Who the Heck is Chris Dreja?


Once upon a time, back in the early 1960’s, there was a rhythm and blues band knocking about London called the Yardbirds.  You may have heard of their lead guitarist, a guy named Eric Clapton, arguably one of the greatest rock guitarists ever.

Their other guitarist – playing rhythm guitar – was Chris Dreja.

Well, this was the time of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones; the British Invasion.  Clapton was very much a purist when it came to rhythm and blues and wanted the Yardbirds to stay with their roots.  However, they recorded a pop song called “For Your Love” that turned out to be a monster hit.  This was the sign of the apocalypse as far as Eric Clapton was concerned.  He left the band and went on to front a number of other bands, in between having a pretty successful solo career over the next several decades.

Now, you’d think that Chris – being the solid sort of fellow he was – would get moved up in the lineup; maybe become lead guitarist?  Nope.  Instead The Yardbirds hired a guy named Jeff Beck; again, arguably one of the greatest rock guitarists ever.

Now, this was late 1965, going into 1966 and The Yardbirds followed up “For Your Love” with some pretty solid hits and a lot of touring.  It turned out that poor Jeff Beck had a bit of a drinking problem.  Actually, he didn’t have a problem with drinking; he had that down pat.  He had a problem showing up for gigs after drinking.  And that ended up being a pretty serious problem for The Yardbirds.  In the end, they had to fire him.

Now, they’d had a bit of bad luck with Eric and Jeff as lead guitarists.  You’d think they would have taken another look at Chris, who was still there, playing rhythm guitar.  Maybe this was his moment to shine?

Nope.

Instead, they hired another lead guitarist; a man named Jimmy Page, arguably (and you can say it with me here) one of the greatest rock guitarists ever.

Now, Jimmy had been a studio musician up to this point.  He’d played on other people’s records as needed; working with everyone from The Who to Herman’s Hermits.  He liked being in The Yardbirds.  Unfortunately, this was 1968 and none of the other Yardbirds much liked being in The Yardbirds.  In the end, the rest of the band took off.  Jimmy was left with the name, if he wanted it, and Chris Dreja.  Well, Jimmy hired some replacement musicians: he got an old friend named John Paul Jones to play bass, a guy named Robert Plant was pulled in to sing vocals, Jon Bonham played drums.  Chris was asked to stay, but he declined.  The New Yardbirds ended up not lasting too long.  They ripped it up one night in London with The Who’s Keith Moon in attendance in the audience.

“Man!” he said (according to legend), “You guys went down like a lead zeppelin!”  Thus, the New Yardbirds went on to become Led Zeppelin and Chris Dreja went on to become… Chris Dreja.

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