Talks New Book,
His Career In The
Yardbirds And More
Jim McCarty has spent most of his life as the Hall of Fame drummer of The Yardbirds. However, when his wife past away in 2020 from cancer, Jim decided to reach out to mediums to learn how to contact his wife. In his new book, She Walks in Beauty, Jim provides evidence how he does that.
We had the opportunity to do a Zoom call with Jim to discuss his new book, his career in The Yardbirds, which of course included playing with Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Greg Drugan: Congratulations on your new book, She Walks In Beauty. What inspired you to write a follow up to your autobiography?
Jim McCarty: Well, I’ve already written an autobiography, Nobody Told Me, which came out a few years ago. I was inspired to write this one because my life really turned on its head because my wife died last year from cancer. I was propelled to write the book because I wanted to know what happened to her. I thought, she can’t just disappear. She’s got to be somewhere and I was determined to find out. I consulted various mediums and I took a mediumship course with a medium called Suzanne Giesemann. She gave you various ways of contacting loved ones and I found that I did quite well. I did manage to contact my wife and in fact my wife came through to another medium and suggested that I write a blog about it. So I decided to write a book and it came about very easily.
I put some of the evidence that I had, it’s all very subtle and all very interesting but it’s quite convincing.
GD: So, this book is about how you still continue to communicate with Lizzie and examples of that.
JM: Yes, exactly! And some of the stories that she told me that have appeared. For instance, I was talking to her one day and she said “there’s a message for you coming on the football match.” (laughs) I thought, how can there be a message on the football mach? I finished talking to her and I came upstairs and switched on the TV and it was Liverpool playing soccer. Liverpool Soccer Team has this theme song called “You Will Never Walk Alone” and they were singing it and I thought, that’s the message for me!
GD: That’s great! Now, have you been able to communicate with other people that have been in your life?
JM: Funny you should say that because a couple of people have asked me about Keith Relf. I haven’t actually, and I don’t know why. I did have him on a session with another medium. She asked if I had a brother in spirit and I said, no, I’m an only child. She said, well we have somebody here with long, blonde hair. I thought, it has to be Keith. They said, he’s actually with your wife at the moment. That was nice, it was lovely! (laughs)
GD: What made you decide to seek out training on how to communicate with Lizzie?
JM: I don’t know. When she was still alive, she knew she was going to die because she had the cancer. She said, “how are we going to communicate? How will we talk to each other after I pass?” I said, “I don’t know,” but it sort of worked out. From that conversation, I became determined how to do it. It’s not complicated. Like Suzanne said, it’s not something you’re born with, anybody can become a medium if they want. You have to have some training and believe. Have a positive attitude about it. Sometimes it’s frowned upon, isn’t it. People get frightened about it. There’s nothing to be frightened about, in fact it’s all very positive. When I speak to Lizzy, it’s a very loving experience.
GD: Sure, it probably gives you a sense of peace as well.
JM: Exactly. The grief is still there but I am assured that she is in a very, very nice place. Our bodies die, but our consciousness still carries on apart from the brain. We are all going to be in the same place, eventually. (laughs)
GD: Hopefully! (laughs) Was this a difficult process to learn and how long did it take you to learn how to communicate?
JM: I’ve had a bit of an advantage. We were very close where Lizzy and I would channel our higher selves. We did that together in our life. So we were already halfway there. It didn’t take long, about six months before we made communication. Then it was her idea to do the book!
GD: I’ve read that you have traveled to many distant places like China and India, have you found any connections in those places as well?
JM: Yeah, there was always a feeling that some of those places were holy sites. It’s very touristy, but there are many, many acolytes of Buddha that are there. Underneath it all, there is a wonderful presence and we went to some beautiful, quiet places. It’s wonderful, fantastic, beautiful energy.
GD: You’ve got a fascinating story and I look forward to reading your book. I wanted to take a look back on your music career. When did you know that you wanted to be a musician? Did any family members play any instruments?
JM: No, not really. I used to play the snare drum in the Boys Brigade. Then i used to listen to American rock and roll, Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent, things like that. I sort of learned to play it and we had a band at school. Paul Samuel-Smith, who was the bass player in The Yardbirds, he was at school with me. Paul and I used to sing the Everly Brothers and all that, rock songs! We never knew we were going to make a living or be professionals, really. I suppose later on when we formed The Yardbirds, we became more of a blues thing (based) on what we heard. We were excited about all the blues music coming in from the States. You never heard it on the radio, we had to get all the vinyl records and listen at home. We loved all the Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry and Howlin’ Wolf and that’s where our repertoire came from. And then we just took off, it was quite quick.
GD: it seems that many British Invasion artists say that their introduction to American music was Elvis, Chuck Berry and the Everly Brothers, like you say. What made you want to go back further and look into the Chicago blues? It seems like The Yardbirds and the Stones and other British bands were kinda focused in on that rather than the newer stuff.
JM: That was the thing, that was all the rage because it was something different! All the rock and roll, we heard all of that, but the blues we never heard before. It was unusual. It had something about it, it had some raw emotion and excitement about it. It was underground and it wasn’t on everyone’s lips. Muddy Waters wasn’t a household name. When we came back to the US, the white audiences hadn’t heard it either because it was segregated. So they thought that we invented it! (laughs)
GD: And then you sell it right back to us even though it originated here! (laughs) That’s great though! Do you remember the first artist you saw in concert and how did that impact you?
JM: Dear me, who’s that? I don’t know. I know I saw The Shadows. They were an English group that did Apache. (hums the song) They had a lot of hits and they were an instrumental group. I went to see them. Then Joe Brown and then I went to see an early version of the Rolling Stones.
