Yardbirds singer died in 1976, electrocuted by his guitar.

idealassets

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Wow, I just read that the lead singer of the Yardbirds died in 1976 from being electrocuted in his basement, when his guitar was not grounded. Really? I have been playing away and never realized this before.

1. Could it happen today?
2. What do you do to prevent it?
3. How about if you have an amp and and effects pedals plugged in, then to a DI box wired into a building PA system with XLR cables outlets through wall outlets in the building?

Here is the quote from an article that was on Facebook:

"On May 14, 1976, the lead singer Keith Relf died in his basement at age 33 while being electrocuted by his guitar which was not grounded properly. He was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with The Yardbirds in 1992."

Thank you,
Craig
 

txbumper57

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I'm sure it could happen today if things are not properly grounded. About 8-9 years ago My band was playing a Shriners benefit for the Shriners Hospital in Galveston. The Benefit was at a Bar and grill and the stage was setup outside. Apparently things weren't grounded properly on the stage. About 4 songs into the set I switched from my Acoustic to my electric like I always did for the next songs on the set list. I got through the intro on my electric and approached the microphone to start the vocals and that's when All Hell broke lose. All I remember was a bright Blue Light and feeling like someone punched me in the face. Apparently the microphone arced to me as I was holding my electric and it knocked me to the ground literally. Needless to say after about 5 minutes and being Checked out by EMT's that were on site, I switched back to my acoustic and finished the show. After that I personally inspected every power source we used from there on out. The EMT's said I was lucky that the arc knocked me off the Mic because it could've held me there and fried me pretty good. All of this was due to faulty grounding from the power source.

Also you hear today about the "Death Capacitor" in old amps that have not been switched over to a Grounded three prong setup. Basically with the old setup the ground current can go straight to the chassis of the amp which in turn goes straight through your guitar and into you. In essence if this happens it would be the same as if you taped a metal Fork to your hand and inserted it into the power socket itself.
 

merlin6666

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It's notable that this occurred in a residential basement and not on stage. In older homes outlets may not have a third wire that is connected to ground which may cause mishaps. Most outlets in my own old (90+ years) house are not grounded, but I checked all outlets and know which ones are and which ones are not so know where to plug in things that need grounding.
 

txbumper57

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Holy CRAP, Bumper!! That's a scary a$$ story!! Sounds like you were lucky that day. YIKES!!

Yup, Pretty lucky. The only other time I ever felt a Jolt like that was when I was Building a Olefins unit at BASF in Gonzales Louisiana down by Baton Rouge. I had a guy in a scissor lift pinch the Ground cable on my Heli-Arc Welding rig between the lift and an Iron Beam while I was welding on a piece of pipe next to that beam. I was in a real tight spot trying to finish the weld so I jumped down into the lift and rested my head against the beam. When I struck up my Heli-Arc rig it knocked the fire out of me. LOL The microphone incident was a lot scarier because I was caught completely off guard.:black_eyed:
 

CA-35

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Just because there is a three-pronged receptacle does not insure that things are properly grounded. Electricity's only purpose is to find ground and if there is a short circuit and there is no path to ground for the fault to be diffused.....then upon touching the piece of equipment... YOU become the path to ground and all heck will break loose depending on the available amperage. It's not the voltage that kills you it's the amperes. And electricity under a load can kill you even at 120volts.
There are numerous ways to err when grounding so check your receptacles with a polarity tester. Electricians are inherently lazy, trust me I've worked with and around them for years. Also check that the ground wires in the panel are correctly landed on the ground buss and not the neutral buss which is a common mistake.
If this still makes you nervous where a good rubber soled shoe or stand on a piece of 3/4" plywood painted black....no one will notice, that way you do not become the path to ground in the event of a short circuit.
 

adorshki

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It's notable that this occurred in a residential basement and not on stage. In older homes outlets may not have a third wire that is connected to ground which may cause mishaps. Most outlets in my own old (90+ years) house are not grounded, but I checked all outlets and know which ones are and which ones are not so know where to plug in things that need grounding.
Merlin I don't know if you're familiar with the Yardbirds, but it happened in England.
I don't know how old his house was, but they're on 220v and I think higher standard current over there as well.
It's commonly said it's not the volts but the amperage that'll kill you.
In this case I suspect it must have been an amplifier's ground fault, like Txbumper describes, as opposed to anything capable of generating high amperage in the guitar itself.
 

5thumbs

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Just because there is a three-pronged receptacle does not insure that things are properly grounded. Electricity's only purpose is to find ground and if there is a short circuit and there is no path to ground for the fault to be diffused.....then upon touching the piece of equipment... YOU become the path to ground and all heck will break loose depending on the available amperage. It's not the voltage that kills you it's the amperes. And electricity under a load can kill you even at 120volts.
There are numerous ways to err when grounding so check your receptacles with a polarity tester. Electricians are inherently lazy, trust me I've worked with and around them for years. Also check that the ground wires in the panel are correctly landed on the ground buss and not the neutral buss which is a common mistake.
If this still makes you nervous where a good rubber soled shoe or stand on a piece of 3/4" plywood painted black....no one will notice, that way you do not become the path to ground in the event of a short circuit.

Sorry, I have to comment here. Perhaps some electricians are “inherently lazy”, but I really cannot appreciate that generalization. A retired electrician, I took pride in my work, and took it very seriously.

Building codes and standards vary from state to state and perhaps your area allowed “lazy” work. I worked extensively with strict Chicago and National codes and was never faulted.

