Keith Relf

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Keith Relf
Relf in 1966
Background information
Birth nameWilliam Keith Relf
Born(1943-03-22)22 March 1943
Richmond, Surrey, England
Died14 May 1976(1976-05-14) (aged 33)
  • Musician
  • singer
  • songwriter
  • Vocals
  • guitar
  • harmonica
  • percussion
Years active1956–1976
Associated acts

William Keith Relf (22 March 1943 14 May 1976) was an English musician, best known as the lead vocalist and harmonica player for the Yardbirds.

The Yardbirds English band

The Yardbirds are an English rock band, formed in London in 1963. The band's core lineup featured vocalist and harmonica player Keith Relf, drummer Jim McCarty, rhythm guitarist/bassist Chris Dreja and bassist/producer Paul Samwell-Smith. The band is known for starting the careers of three of rock's most famous guitarists, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck, all of whom ranked in the top five of Rolling Stone magazine's list of 100 greatest guitarists. The band had a string of hits throughout the mid-1960s, including "For Your Love", "Heart Full of Soul", "Shapes of Things" and "Over Under Sideways Down".


Musical career

Relf started playing in bands around the summer of 1956 as a singer, guitarist, and harmonica player. His blues harp was a key part of the Yardbirds' sound and success, according to many, and his vocals may have been as important a contribution to the band, [1] as that of their three lead guitarists Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page—who were augmented by bassist Paul Samwell-Smith, guitarist/bassist Chris Dreja, and drummer Jim McCarty.

Eric Clapton English musician, singer, songwriter, and guitarist

Eric Patrick Clapton, is an English rock and blues guitarist, singer, and songwriter. He is the only three-time inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: once as a solo artist and separately as a member of the Yardbirds and of Cream. Clapton has been referred to as one of the most important and influential guitarists of all time. Clapton ranked second in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" and fourth in Gibson's "Top 50 Guitarists of All Time". He was also named number five in Time magazine's list of "The 10 Best Electric Guitar Players" in 2009.

Jeff Beck English rock guitarist

Geoffrey Arnold Beck is an English rock guitarist. He is one of the three noted guitarists to have played with the Yardbirds. Beck also formed the Jeff Beck Group and with Tim Bogert and Carmine Appice, he formed Beck, Bogert & Appice.

Jimmy Page British guitarist of Led Zeppelin

James Patrick Page is an English musician, songwriter, and record producer who achieved international success as the guitarist and founder of the rock band Led Zeppelin.

Relf co-wrote many of the original Yardbirds songs ("Shapes of Things", "I Ain't Done Wrong", "Over Under Sideways Down", "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago"), later showing a leaning towards acoustic/folk music as the sixties unfolded ("Only the Black Rose"). [2] He also sang an early version of "Dazed and Confused" in live Yardbirds concerts, a song later recorded by the band's successor group Led Zeppelin. [3]

Shapes of Things The Yardbirds song

"Shapes of Things" is a song by the English rock group the Yardbirds. With its Eastern-sounding, feedback-laden guitar solo and anti-war/pro-environmental lyrics, several music writers have identified it as the first popular psychedelic rock song. It is built on musical elements contributed by several group members in three different recording studios in the US and was the first Yardbirds' composition to become a record chart hit. When it was released as a single on 25 February 1966, the song reached number three in the UK and the top-ten in the US and Canada.

Over Under Sideways Down single by The Yardbirds

"Over Under Sideways Down" is a 1966 song by English rock group the Yardbirds. Inspired by Bill Haley and His Comets' "Rock Around the Clock", Jeff Beck plays both the lead guitar and bass guitar. The song was released as a single in May 1966, two months before the group's self-titled UK album.

Happenings Ten Years Time Ago 1966 single by The Yardbirds

"Happenings Ten Years Time Ago" is a 1966 song by the English rock band the Yardbirds. It encompasses the musical genres psychedelic rock, psychedelic pop, and has been described as a prototype of heavy metal music. With special effects and dual lead guitars by Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, it was considered groundbreaking for the time. However, it only made a modest showing in the record charts and ended the group's six Top 20 singles run in the UK and US

His debut solo single, "Mr. Zero", peaked at No. 50 in the UK Singles Chart in May 1966. [4]

Mr. Zero is a song by Yardbirds vocalist Keith Relf. It charted at #50 on the UK Singles Chart.

