Blues fans were left saddened this week after the website Noise 11 reported that former Yardbirds guitarist Anthony ‘Top’ Topham passed away at the age of 75.
RIP Anthony ‘Top’ Topham founder member and original lead guitarist of The Yardbirds when he was 15 years old pic.twitter.com/1xcv7AGi6b
— Bruce Gorrie (@bsgorrie) January 24, 2023
Topham: “We were passionate about playing blues music”
Topham discussed his early career during a 2013 interview with a website called The Back Beat. When asked if he and the other Yardbirds members originally had set their sights on attaining wealth and fame, Topham said that wasn’t the case.
“These considerations were on a different planet at that time and age,” he explained. “We were passionate about playing blues music and wanted to get better; it all took off so quickly.”
When asked to name his early influences, Topham listed Big Bill Broonzy, Blind Boy Fuller, Jimmy Reed, Jody Williams, Willie Johnson, Hubert Sumlin, Chuck Berry, and Muddy Waters.
Topham went on to note that despite frequently out earning his father, there were still serious challenges that came with trying to be a successful musician in his mid teens.
“I was only 15 then, three or four years younger than the rest, and there was no way my parents would let me go out five or six nights a week to play music,” he said.
Guitarist was replaced by Eric Clapton
Topham was ultimately told to quit the band and focus on his studies full-time, something he found to be “extremely stressful” and left him “not happy.”
He ultimately gave up his role as the Yardbirds’ lead guitarist to a then 17-year-old Eric Clapton, someone he described as “the obvious person to replace me.”
Topham’s biography on All Music states that he continued to pursue his musical ambitions by “forming bands in college during the psychedelic era” despite “never straying too far from the blues.”
Topham went on to become an art dealer
All Music characterized the album as being an example of “big-band blues,” something which was “quite removed from the Yardbirds’ old sound or much of the prevailing style of British blues of the time.”
It added that Topham was compelled in the early 1970s to take a long hiatus from music by health problems in the early 1970s and would not return until the next decade when he reunited with former Yardbirds drumer Jim McCarty to form another band.
While continuing “to work intermittently in music,” Topham also managed to build a successful career as an art dealer.