Nearly 60 years after forming a legendary rock band, with some so-famous alum, the original drummer is kicking off a new tour with the Yardbirds, and starting right here on Cape Cod. See Jim McCarty’s story below.
Plus there are five more concerts you might want to consider for weekend entertainment. Take a look:
► Cotuit Center for the Arts has a weekend full of music planned in the John Weltman Outdoor Performance Pavilion (4404 Falmouth Road, Route 28). At 7:30 p.m. Friday, local singer-songwriters Schuyler Grant and Brian Sances will perform a concert of blues, rock, soul and folk. Then Dawn Derow and Peter Calo will perform “Backyard Troubadours” concerts at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17 and 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18 . Derow is an award-winning vocalist and Calo is Carly Simon’s past guitarist and producer. They’ll play with Joe Santerre on bass and Marty Richards on drums in a show that celebrates the West Hollywood music venue Troubadour” and artists who performed there over six decades – including Linda Ronstadt, Shawn Colvin, Kris Kristofferson, Billy Joel, the Eagles and Guns N’ Roses. All shows are $35, with discounts available; 508-428-0669, ext. 0, https://artsonthecape.org/. Sunday’s performance will feature a pre-show bourbon tasting compliments of Cape Cod Package Store. If rain cancels a show, the center tries to reschedule for the following Monday.
► Payomet Performing Arts Center is calling it the “Endless Summer Concert,” bringing together local bands the Chandler Travis Philharmonic (playing alternative Dixieland and omnipop), the Cyclones (described as psychedelic garage reggae rockers) and the funky sounds of the GroovaLottos for a show from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17 at its tent at 29 Old Dewline Road, North Truro. Tickets are 415, and the show is a benefit for Cape nonprofits HOW, supporting women’s health, and WE CAN, supporting women’s entrepreneurship. Tickets and information: https://payomet.org/.
► The Grammy Award-nominated, seven-musician New Black Eagle Jazz Band will return to the Cultural Center of Cape Cod (307 Old Main St., South Yarmouth) with a show at 7:30 p.m. Saturday featuring traditional New Orleans jazz. The concert will pay homage to the greatest musicians of the early jazz era — Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Duke Ellington — plus showcase the band’s own eclectic sound, incorporating spirituals, the 1920s and ‘30s popular music, and even some songs recorded by Elvis and Bob Dylan. $30; https://www.cultural-center.org/, 508-394-7100.
► Bluesman James Montgomery will be back playing on the Cape with a show at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Music Room, 541 Main St., West Yarmouth. For more than 40 years, Montgomery has performed as a blues harpist, singer, front man and bandleader with The James Montgomery Band and to other sessions and tours, including with Gregg Allman, Johnny Winter, B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Aerosmith, the Rolling Stones, Joe Cocker, James Brown and many more. https://musicroomcapecodtickets.com/.
Kathi Scrizzi Driscoll
Almost 60 years in, Yardbirds and McCarty are back on tour
When Jim McCarty was a teenager, he formed a band that would forever change the rock music scene. Fast forward to today and McCarty, now 79 years young, is still playing in that same band as the last original member.
As the drummer in the Yardbirds, McCarty was in the middle of it all — the British Invasion, the daring experimentation of psychedelic rock, and the very early beginnings of one of the most revered hard rock bands of all time. To him, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page are all former bandmates and friends, not untouchable guitar gods.
It’s with that same casual demeanor that McCarty talks about his experiences and what it was like being in a pioneering band whose influence still reverberates in music today.
Audiences will get a chance to hear where it all started when McCarty and the current Yardbirds lineup play at the Music Room on Saturday, Sept. 17.
A blues beginning
McCarty and the current incarnation of the Yardbirds — vocalist/rhythm guitarist John Idan, lead guitarist Godfrey Townsend, bassist Kenny Aaronson and harmonica player Myke Scavone — carry on a legacy that goes back to 1963 when the group first formed in London as a blues outfit.
