vocals and harmonica) released the album “Birdland.”