Like many electric guitarists in early 1960s England, Jeff Beck spent a lot of his time earning money as a session guitar player. In 1966, a promising rock band named the Yardbirds needed a lead guitarist after the departure of Eric Clapton to John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. Beck filled the lead guitar role. Beck was one of the first electric guitarists to experiment with electronic fuzz distortion and noise, pushing the Yardbirds' lead guitar part to previously unreached horizons and helping to redefine what electric guitar could do just before the rise of Jimi Hendrix. This arguably was best demonstrated on the only full-length Yardbirds album with all original songs, 1966's Roger the Engineer.
Jeff Beck left the Yardbirds in late 1966, partly because of failing health, after a brief dual-lead guitar role with Jimmy Page, who had recently joined. In 1967, he formed a new band named the Jeff Beck Group, which featured him on lead guitar as well as Rod Stewart on vocals, Ron Wood on bass, Mick Waller on drums, and Nicky Hopkins on piano. The group produced two albums, Truth in 1968 and Cosa Nostra Beck-Ola the following year, both of which helped lay templates for the heavy metal music that would emerge a few years later. Nonetheless, friction emerged between the members of the Jeff Beck Group and, in 1971, Stewart and Wood left to join The Faces and later to pursue Stewart's solo efforts. Wood joined The Rolling Stones around 1973.
After the failure of a second Jeff Beck Group (which disbanded in 1972), Beck formed a more formal power trio Beck, Bogert, and Appice with Carmine Appice on drums and Tim Bogert on bass. This group, too, failed to attract much critical attention and soon split up, although they did have a minor hit with an instrumental version of Stevie Wonder's "Superstition", and Beck would add lead guitar to Wonder's Talking Book album. In 1975, Beck did a solo, all-instrumental jazz fusion album entitled Blow by Blow which, surprisingly, got him strong critical reviews and was followed up by a collaborative effort with keyboardist Jan Hammer and his band on the 1976 Wired album, which also received critical acclaim.
During the 80's and 90's, Jeff Beck has recorded occasional albums: Flash (1985, including performances with Rod Stewart and Jan Hammer), Guitar Shop (1989), The fire meets the fury (1989, with Stevie Ray Vaughan), Crazy Legs (1993), Who else (1999), and You Had It Coming (2001). Jeff Beck has won a Grammy Award for 'Best Rock Instrumental Performance' for the track "Dirty Mind" from You Had It Coming.