“It all came together very organically and they’re all big fans of the Yardbirds and know the songs very well — probably better than I do,” says McCarty about the 2022 Yardbirds on a phone call from France. “These guys have lived through those days. They’ve played Yardbirds stuff before and they really got it in their blood.”
The members of the original Yardbirds started out by playing mostly covers of what they loved — blues music coming from America, which McCarty describes as “underground” at the time. Bluesmen like Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Chuck Berry all made an impression on them, leading McCarty and his bandmates to play the same songs and “develop (their) own versions of those songs.”
McCarty says that he and his bandmates were used to listening to the “early rock ‘n roll” of Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly, sometimes playing those songs with school bands, but blues music was “different.”
“It had more guts to it, it was more emotional and had sort of an edge to it and an excitement, and I think that’s what we loved,” he explains. “We loved the excitement of that music and we tried to make it even more exciting.”
Because blues music was played by predominantly Black artists, McCarty was shocked when the Yardbirds first came to the United States and the white audiences reacted to the music as though they were listening to it for the very first time.
“The interesting thing to us was that when we came over to the States, a lot of the white audience hadn’t heard it and they thought it was our music, but of course it wasn’t,” he says. “You then saw artists like Howlin’ Wolf and Chuck Berry becoming more popular themselves, which was great to see.”
Since the group’s creation, numerous other artists have taken a cue or two from the Yardbirds, further cementing the group as one of the most influential rock bands. As for current artists that remind McCarty of the Yardbirds and whom he thinks shares that connection, the drummer points to singer/guitarist Jack White.
Lighting strikes three times and opens new doors
The Yardbirds are just as well known for their music as for the three legendary guitarists who were once in the band, all of whom brought something new to the group.
The first of these six-stringers was Clapton, who fit well into the blues mold from which the Yardbirds were formed.
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“Eric pitched in really well at the beginning because he was a blues purist,” says McCarty. “He loved the blues music and he was really good at it and he was determined to improve his style.”
Clapton exited the band in 1965 and was replaced by Beck. Suddenly the Yardbirds weren’t just playing blues music, they were stretching out of the blues box and experimenting with different sounds.
“Once Jeff got in, it just developed into something else (closer to) what the Yardbirds are famous for, sort of experimental — psychedelic if you like — blues music,” says McCarty. “With Jeff on guitar adding all the different sounds, all the weird and wonderful sounds, that’s how we got this thing about being a psychedelic band and we didn’t really know what psychedelic was about. People who came to see us were saying ‘Oh, this is great drug-induced music.’ We just wanted to do something different with it.”
For a brief period of time, future Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page and Beck overlapped in the Yardbirds as co-guitarists when Page joined in 1966. Beck would eventually leave the band that same year, leaving Page as the group’s sole guitarist. This final lineup didn’t last long, though, and the Yardbirds broke up in 1968, leaving Page to form Led Zeppelin.
“We keep in touch,” says McCarty, noting the recent release of a live Yardbirds show from 1968 that Page remastered. “Not so much Eric, but Jeff and Jimmy. Jeff and Jimmy were always very close. So, we’re still all mates together.”
The Yardbirds fly to Cape Cod
The Yardbirds were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1992, reformed in 1997, and have been playing in some capacity ever since with various lineup changes. One thing that hasn’t changed is the song catalog. At the Music Room show, McCarty says, the group will play a mix of Yardbirds hits like “For Your Love” and “Heart Full of Soul,” as well as blues classics.
The West Yarmouth show is also the first date of the band’s current tour. So McCarty says that the show at the Music Room won’t just be exciting for the fans, but for the band as well — the Yardbirds haven’t played a live show in two-and-half years because of the pandemic.
“It’s been going (for) nearly 60 years now,” McCarty says of the Yardbirds. “It’s amazing.”
To see the Yardbirds
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17
Where: The Music Room, 541 Main St., West Yarmouth
Reservations and information: https://musicroomcapecodtickets.com/events/the-yardbirds-09172022/
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