Founding Yardbirds guitarist Antony “Top” Topham dies aged 75

Antony “Top” Topham
(Image credit: Denise Truscello)

Sanderson Rasjid, best known as founding Yardbirds guitarist Antony “Top” Topham, has died aged 75.

A statement shared by his publicist reads: “Sanderson Rasjid, born Antony “Top” Topham, passed away peacefully on Monday, January 23, surrounded by his family.” The statement adds that the guitarist had been fighting dementia in his final years.

It continues, “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.”

Born in London on July 3, 1947, Rasjid formed The Yardbirds 15 years later alongside singer Keith Relf, bassist Paul Samwell-Smith, drummer Jim McCarty and guitarist Chris Dreja, after becoming inspired by watching an early Rolling Stones concert at the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond.

However, the guitarist left the band within a year so as not to abandon the art degree he was studying at college, and was subsequently replaced by Eric Clapton.

After finishing his degree, Rasjid got a gig as a session musician for UK blues label Blue Horizon, with notable credits including Christine McVie’s Christine Perfect and a number of singles by Duster Bennett.

Rasjid also released a selection of solo music during his career, including a Christmas single, Christmas Cracker, in 1968, and a solo album Ascension Heights, released under the name Top Topham, in 1970.

Years later, the guitarist, then named Antony Topham, joined the Subud spiritual movement and changed his name to Sanderson Rasjid. Decades later, in 2013, Rasjid rejoined The Yardbirds, replacing his old friend Chris Dreja.

He’d been my best friend at school, and had introduced me to the music I fell in love with,” Dreja recalled of Topham and The Yardbirds’ early days in a 2007 interview with Classic Rock. “Pretty soon we were playing four or five nights a week which made it a paying proposition.”

Sanderson Rasjid is the second former Yardbirds member to have passed away in the past month. Legendary guitarist Jeff Beck died two weeks ago at the age of 78 after contracting bacterial meningitis.

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Sam Roche

Sam was Staff Writer at GuitarWorld.com from 2019 to 2023, and also created content for Total Guitar, Guitarist and Guitar Player. He has well over 15 years of guitar playing under his belt, as well as a degree in Music Technology (Mixing and Mastering). He's a metalhead through and through, but has a thorough appreciation for all genres of music. In his spare time, Sam creates point-of-view guitar lesson videos on YouTube under the name Sightline Guitar.