Beck, Page, Clapton: Which Yardbirds Guitar Hero Was The Best?

If The Yardbirds' place in music history wasn't guaranteed by the band's string of '60s pop hits, it was assured by the band's rich history of guitar greats to come out of its ranks.

The Yardbirds proved a fertile environment for Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page to develop their revolutionary guitar playing and songwriting chops.

Yardbirds drummer Jim McCarty, played with all three of Clapton, Beck and Page. In a new interview with Forbes, McCarty contrasted the three greats and revealed his favorite version of the band.

"My favorite was the Jeff Beck lineup because we had a lot of hits, we came to the U.S. for the first time, we were quite inspired together, we had good chemistry," McCarty said. "It all worked well. We had some great times."

Clapton was the second lead guitarist in the band's history, playing with them from 1963 to 1965. McCarty described Slowhand as the most fashion forward of any members in the band's history and "a great purist" who had a guitar in his hands virtually at all times.

"If he every stayed with you, he'd be up early in the morning, playing before he even had breakfast," McCarty recalled.

Beck succeeded Clapton in the lead guitar spot in '65.

"His playing had much more variety to it," McCarty said. "He liked jazz, rockabilly, old-time electronic music. He loved Les Paul, double-tracked stuff. He would play much wider than Eric, who stuck to B.B. King, Buddy Guy, that type of thing."

Page joined the band in the summer of '66, initially as a bassist. Within a few months, Beck left the band and shepherded Page into the lead guitar spot. Page stood in stark contrast to the more free-wheeling personalities of Clapton and Beck, McCarty explains.

"He was the ultimate professional, because he used to play studios in London on other people's records," McCarty said. "He did what people asked him to do, very exact and businesslike. He was a session man."

Page also had a different creative vision for the band than Beck did. After less than two years, McCarty, bassist Chris Dreja and singer Keith Reif left the band to pursue other projects.

But the Yardbirds still had one more tour to do. The sole remaining member Page then went and hired Robert Plant, John Bonham and John Paul Jones. The "New" Yardbirds then fulfilled the band's remaining live concert obligations before renaming their band Led Zeppelin.

Photo: Getty Images

Ken Dashow

Ken Dashow

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