One of the defining features of the British Invasion during the 60s was musicians from the UK introducing the youth of America to seminal blues artists who themselves were American. Given the way our society was at the time, there is reason to believe we might not have found out about them any other way.
A British invader who led the way in this endeavor - Jeff Beck - is being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame tonight for his work after he left the Yardbirds in 1966. (The Yardbirds were inducted previously.)
Beck was with the Yardbirds for a very short 18 months or so - the group dynamics weren't his cup of tea - but the way he used the guitar at that point in rock music was so outside the mainstream that it left an indelible imprint on how the group is remembered. While many of the songs that became hits during his tenure were written by group members, the one that got my tail feather shaking today was a Bo Diddley composition, I'm A Man.
I'm A Man is a sterling example of transforming the original by Diddley into something entirely new and accessible for that time while remaining an homage to the sensibilities of the master who created it. Check out the Hullabaloo dancers in the video - I'm not sure you can fake that!
Jimmy Page, who will be inducting his former bandmate into the Hall tonight, was a session guitarist who had been asked to join the Yardbirds when Eric Clapton departed due to creative differences with Keith Relf, Jim McCarty and the others. Page wasn't sure he wanted to take that step at the time and instead recommended Beck.
Beck has always marched to the shriek of his own Fender Stratocaster. He is notorious for not caring what anyone else thinks and for experimenting with the guitar to degrees that others have viewed as risky to his career. He's never been much for boundaries, but has freely built upon his admiration for the players who preceded him in developing his own capabilities.
Beck has related that he got out having to audition for Keith Relf simply by saying that he worshipped at the altar of the blues guitarist Matt Murphy. Never having been to the U.S., nonetheless he knew the work of Booker T & the MGs and wanted to emulate it. Who wouldn't want to rip up the guitar like Steve Cropper if they had even a scintilla of talent in that direction?