Anthony Topham, better known professionally as Top Topham (or Anthony "Top" Topham), had the good fortune to be a founding member of the Yardbirds, one of the most respected rock acts to come out of mid-'60s England. He had the bad fortune, however, to have been born in 1947, and to be only 15 years old at the time of the group's formation. Topham was a student at Epsom Art School when he and a good friend, singer/harpist Keith Relf, recruited drummer Jim McCarty, and from there assembled what was first called the Metropolitan Blues Quartet. They soon expanded their lineup and changed their name to the Yardbirds, and they seemed to have a promising enough future, especially after they attracted the interest of Giorgio Gomelsky, a club owner who became their manager. In a way, their future looked too promising, for the tastes of Topham's parents -- the other band members, encouraged by Gomelsky, wanted to turn professional, and Topham didn't have that option; his parents had always expressed misgivings about his involvement in music, and wouldn't consider letting their 15-year-old son leave school to pursue a career as a guitarist. So he gave up his spot in the band to a schoolmate who seemed fairly promising, named Eric Clapton, who had no such misgivings, from family or anyone else, about his future as a guitarist. Ironically, Topham continued in music, forming bands in college during the psychedelic era, but never straying too far from the blues. He went to work for producer Mike Vernon at the latter's Blue Horizon label at the end of the 1960s, playing a lot of session work and also producing, and recorded one album of his own, Ascension Heights, which was big-band blues, quite removed from the Yardbirds' old sound or much of the prevailing style of British blues of the time. Health problems forced him out of music in the early '70s, and it wasn't until the 1980s that Topham returned to music, when he joined forces with the Yardbirds' former drummer to form the Top Topham-Jim McCarty Band. He had, by then, found success as an art dealer -- proving that staying in school did have its up side -- and has continued to work intermittently in music since, giving occasional live performances.
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