Birth name: Eric Patrick Clapton
Also known as: Slowhand
Born: 30 March 1945
Ripley, Surrey, England
Genres: Rock, blues rock, blues, psychedelic rock, hard rock
Instruments: Vocals, guitar, piano
Years active: 1962–present
Labels: Warner Bros., Reprise, Polydor, RSO, Atco, Apple, Deram
Associated acts: The Yardbirds, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, Powerhouse, Robert Cray, Cream, Free Creek, The Dirty Mac, Blind Faith, J.J. Cale, The Plastic Ono Band, Delaney, Bonnie & Friends, Derek and the Dominos, Sheryl Crow, The Beatles, Phil Collins, The Rolling Stones, Luciano Pavarotti, The Band, Freddie King, B.B. King, Mark Knopfler, Brian Wilson, John Mayer, Roger Waters, Dire Straits, Elton John, George Harrison
- “Blackie”: Fender Stratocaster
- “Brownie”: Fender Stratocaster
Eric Patrick Clapton, CBE (born 30 March 1945) is an English guitarist and singer-songwriter. Clapton is the only three-time inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: once as a solo artist, and separately as a member of The Yardbirds and Cream. Clapton has been referred to as one of the most important and influential guitarists of all time. Clapton ranked second in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” and fourth in Gibson’s Top 50 Guitarists of All Time.
In the mid 1960s, Clapton departed from the Yardbirds to play blues with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers. In his one-year stay with Mayall, Clapton gained the nickname “Slowhand”. Immediately after leaving Mayall, Clapton formed Cream, a power trio with drummer Ginger Baker and bassist Jack Bruce in which Clapton played sustained blues improvisations and “arty, blues-based psychedelic pop.” For most of the 1970s, Clapton’s output bore the influence of the mellow style of J.J. Cale and the reggae of Bob Marley. His version of Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff” helped reggae reach a mass market. Two of his most popular recordings were “Layla”, recorded by Derek and the Dominos, another band he formed and Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads”, recorded by Cream. A recipient of seventeen Grammy Awards, in 2004 Clapton was awarded a CBE at Buckingham Palace for services to music. In 1998, Clapton, a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, founded the Crossroads Centre on Antigua, a medical facility for recovering substance abusers. more at Wikipedia…
Clapton’s choice of electric guitars has been as notable as the man himself; alongside Hank Marvin, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix, Clapton exerted a crucial and widespread influence in popularising particular models of electric guitar. With the Yardbirds, Clapton played a Fender Telecaster, a Fender Jazzmaster, a double-cutaway Gretsch 6120, and a 1964 Cherry-Red Gibson ES-335. He became exclusively a Gibson player for a period beginning in mid-1965, when he purchased a used sunburst Gibson Les Paul guitar from a guitar store in London. Clapton commented on the slim profile of the neck, which would indicate it was a 1960 model.
Early during his stint in Cream, Clapton’s first Les Paul Standard was stolen. He continued to play Les Pauls exclusively with Cream (one bought from Andy Summers was almost identical to the stolen guitar) until 1967, when he acquired his most famous guitar in this period, a 1964 Gibson SG. Just before Cream’s first U.S. appearance in 1967, Clapton’s SG, Bruce’s Fender VI, and Baker’s drum head were all repainted in psychedelic designs created by the visual art collective known as The Fool. In 1968 Clapton bought a Gibson Firebird and started using the 1964 Cherry-Red Gibson ES-335 again. The aforementioned 1964 ES-335 had a storied career. Clapton used it at the last Cream show in November 1968 as well as with Blind Faith, played it sparingly for slide pieces in the 1970s, used it on “Hard Times” from Journeyman, the Hyde Park live concert of 1996, and the From the Cradle sessions and tour of 1994–95. It was sold for US$847,500 at a 2004 auction. Gibson produced a limited run of 250 “Crossroads 335” replicas. The 335 was only the second electric guitar Clapton bought.
In July 1968 Clapton gave George Harrison a 1957 ‘goldtop’ Gibson Les Paul that been refinished with a red colour. The following September, Clapton played the guitar on the Beatles’ studio recording of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. His SG found its way into the hands of George Harrison’s friend Jackie Lomax, who subsequently sold it to musician Todd Rundgren for US$500 in 1972. Rundgren restored the guitar and nicknamed it “Sunny”, after “Sunshine of Your Love”. He retained it until 2000, when he sold it at an auction for US$150,000. At the 1969 Blind Faith concert in Hyde Park, London Clapton played a Fender Custom Telecaster, which was fitted with “Brownie”‘s neck.
