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Relf in 1966
|Birth name||William Keith Relf|
22 March 1943|
Richmond, Surrey, England
|Died||14 May 1976
|Genres||Blues rock, blues, folk rock, hard rock, psychedelic rock, progressive rock|
|Instruments||Vocals, harmonica, bass guitar, guitar, keyboards, percussion|
|Associated acts||The Yardbirds, Renaissance, Medicine Head, Armageddon, Illusion|
William Keith Relf (22 March 1943 – 14 May 1976) was an English musician, best known as the lead vocalist and harmonica player for The Yardbirds.
Relf started playing in bands around the summer of 1956 as a singer, guitarist, and harmonica player. Despite his suffering from respiratory problems, his blues harp was a key part of the Yardbirds' sound and success, according to many, and his vocals may have been as important a contribution to the band, as that of their three lead guitarists Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page—who were augmented by bassist Paul Samwell-Smith, guitarist/bassist Chris Dreja, and drummer Jim McCarty.
Relf co-wrote many of the original Yardbirds songs ("Shapes of Things", "I Ain't Done Wrong", "Over Under Sideways Down", "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago"), later showing a leaning towards acoustic/folk music as the sixties unfolded ("Only the Black Rose"). He also sang an early version of "Dazed and Confused" in live Yardbirds concerts, a song later recorded by the band's successor group Led Zeppelin.
After The Yardbirds broke up in July 1968, Relf formed the acoustic duo Together, with fellow Yardbird Jim McCarty, followed immediately by Renaissance (which also featured his sister Jane Relf). After leaving Renaissance in 1970, he started producing other artists: Steamhammer, folk-rock band Hunter Muskett, the acoustic world music group Amber, psychedelic band Saturnalia, and blues-rock band Medicine Head (with whom he also played bass guitar). In 1974, he formed progressive/rock group Armageddon. Their self-titled debut, Armageddon, was recorded in England and released in the United States on A&M Records. The album's original liner notes used the term "supergroup"; their personnel (besides Relf) included drummer Bobby Caldwell (previously a member of Captain Beyond and Johnny Winter's band), guitarist Martin Pugh (from Steamhammer, The Rod Stewart Album, and later of 7th Order), and bassist Louis Cennamo (also formerly of Renaissance and Steamhammer).
Personal life and death
In 1966, he married April Liversidge. They had two sons, Danny and Jason.
Relf was 33 when he died from electrocution, in the basement of his home, while playing his improperly earthed (electrically grounded) guitar. Relf had dealt with several health issues throughout his life, including emphysema and asthma, which may have contributed to his inability to survive the electric shock. At the time, it is said that Relf was in the process of putting back together the original Renaissance line-up – which would eventually be called Illusion. He was buried in Richmond Cemetery.
Solo singles discography
Most of Relf's recordings were released under the name of the group he was in at the time. However, an early attempt was made to establish him as a solo artist and two singles came out under his own name in 1966.
- "Shapes In My Mind" / "Blue Sands" – UK Columbia DB8084 / US Epic 10110 – November 1966
- B-side is an instrumental credited to Relf, but actually performed by The Outsiders (not to be confused with the US band, The Outsiders, who performed "Time Won't Let Me"). The US single featured the same version as the UK single, US promotional copies (on red vinyl) featured a complete re-edit of the song
A further single appeared in 1989:
- "Together Now" / "All The Fallen Angels" – MCCM 89 002 – 1989
- US release only. The A-side was recorded in 1968, originally recorded that year by Together. The B-side was recorded on 2 May 1976, 12 days before Relf's death
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