Ken Dashow

Ken Dashow

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Cofounding Yardbirds Guitarist Top Topham Dies At 75

The Yardbirds Perform At Bush Hall

Photo: WireImage

Anthony 'Top' Topham, who co-founded the Yardbirds in 1963, has died at 75 years old, according to a statement from his publicist.

"Sanderson Rasjid, born Anthony 'Top' Topham passed away peacefully on Monday, January 23rd surrounded by his family," read part of the statement. "Born in London on July 3rd 1947, he was 75 years old and had been fighting dementia in his final years."

Topham's death comes mere weeks after another former Yardbird's guitarist, Jeff Beck, passed away at age 78 following a brief illness. Topham and Beck's respective tenures in the band did not overlap.

Topham was only 15 years old when he started the Yardbirds with school friends Keith Relf, Paul Samwell-Smith, Jim McCarty and Chris Dreja. Topham and Dreja would be the first in a line of legendary guitarists (including Eric Clapton, Beck and Jimmy Page) to contribute to the hit-making rock group over the next several years.

In fact, it was Topham's departure in 1964 that opened the way for Clapton's introduction — which was followed by some of the most consequential lineup changes in rock history. Clapton's eventual departure led to Beck joining the group, who later brought on his childhood friend Page. Page eventually supplanted Beck and after a late-'60s exodus of the remaining original Yardbirds, Page remade the band into a new combo called Led Zeppelin.

Topham pursued an art degree as the Yardbirds went on to world renown. He later said that he didn't regret leaving the band because they quickly moved away from the blues sound that originally inspired him. Ironically, Clapton left the Yardbirds for John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers in 1965 because of his own disillusionment with the band's pop direction.

After returning to music, Topham found work alongside many rock luminaries, including Marc Bolan, Peter Green and Christine McVie. He left the music industry in 1970 due to health issues, but returned in 1988 to form a duo with his former bandmate McCarty.

Though Topham was not among the Yardbirds band members inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992, he eventually rejoined the band in 2013 to fill in for the departed Dreja. Topham left the Yardbirds for the final time in 2015.

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