UK Singles Chart British singles sales chart

The UK Singles Chart is compiled by the Official Charts Company (OCC), on behalf of the British record industry, listing the top-selling singles in the United Kingdom, based upon physical sales, paid-for downloads and streaming. The Official Chart, broadcast on BBC Radio 1 and MTV, is the UK music industry's recognised official measure of singles and albums popularity because it is the most comprehensive research panel of its kind, today surveying over 15,000 retailers and digital services daily, capturing 99.9% of all singles consumed in Britain across the week, and over 98% of albums. To be eligible for the chart, a single is currently defined by the Official Charts Company (OCC) as either a 'single bundle' having no more than four tracks and not lasting longer than 25 minutes or one digital audio track not longer than 15 minutes with a minimum sale price of 40 pence. The rules have changed many times as technology has developed, the most notable being the inclusion of digital downloads in 2005 and streaming in July 2014.

After the Yardbirds broke up in July 1968, Relf formed the acoustic duo Together, with fellow Yardbird Jim McCarty, followed immediately by Renaissance (which also featured his sister Jane Relf). [5] After leaving Renaissance in 1970, he started producing other artists: Steamhammer, folk-rock band Hunter Muskett, the acoustic world music group Amber, psychedelic band Saturnalia, [6] and blues-rock band Medicine Head (with whom he also played bass guitar). [7] In 1974, he formed progressive/rock group Armageddon. Their self-titled debut, Armageddon , was recorded in England and released in the United States on A&M Records. The album's original liner notes used the term "supergroup"; their personnel (besides Relf) included drummer Bobby Caldwell (previously a member of Captain Beyond and Johnny Winter's band), guitarist Martin Pugh (from Steamhammer, The Rod Stewart Album , and later of 7th Order), [8] and bassist Louis Cennamo (also formerly of Renaissance and Steamhammer). [9]

Acoustic music is music that solely or primarily uses instruments that produce sound through acoustic means, as opposed to electric or electronic means; typically the phrase refers to that made by acoustic string instruments. While all music was once acoustic, the retronym "acoustic music" appeared after the advent of electric instruments, such as the electric guitar, electric violin, electric organ and synthesizer. Acoustic string instrumentations had long been a subset of popular music, particularly in folk. It stood in contrast to various other types of music in various eras, including big band music in the pre-rock era, and electric music in the rock era.

Renaissance (band) band

Renaissance are an English progressive rock band, best known for their 1978 UK top 10 hit "Northern Lights" and progressive rock classics like "Carpet of the Sun", "Mother Russia", and "Ashes Are Burning". They developed a unique sound, combining a female lead vocal with a fusion of classical, folk, rock, and jazz influences. Characteristic elements of the Renaissance sound are Annie Haslam's wide vocal range, prominent piano accompaniment, orchestral arrangements, vocal harmonies, acoustic guitar, bass guitar, synthesiser, and versatile drum work. The band created a significant following in the northeast United States in the 1970s, and that region remains their strongest fan base.

Jane Relf is a British singer and the younger sister of Keith Relf of the Yardbirds.

Personal life and death

In 1966, he married April Liversidge. They had two sons, Danny and Jason. [10]

Relf was 33 when he died in the basement of his home, from electrocution while playing an electric guitar. Relf had several health problems throughout his life, including emphysema and asthma, which may have contributed to his inability to survive the electric shock. [11] (A common rumor at the time was that Relf had been playing guitar in the bathtub, but this isn't true.)

At the time, it is said that Relf was in the process of putting back together the original Renaissance line-up, which would eventually be called Illusion. [12] He was buried in Richmond Cemetery. [13]


Relf's posthumous 1992 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction with the Yardbirds was represented by his widow April, and sons Danny and Jay. [14]

Solo singles discography

Most of Relf's recordings were released under the name of the group he was in at the time. However, an early attempt was made to establish him as a solo musician and two singles came out under his own name in 1966. [15]

A-side written by Bob Lind
B-side is an instrumental credited to Relf, but actually performed by the Outsiders (not to be confused with the US band, the Outsiders, who performed "Time Won't Let Me"). The US single featured the same version as the UK single, US promotional copies (on red vinyl) featured a complete re-edit of the song[ citation needed ]

A further single appeared in 1989:

US release only. The A-side was originally recorded in 1968 by Together. The B-side was recorded on 2 May 1976, 12 days before Relf's death

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