Did the Yardbirds’ Keith Relf really get electrocuted onstage by an electric guitar?
No, it was in the privacy of his own home. Relf was the singer of the Yardbirds for six years while an array of star guitarists (Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page) rotated through the ranks. When he died on May 14th, 1976, it was widely reported that he had been playing electric guitar in the bathtub and electrocuted himself. (Other places it’s unwise to play an electric guitar: on a tall building during a thunderstorm, in front of an oncoming freight train, at the Newport Folk Festival.) In fact, his family says, Relf was not in the tub; apparently he was playing guitar in the basement when the tragic combination of malfunctioning equipment, an exposed pipe, and electric current killed him at age 33.
(Excerpted from the 2006 book Is Tiny Dancer Really Elton’s Little John?: Music’s Most Enduring Mysteries, Myths, and Rumors Revealed, published by Three Rivers Press, written by Gavin Edwards.)