Come tomorrow, may I be bolder than today?

When you mention influential rock bands of the ’60s, you know the usual well-known names:   The Beatles.  The Beach Boys.  The Rolling Stones.  The Who.  The Byrds.  The Grateful Dead.  All worthy candidates.

But there’s another band that arguably tops them all:  The Yardbirds.

Yardbirds-1Casual rock music listeners will say, “Huh?”  They might remember the 1965 pop hit, “For Your Love,” and some may recall the 1966 singles “Shapes of Things” and “Heart Full of Soul.”  But that’s about it.

Some rock historians maintain that, when it comes to making a seismic impact on many dozens of artists and bands that followed in their wake, you can make a strong case that The Yardbirds win the contest hands down.

For the uninitiated, here’s the deal:  The Yardbirds were born in 1963 as a blues-focused band out of London.  Their first guitarist didn’t last and was soon replaced by 18-year-old Eric Clapton as the lead guitarist.  By 1965, Clapton had moved on, and in his place, the group was steered by the great guitar pioneer Jeff Beck.  In 1966, Beck overlapped with his eventual successor, veteran studio guitarist  Jimmy Page.

That’s right:  The three recognized kings of electric guitar and British rock/blues, who all ranked in the Top Five on Rolling Stone‘s Top 50 Guitarists of All Time, were all graduates of “Yardbirds University.”

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I got a name, I got a name

They called it “The Name Game,” a silly, fun participation song that was all the rage in 1965, when R&B singer Shirley Ellis made it a #3 hit on the US charts.

You simply take anybody’s name, slip it into the basic format, and off you go.  Party on, Garth!  “Garth, Garth, bo-Barth, banana-fana-fo-Farth, fee-fi-mo-Marth, GARTH!”

So, as Shakespeare once asked, “What’s in a name?”  In the world of popular music, there are dozens of examples of performing artists who conjured up new names for themselves.  They did this on their own, if their ego was big enough…or an agent or record company insisted on a catchier stage name than the clunky or boring given name they’d been carrying around.

Some of the examples I’m offering up to you will be well known.  Others, you might be surprised about.  In either case, I’m here to expose these stars’ real names as part of my own Name Game.

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