45 years later, The Yardbirds return to Muskoka
YARDBIRDS CONCERT. Forty five years after they last performed in Muskoka, The Yardbirds returned to cottage country on Sunday, August 26 for a performance at Peter's Players in Gravenhurst. With guitairist Chris Dreja out for health reasons, drummer Jim McCarty was the only original Yardbird during Sunday's performance. (Photo by Louis Tam)
ORIGINAL YARDBIRD RETURNS. Drummer Jim McCarty was the only original member of The Yardbirds to perform in Muskoka, 45 years after the group first performed in Huntsville. With new members, the band played a concert at Peter's Players in Gravenhurst on Sunday, August 26. (Photo by Louis Tam)
YARDBIRDS CONCERT. Forty five years after they last performed in Muskoka, The Yardbirds returned to cottage country on Sunday, August 26 for a performance at Peter's Players in Gravenhurst. With guitarist Chris Dreja out for health reasons, drummer Jim McCarty was the only original Yardbird during Sunday's performance. (Photo by Louis Tam)
The last time The Yardbirds played in Muskoka, their music was still sold on vinyl records.
What hasn’t changed since, however, is Muskoka’s love for the English rock band, which played to an enthusiastic audience at Peter’s Players in Gravenhurst on Sunday, Aug. 26. The performance took place exactly 45 years to the day that The Yardbirds played at Hidden Valley Resort in Huntsville on Aug. 26, 1967.
Speaking to this newspaper just days before arriving in Canada, Yardbirds drummer Jim McCarty said the band was looking forward to putting on an “energetic” show for their cottage country fans.
“I like playing for Canadian audiences,” said McCarty. “I know that Led Zeppelin are really big in Canada and I know The Yardbirds are really popular.”
The Gravenhurst show was the first stop in the band’s 2012 tour, and is the only Canadian show in the lineup.
Snippets of the 1967 Huntsville concert have been documented by popular music historian Piers Hemmingsen on Capitol 6000, a Canadian music enthusiasts’ website. Hemmingsen reported there were rumours at the time that former Yardbirds manager Peter Grant had friends in cottage country he wanted to visit, following a 14-hour trip from New York City.
The Huntsville concert, according to Hemmingsen, also featured a “very hip” portable stage that allowed concertgoers to view the band from two levels. Promotional material posted with his article showed the price of admission at just $3.75.
Since then, the band’s lineup has changed significantly. Keith Relf and Jimmy Page, who performed in the Huntsville concert, have since left the band, leaving McCarty and guitarist Chris Dreja as the only band members remaining from the first cottage country concert.
On Sunday, McCarty was joined onstage by current band mates Andy Mitchell, Ben King and Dave Smale. Dreja was unable to attend as he is still recovering from a stroke suffered last year in California.
The Yardbirds has been intricately intertwined with pop music history since the band’s beginnings in the early 1960s. Over the years, the group has been home to famed guitarists Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck. After leaving The Yardbirds, Page would become a founding member of Led Zeppelin.
Sunday’s concert brought back memories of the band’s 1960s roots, but also featured many of the band’s current releases.
“We’re going to play most of the hits, probably all the hits, plus some old blues covers that we did originally, and a couple of newer songs,” McCarty said in the days prior.
The band has since left cottage country for their next concert in Portland, Oregon.