The Yardbirds have today’s almost forgotten track

The Yardbirds were deeply important to me as I began to develop my musical taste…though lead singer Keith Relf was not blessed with the bluesiest voice in the business, at the age I was when I discovered them I didn’t know any better…on the other hand, their selection of material encouraged me to dig deeper and learn as much as I could about the artists they covered and, in their own manner, expanded upon with their “having a rave up” performances…the version that has been out there the last few years has included only two of the members with them in their first go through in Chris Dreja and Jim McCarty, but having worked with the live version of the band I have to concede that they’ve kept the spirit of the group alive in a manner that pays respect to those who went before…this version of Howlin’ Wolf’s classic Smokestack Lightning will, I hope, prove to you that though I am not a fan of replacing originals with lesser players, that, in this instance the replacements carry it off very well indeed…


Greg Simpson

Greg Simpson firmly believes his career in the music industry officially began on March 14, 1965 when a band gave him ten dollars as commission for helping them find a gig. He hasn’t looked back since then and looks forward to celebrating his fiftieth in 2015 with an enormous party paid for by the hundreds of dollars he’s made since then. His career has covered all aspects from radio for many years, and including working for record labels, artists and, since 1992, Canadian Music Week where he programs the radio stream and manages all conference streams and events in real time annually. He also attends half a dozen conferences a year doing research for CMW and is generally accepted as a knowledgeable cat with a few stories to tell. At the root of it all, though, is his undying love for music and of ‘Today’s Almost Forgotten Track’

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Published on December 4, 2017 at 9:05 pm by Greg Simpson


December 5, 2017 - 7:29 am


Thanks for the Yardbirds Performance.

I agree it was well done and very easy to enjoy!

Interestingly enough it was only a few days ago I watched the early 60’s Howlin Wolf London (i think) Performance of Smokestack at a Blues Festival.

To me it was an absolutely wonderful Performance and you can see where a lot of the later 60’s, 70’s, Music came from. Would have loved to witness any of those, especially with some of the Great Acts and Players that Performed with each other back then.

I also watched a fairly recent Live PBS Performance by The Moody Blues that was really quite good.

Very sad to me to think that in only ten years or so from now we will have lost over 80% of the Fantastic Musical Performers brought to us through the late 50’s, 60’s, 70’s. Hard to believe!

Howlin Wolf had an interesting life and he was a very independent intelligent man.

I believe if would have Managed a lot of those early Blues Performers they would have had much better careers and they would have much better/more fair Record Contracts which the Income if properly invested would have looked after them in later years.

December 5, 2017 - 7:36 am



Forgot to mention I saw the Yardbirds at Kerrisdale Arena when I was in High School.

December 5, 2017 - 10:01 am

Greg Simpson

I remember, while living in Victoria, being so determined to get to Vancouver to see that version of the Yardbirds…alas, on about a dollar a week allowance, it wasn’t in the cards for me…

December 5, 2017 - 1:09 pm

Rocker Rich

Back in that same era, my buddies and I attended a multi-act event at the Kerrisdale Arena. Sadly, just as The Collectors began their set, we got yanked by parents enforcing curfew . (Like, totally unfair!). It took another quarter century to finally see The Collectors at a Children’s Hospital fundraiser. By then, I’d relocated to Victoria, but happily jumped on a ferry to see such a bucket-list event.

As for the Yardies, I would have made a similar beeline to Vancouver for their gig at Richard’s On Richards. Alas, I was away in the US. Granted,it was far from a full-on Yardbirds reunion with neither Jeff Beck or Jimmy Page. Vocalist Keith Relf was, of course, long dead by then. And Eric Clapton…well he co-founded the band but skedaddled after about ten minutes. So his absence was expected.

Way back, I remember grooving to Box Of Frogs, a Yardbirds spinoff band that did have past group luminaries pitch in.

A pity that Keith Relf perished from a (rocker’s) household accident—electric shock from a malfunctioning practice amp. As you note, Greg, he lacked a gritty bluesman’s voice but could nonetheless make blues tunes sound pleasing to honkies’ ears.

In both role (transformer of other composers’ songs) and appearance (diminutive, blond-locked charismatic) Relf was not unlike Rolling Stones’ founder and multi-instrumentalist Brian Jones. Had L’il Bri not drowned (quite possibly at the hands of a disgruntled tradesman), and continued his apparent post-Stones gradual recovery from hard drugs, it’s not unreasonable to think he and Relf might have worked together.

December 5, 2017 - 1:23 pm

Rocker Rich

A faulty microphone (run through a practice amp???) may have electrocuted Keith Relf. Whatever, his grisly end likely scared scores of music-makers into being a bit more safety conscious.

December 5, 2017 - 1:26 pm

Greg Simpson

Just a quick note of thanks, Rich, and a minor correction…though Eric did perform on the first records The Yardbirds recorded, he actually replaced the band’s true founding guitarist, Anthony “Top” Topham…

December 5, 2017 - 2:39 pm



I had just purchased my first Harmony Guitar when I went To see Yardbirds at Kerrisdale Arena.
I have not looked but I must admit I was quite young and can’t remember the Guitar Players were at that time. Not sure but I believe Page May have been on Bass when he first arrived.

One Big Thing still on my “Bucket List”? Learning to play Harmonica. Not sure if it is true but a friend told me Relf was on an Asthma Inhaler much of the time. That could make Harmonica and Vocals quite challenging if true.

We also saw Eric Burdon that same year or year after at The Cave even though we were well underage. Stan was a Good Friend of a neighbor. Then there were scores of others, a real eye opener for young kids.

December 5, 2017 - 4:32 pm

Greg Simpson

Page was playing bass on the tour, for sure, as he’d replaced Paul Samwell-Smith who had left the band…Chris Dreja, who was rhythm guitarist, learned to play bass before they hit the road again…it wouldn’t have made much sense for him to do anything else with someone already recognised as one of the great Brit guitar players limiting himself to bass…and almost immediately after that, Beck left the band, so Page switched immediately, as did Dreja…

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