The Yardbirds gave us Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, and Jimmy Page—and they’re still delivering godly guitar playing with Johnny A in the lead role these days. The Boston Music Hall of Famer known for playing brilliant chord-melody instrumentals such as “Oh Yeah” on his signature Gibson hollowbody cops a completely different trip with the Yardbirds, donning a Les Paul Jr. to rip into classics such as “Heart Full of Soul,” “Shapes of Things,” and “For Your Love,” with teenaged enthusiasm.
“My two favorite bands growing up were the Beatles and the Yardbirds,” says Johnny. “I probably wouldn’t be the guitar player I am if it wasn’t for the Yardbirds’ ‘Over Under Sideways Down.’ That band was hugely inspirational and influential for me when I was a kid.”
The Yardbirds—which currently includes, in addition to Johnny, founding member Jim McCarty on drums, bassist Kenny Aaronson, harp player Myke Scavone, and vocalist/guitarist John Idan—first came into Johnny’s orbit when they shared the same label, Steve Vai’s Favored Nations. In 2004, they asked Johnny to sit in when they toured Boston, and his appearances soon became a regular thing whenever he was in the same city as the ’birds. Ultimately, personnel comings and goings and schedules worked out for the group’s 2015 tour, and Johnny A stepped into the active musical history of a band that’s in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They’re not simply churning up the past, however, as Johnny reports.
“This band seems to have its own life,” says Johnny. “We’re heading into the studio with legendary producer Jack Douglas this fall, and I’m very much looking forward to it.”