GD: When The Yardbirds original guitarist, Top Topham left the group, how did you find a young Eric Clapton to replace him? He was only eighteen, was he just hanging around the London scene?
JM: He went to the same art school as the other guys. Chris, Keith and Eric, and Top, they went to Kingston Art School and were all studying art. Paul Samuel-Smith and I were in like high school. There was a stream of people who went to high school and we had to pass an exam called Eleven Plus, but the art school students didn’t have to pass an exam, they just had to show they were interested in art. Most of the musicians, like the Stones went to art school. A lot of those bands all went to art school.
GD: It’s amazing how much musical talent was around London at the time. When you released “For Your Love” and it hit the charts, Clapton didn’t like the direction the group was heading and decided to leave. Of course he was replaced by another great guitarist in Jeff Beck, how did you find him?
JM: He was recommended to us by Jimmy Page. We had asked Jimmy to join because he was playing on all of the records in London at the time. He was a studio musician and he recommended Jeff because he was a friend of his and he was an understudy of his. He (Jeff) would play the sessions when he (Jimmy) couldn’t make them.
GD: It’s amazing that three Hall of Fame guitars would be in the same band and then go on to get into the Hall of Fame by themselves.
JM: We really fell on our feet then. Jeff sort of unconsciously fell into what we were trying to do. We were trying to change the blues to our own style and make it a bit different and more exciting and weird I suppose. And we had fun doing it and Jeff had the talent because he had all that feedback and fuzz pedal and he loved all that stuff. He could play all sorts of stuff.
GD: Eventually, Jimmy Page joined the band and played as the bassist. What was that tour like with Page on bass and Beck on lead guitar?
JM: I don’t think that lasted too long. We did a tour in the US and we thought that was a bit silly not having Jimmy play lead guitar. So Chris decided to play bass and that was quite a step. Going from rhythm guitar to bass, it was quite brave actually. The two of them were playing lead and they would follow up playing solos and they would play some stuff together. That was quite good sometimes, but not always! (laughs)
GD: What were your thoughts of America when you came here for the first time?
JM: It was so exciting. It was a dream for us. We were in a very little country. We had all the fog and the rain and we had seen America in the movies with all of the Westerns, and gangster movies. To come to America was vast compared to England. Everything was huge! It was a great experience for us.
GD: Were you friendly with the other British bands like the Stones and The Kinks and did you play some shows with them as well?
JM: We did actually tour with those two bands, The Kinks and The Stones. We were usually working so we didn’t hang out that much. We were all pretty friendly but we were also competing as well.
GD: For a short time, The Yardbirds featured both Page and Beck on lead guitar. Why did Jeff decide to leave the band?
JM: Well he got so wound up. Playing with Jimmy Page was very stressful for him. Jimmy was very calm and he used to play the same every night because he would work it all out. He knew exactly what he was doing. Jeff wasn’t like that. He would play from the top of his head all the time. He would be like, oh it’s another day, I’m going to play something else. I think it was quite stressful for Jeff to keep up with Jimmy. Jimmy was so down to earth and Jeff was so wild. He got really stressed out. Then at the end we had this really awful tour, the Dick Clark Tour and we were on this Greyhound bus with all these different bands and we were really out of place. We had to play with Sam the Sham and Gary Lewis and the Playboys. Jeff did a runner actually after the first night. He lost his bag and he smashed up his guitar and he just disappeared. We did the rest of the tour without him and it actually went quite well. So he got the push, he didn’t really leave. That’s why he swore at us at the Hall of Fame Induction!
GD: That’s right, I forgot about that! Like many bands, The Yardbirds only lasted a few years before finally breaking up. What did you think the lifespan of your band was going to be and what do you think of bands like the Rolling Stones and The Who that have basically stayed together for over fifty years?
JM: (laughs) I don’t know. It was difficult for us at that particular time. We had been playing live incessantly night after night. By the time we had the four piece, Jimmy, Chris, Keith and I, we weren’t writing songs like we used to. We worked together live, but not so much producing new material. The things we did, didn’t turn out so well. We weren’t going anywhere and we were just getting more tired so it seemed like we should just pack it up.
GD: All good things must come to an end, I suppose. You had some other bands in the 0s and then in the early ‘90s, you got the Yardbirds back together and have been touring the past several years. Do you have any plans to tour in 2022, we would love to see you here in Cleveland!
JM: We were due to do a tour last month but it got cancelled because of the pandemic. We are coming to do those dates in April now. The next date is the Flower Power cruise which leaves from Miami. We’ve done a couple of those before and they are always good fun. That’s the end of March. I imagine there will be ten dates or something in April.
GD: We would love to see you here in Cleveland. You mentioned the Hall of Fame, I know that you have a vote. Is there anyone that you would like to see inducted in the next few years?
JM: I would have to see who’s on the list. I don’t know who’s in and who isn’t in.
GD: Right. It’s a funny process of who even gets on the list. Have you ever been to the museum here in Cleveland?
JM: We have! We actually did a gig there about ten years ago. We did a Q and A there, Chris and I. It was very nice.
GD: I don’t know why I missed that one. I must have been out of town but we would love to have you back. Jim, Thank you so much for your time today. I wish you all the best with your new book and I hope to see you out on the road next year!
JM: Great! Thank you very much!
Make sure you pick up a copy of Jim's new book, She Walks In Beauty at your favorite bookstore or online.
If you would like to watch the entire Zoom video, click the link below.