Jeff Beck – Biography, Guitarist

Geoffrey Arnold “Jeff” Beck is a English rock guitarist, and one of three noted guitarists, along with Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page, to have played with the band The Yardbirds. Beck also formed the Jeff Beck Group, Beck, Bogert, & Appice, and has had a successful solo career.

Geoffrey Beck was born June 24th, 1944 in Wallington, England. Beck began singing in a church choir at the age of ten, and began playing guitar as a teenager, borrowing a guitar from a friend, then later attempting to build his own instrument. Beck is cited as saying that the first electric guitar player to have an influence on him was Les Paul. Other early influences on him include Cliff Gallup, lead guitarist for Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps, B.B. King, and Steve Cropper. After high school Beck attended Wimbledon College of Art, after which he worked briefly as a painter and decorator, a groundsman on a golf course, and an auto-painter. His sister would later introduce hom to another aspiring young guitarist, Jimmy Page.

Jeff Beck began his musical career in the 1960s working as a session guitarist. His first recorded work was on a 1964 Parlophone single by The Fitz and Startz called “I’m Not Running Away.” He would be recruited the following year to replace Eric Clapton in The Yardbirds on the recommendation of Jimmy Page, who had turned down the gig. It was with Beck that the Yardbirds recorded the majority of the Top 40 hit songs. His tenure was short-lived, however, as the band would only record one full-length album with Beck, “Roger the Engineer,” released in 1966. He would spend September and November 1966 sharing the dual lead guitar role with Page, who had joined the band as a bass player in June of that year.

Beck would go on to form The Jeff Beck Group in 1967 with Rod Stewart on vocals, Ronnie Wood on bass, Nicky Hopkins on piano, and a series of drummers. Beck was also asked to join Pink Floyd in 1967 after the departure of Syd Barrett, but it never happened. The band would release two albums on Columbia Records: 1968’s “Truth” and 1969’s “Beck-Ola.” Both albums would receive critical acclaim while enjoying moderate commercial success. Resentment, coupled with a series of touring-related incidents would lead to the band breaking up in July 1969.

After The Jeff Beck Group broke up, he would go on to form another band with the former rhythm section of Vanilla Fudge, bassist Tim Bogert and drummer Carmine Appice. The three originally began to put the band together in September 1969, but Beck would fracture his skull in a car accident in December, postponing the formation of Beck, Bogert, and Appice for two-and-a-half years.

After he recovered from the skull fracture Beck would go on to re-form The Jeff Beck Group, with an all-new lineup and a new sound. The band would release two albums, “Rough and Ready” in 1971 and “Jeff Beck Group” in 1972, after which the band would be dissolved again. Beck then turned his attention to his longtime ambition of collaborating with Bogert and Appice, who had become available after the demise of Cactus, a band they formed after Beck’s 1969 car accident.

Beck, Bogert, and Appice would tour for a while as The Jeff Beck Group, fulfilling the contractual obligations of the band. The trio would rename the project and release the self-titled “Beck, Bogert, and Appice” in 1973. The band would later begin work on a second album, but would dissolve the band before it was released, in April 1974. A live album, “Beck, Bogert, and Appice Live In Japan” would be released in 1975.

Beck would begin his solo recording career in 1975 with the release of the album “Blow By Blow.” The album would climb as high as number 4 on the charts and is Beck’s most commercially successful release. Beck would go on to release 9 more solo albums including 2010’s “Emotion & Commotion.” He also collaborated with Jed Lieber on the soundtrack for the Australian television show, “Frankie’s House.” He has won multiple Grammy Awards, appeared on albums from dozens of artists, and was ranked 14th on Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”.