Founding Yardbirds guitarist Antony ‘Top’ Topham dead at 75

Top Topham onstage in 2014
(Image credit: Denise Truscello)

Sanderson Rasjid, better known as founding Yardbirds guitarist Antony ‘Top’ Topham, has died at the age of 75. The news was confirmed in a statement from his publicist.

The statement read: "Sanderson Rasjid, born Antony ‘Top’ Topham passed away peacefully on Monday January 23 rd surrounded by his family. Born in London on July 3rd 1947, he was 75 years old and had been fighting dementia in his final years.

"A founder member of the Yardbirds when they formed in May 1963, Top was their original guitarist and preceded Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page in the role. He went on to play guitar with artists including Christine McVie, Duster Bennett and Peter Green among others, and was considered by many as one of the UK’s most original blues guitarists. He was also a talented mural and fine artist and interior designer." 

Topham formed The Yardbirds as a 15-year-old, inspired by watching the newly-formed Rolling Stones perform at the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond, south west London. Joining Topham in the band's first lineup were singer Keith Relf, bassist Paul Samwell-Smith, drummer Jim McCarty and rhythm guitarist Chris Dreja.

“He’d been my best friend at school, and had introduced me to the music I fell in love with,” says Dreja. “Pretty soon we were playing four or five nights a week which made it a paying proposition.”

"I was a voracious collector of blues records,” Topham told The Blues magazine. “Any blues record that came out at that time, I knew about. It began for me in 1961, 1962, when I was a very young teenager. You must realise that nothing was said about this stuff, you had maybe 12 records you could buy."

Topham left The Yardbirds within a year rather than abandon the art degree he was studying at college, and was replaced by Eric Clapton. He would return to the band 50 years later, in 2013, in place of his old friend Dreja.    

After finishing college, Topham became a session musician for the UK blues label Blue Horizon, playing on a number of singles by blues musician Duster Bennett and on Christine McVie's Christine Perfect album. He also issued a Christmas single, Christmas Cracker, in 1968, before going on to release a debut solo album, Ascension Heights, the following year. 

“It was a collective of people whose heart was in that music,” Topham said. “We lived, ate and slept the blues. It was a very powerful thing in our lives.”

After retiring from Blue Horizon due to ill health, Topham joined the Indonesian spiritual movement Sudbud, and changed his name to Sanderson Rasjid. He would return to music in the late 1980s before eventually finding his way back to The Yardbirds. 

Topham passed away just two weeks after the death of fellow Yardbirds guitarist Jeff Beck. 

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 37 years in music industry, online for 24. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.