‘He’s sort of surviving’: Jim McCarty opens up about ailing Yardbirds legend Chris Dreja

Jim McCarty doesn’t expect his longtime Yardbirds bandmate Chris Dreja to return, saying that “he’s just sort of surviving” after suffering a pair of strokes while on tour a couple of years ago.

Dreja, who helped found the Yardbirds with McCarty, Top Topham, Keith Relf and Paul Samwell-Smith in the early 1960s, played with the band through its 1968 split. Dreja later worked with McCarty in the 1980s-era spinoff group Box of Frogs, before the Yardbirds reunited in the 1990s.

The current lineup features Andy Mitchell, David Smale and Ben King. Topham returned to take over rhythm guitar duties in 2013. Dreja hasn’t performed with the Yardbirds since the year before.

“Well, he’s OK,” McCarty tells Get Ready to Rock. “He’s sort of surviving. He can get around and survive in a quiet way, but he really can’t play any more. I think it was the 2011 tour was when he really did get ill and had two strokes. It was quite a long tour and he couldn’t carry on. So, at first we thought about carrying on as a four piece, but then thought it would be good to have Top Topham back who was the original guitar player.”

That actually closes an historical circle for the group, which saw Topham leave its original lineup in 1963. The Yardbirds’ guitar chair was then occupied by a trio of legends, including Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page.

“The great thing is that he was ready to come back,” McCarty says of Topham, “and he makes it a bit more authentic than just me and four young guys.”

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