Paul Samwell-Smith

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Paul Samwell-Smith
Birth namePaul Smith
Born (1943-05-08) 8 May 1943 (age 79)
London, England
OriginRichmond, London, England
GenresBlues rock, psychedelic rock
Occupation(s)Musician, record producer
Instrument(s)Bass, vocals, guitar, keyboards, percussion
Years active1960s–present

Paul Granville Samwell-Smith (born Paul Smith, 8 May 1943, in Richmond, Surrey, England)[1] is an English musician and record producer. He was a founding member and the bassist of the 1960s English rock band the Yardbirds, which launched leading guitarists Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page to fame. As a youth, Samwell-Smith attended Hampton School with Yardbirds drummer Jim McCarty.

While in the Yardbirds, he co-produced and engineered much of their music, working with record producers such as Mickie Most, Simon Napier-Bell and Giorgio Gomelsky. Samwell-Smith was a major contributor to the original tracks written by the Yardbirds during his tenure with the band. He left the group in June 1966 to pursue a career as a record producer.

The Yardbirds[edit]

In late May 1963, he formed the Yardbirds with Keith Relf, Anthony Topham, Chris Dreja, and Jim McCarty. During this period his primary instrument was a short-scale Epiphone Rivoli bass.[2] He played on the UK albums, Five Live Yardbirds and Yardbirds (also known as Roger the Engineer) and on the US albums For Your Love, Having a Rave Up, and Over Under Sideways Down (which was Roger the Engineer retitled for the US market), all released on Epic Records. He provided background vocals on many songs like "Good Morning Little School Girl", "For Your Love", "Heart Full of Soul", "Evil Hearted You", and more. He composed the Gregorian chant arrangements and lyrics of the songs "Still I'm Sad" and "Turn Into Earth". While in the Yardbirds he started working on the technical side in the studio. In 1966, becoming tired of touring and wanting to focus on production, he left the Yardbirds and was replaced by Jimmy Page.[3] The last Yardbirds album he played on was Roger the Engineer.

Regarding Samwell-Smith's years with the Yardbirds, a 2020 article in Guitar World opined: "As a bassist, Paul Samwell-Smith was solid and occasionally prominently inventive. No doubt, had he stuck to that he’d have been feted as an influence by many."[4]

In the early 1980s, Samwell-Smith played in the Yardbirds reunion band Box of Frogs with original Yardbird members Chris Dreja and Jim McCarty.[3] The Box of Frogs did not tour because Chris Dreja was busy with his photography and Samwell-Smith was busy in the recording studio.

He was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Yardbirds in 1992.

Records and film[edit]


He went on to become a successful producer with credits including Cat Stevens' albums Tea for the Tillerman (1970), Teaser and the Firecat (1971) and Catch Bull at Four (1972). An article in The Washington Post praised Samwell-Smith's "deft, understated touch" on these recordings as a primary reason for their commercial success, and commented: "The chamber ensemble palette Samwell-Smith employed, consisting mainly of acoustic guitars, piano, upright bass and hand percussion, and the refined arrangements he crafted, perfectly complement the interior landscapes that Stevens was exploring. Stevens had the pure, raw talent, certainly, but it was Samwell-Smith who seemed to understand how best to transmute and position that talent for maximum artistic impact."[5][3] Samwell-Smith also produced recordings for Jethro Tull,[3] Carly Simon,[3][6] Renaissance, Murray Head, Chris de Burgh, Beverley Craven, Toto Coelo, Illusion and Claire Hamill. Other production credits include two of Amazing Blondel's albums for Island Records; the first and second albums by All About Eve for Mercury; and "American Tune" (1973 single) with Paul Simon.


Paul Samwell-Smith was the musical producer for the film Harold and Maude in 1971, with music written by Cat Stevens, which became a cult classic. In addition, two decades later, he produced Postcards from the Edge in 1990, as a music sound recording and recording supervisor.


  1. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 4 March 2021.
  2. ^ Shooman, Joe. "How trailblazing Yardbird Paul Samwell-Smith helped bass playing take flight". Guitar World. Retrieved 20 August 2022.
  3. ^ a b c d e Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 2182/3. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  4. ^ "Shooman op cit".
  5. ^ Fishman, Howard. "The Meaning of Yusuf/Cat Stevens". The Washington Post. Retrieved 20 August 2022.
  6. ^ Kurtz, Warren. "Carly Simon: Inside story of singer's 1971 "Anticipation" / "The Garden" single". Goldmine Magazine. Retrieved 20 August 2022.

Further reading[edit]

  • Yardbirds (John Platt, Chris Dreja, Jim McCarty) Sidgwick & Jackson, 1983 ISBN 0-283-98982-3
  • Yardbirds : The Ultimate Rave-Up (Greg Russo) Crossfire Publications 1997 ISBN 0-9648157-8-8
  • The Yardbirds (Alan Clayson) Backbeat Books 2002 ISBN 0-87930-724-2

External links[edit]