I do not mean to start any issues, but felt a slap in the face that I had to respond to. No snickers required
 

idealassets

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Wow, thanks for the response. Just by luck I usually wear rubber souled shoes, and of course will never play where it is wet.

Also I don't like playing anywhere that everything is chaos, and nothing goes right. Its just the type of distractions where a dumb accident is liable to happen. To me its not worth it to play there.

I am hoping to get pointers from this and other blogs of things to concentrate on, since remarkably no other electric instrument player has ever mentioned any safety suggestions to me.

Thank you,
Craig
 

txbumper57

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Wow, thanks for the response. Just by luck I usually wear rubber souled shoes, and of course will never play where it is wet.

Also I don't like playing anywhere that everything is chaos, and nothing goes right. Its just the type of distractions where a dumb accident is liable to happen. To me its not worth it to play there.

I am hoping to get pointers from this and other blogs of things to concentrate on, since remarkably no other electric instrument player has ever mentioned any safety suggestions to me.

Thank you,
Craig

Hey Craig, Just to let you know, When I got popped by the microphone I had on Wolverine Rubber soled work boots. I still got nailed but probably far less than if I would have been wearing sandals, Tennis shoes, or been bare footed.:encouragement:
 

CA-35

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Sorry, I have to comment here. Perhaps some electricians are “inherently lazy”, but I really cannot appreciate that generalization. A retired electrician, I took pride in my work, and took it very seriously. Building codes and standards vary from state to state and perhaps your area allowed “lazy” work. I worked extensively with strict Chicago and National codes and was never faulted.
I do not mean to start any issues, but felt a slap in the face that I had to respond to. No snickers required

You know what you are exactly correct and I should have said in South Florida all tradespeople cut corners. I am truly sorry for my offensive comment 5thumbs.
 

CA-35

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Hey Craig, Just to let you know, When I got popped by the microphone I had on Wolverine Rubber soled work boots. I still got nailed but probably far less than if I would have been wearing sandals, Tennis shoes, or been bare footed.:encouragement:

Is it possible you were touching something at the same time you touched the mic? Something grounded you.
 

Bill Ashton

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A little "wiggie" tester is cheap, and will tell you a lot about the outlet you are connecting to...

I believe Keith Relf was in fact injured in an electrical accident, but more research may be needed to
confirm the FaceBook notation...
 

txbumper57

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Is it possible you were touching something at the same time you touched the mic? Something grounded you.

I'm well aware that something Grounded me. I was playing my electric at the same time and the ground was apparently Faulty on the Industrial Generator that was powering the stage and my Amp/Pedalboard. All that is listed in my first post.
 

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So... he was playing a Guild archtop? Which one killed him??
 

rampside

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So, apparently his guitar playing was particularly electrifying that day!

All jokes aside, electricity should never be taken for granted.

Here in iron mining country, if you do any thing that, requires you to ever be on mining property, you must initially have a minimum of 24 hours (Mine Safety and Health Administration) training and at least 8 hrs. per yr. refresher there after. The great thing(IMHO) about this, is the awareness of how easily things can happen , and they want you to be as safe at home, as on the mining properties.

The training always places a focus on electricity and along with lots of other every day stuff that's easily taken for granted. Some complain about it wasting their time, but it's given me the mind set of, stop and thing about what you're doing (something, I for one, wasn't very good at previously).:topsy_turvy:
 

adorshki

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A little "wiggie" tester is cheap, and will tell you a lot about the outlet you are connecting to...

I believe Keith Relf was in fact injured in an electrical accident, but more research may be needed to
confirm the FaceBook notation...

Story confirmed on his webpage, I checked becausue I remembered it as a microphone:
http://www.keithrelf.com/index1.html
Quote from that site's home page:
"He was 33 when he died as a result of a shock he took, in the basement of his London home - while playing his improperly earthed (i.e., grounded) guitar."
 

adorshki

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You know what you are exactly correct and I should have said in South Florida all tradespeople cut corners. I am truly sorry for my offensive comment 5thumbs.
Scott, I love ya bro but I think you're digging yourself another hole that's identical to the first one...
I suspect maybe what you really mean without the hyperbole is that you've met more than your fair share of tradespeople who should be featured on "To Catch A Contractor"?
Out here the problem seems to be tradespeople who've never been apprenticed in a trade performing shoddy workmanship because they really don't know any better.
In that case my ire is directed at the primary contractor hiring these guys out of parking lots of home improvement stores.
One of the few good reasons I see for unions (apprenticeship systems.)
But I digress.
Keith Relf's contribution to rock is vastly under-recognized, not just from the Yardbirds but also as one of the co-founders of Renaissance, which another member here loves greatly. In fact, was that you, Craig?
I'd say it could be argued that he influenced both punk AND "progressive", how many other artists out there had such a diversity of influence?
I am hoping to get pointers from this and other blogs of things to concentrate on, since remarkably no other electric instrument player has ever mentioned any safety suggestions to me.
Back on track and in the spirit of cooperation I should correct my earlier post and point out that electrics DO have ground straps in case of a grounding problem in the amp, even though they may not be the "source" of a voltage spike themsleves. So technically Keith could have been killed by an improperly grounded guitar.
I suspect one reason it rarely comes up anymore is the prevalence of modern equipment, ie, grounded plugs on amps. Still, as mentioned, it's the power source that's frequently overlooked.
 
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