In late 1969 Clapton made the switch to the Fender Stratocaster. “I had a lot of influences when I took up the Strat. First there was Buddy Holly, and Buddy Guy. Hank Marvin was the first well known person over here in England who was using one, but that wasn’t really my kind of music. Steve Winwood had so much credibility, and when he started playing one, I thought, oh, if he can do it, I can do it.” The first—used during the recording of Eric Clapton—was “Brownie”, which in 1974 became the backup to the most famous of all Clapton’s guitars, “Blackie”. In November 1970 Eric bought six Fender Stratocasters from the Sho-bud guitar shop in Nashville, Tennessee while on tour with the Dominos. He gave one each to George Harrison, Steve Winwood, and Pete Townshend.
Clapton with “Blackie” on tour in the Netherlands, 1978
Clapton assembled the best components of the remaining three to create “Blackie”, which was his favourite stage guitar until its retirement in 1985. It was first played live 13 January 1973 at the Rainbow Concert. Clapton called the 1956/57 Strat a “mongrel”. On 24 June 2004, Clapton sold “Blackie” at Christie’s Auction House, New York, for US$959,500 to raise funds for his Crossroads Centre for drug and alcohol addictions. “Brownie” is now on display at the Experience Music Project. The Fender Custom Shop has since produced a limited run of 275 ‘Blackie’ replicas, correct in every detail right down to the ‘Duck Brothers’ flight case, and artificially aged using Fender’s ‘Relic’ process to simulate years of hard wear. One was presented to Eric upon the model’s release and was used for three numbers during a concert at the Royal Albert Hall on 17 May 2006.
In 1981 Clapton gave his signed Fender Lead II guitar to the Hard Rock Cafe to designate his favourite bar stool. Pete Townshend also donated his own Gibson Les Paul guitar, with a note attached: “Mine’s as good as his! Love, Pete.”
In 1988 Fender honoured Clapton with the introduction of his signature Eric Clapton Stratocaster. These were the first two artist models in the Stratocaster range. Since then, the artist series has grown to include models inspired by Clapton’s contemporaries such as Rory Gallagher, Mark Knopfler, Jeff Beck, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, and by those who have influenced him, such as Buddy Guy. Clapton uses Ernie Ball Slinky and Super Slinky strings, gauge .10 to.46. Clapton has been honoured with several signature-model 000-sized acoustic guitars made by the American firm of C.F. Martin & Company. The first, of these, introduced in 1995, was a limited edition 000-42EC Eric Clapton signature model with a production run of 461. As of December 2007, Martin had produced seven EC signature models. His 1939 000-42 Martin that he played on the Unplugged album sold for US$791,500 at auction. Clapton plays a custom 000-ECHF Martin these days.
In 1999, Clapton auctioned off some of his guitar collection to raise more than US$5 million for continuing support of the Crossroads Centre in Antigua, which he founded in 1997. The Crossroads Centre is a treatment base for addictive disorders such as drugs and alcohol. In 2004 Clapton organised and participated in the Crossroads Guitar Festival to benefit the Centre. A second guitar auction, including the “Cream” of Clapton’s collection – as well as guitars donated by famous friends – was held on 24 June 2004. His Lowden acoustic guitar sold for US$41,825. The revenue garnered by this auction at Christie’s was US$7,438,624.
In 2010 Eric Clapton announced that he would be auctioning off over 150 items at a New York auction in 2011. Proceeds will benefit his Crossroads Centre in Antigua. Items include Clapton’s guitar from the Cream reunion tour in 2005, speaker cabinets used in the early 1970s from his days with Derek and the Dominoes, and some guitars from Jeff Beck, J.J. Cale, and Joe Bonamassa. In March 2011 Clapton raised more than US$2.15 million when he auctioned off key items, including a 1984 Gibson hollow body guitar, a Gianni Versace suit from his 1990 concert at the Royal Albert Hall, and a replica of the famous Fender Stratocaster known as “Blackie”, which fetched more than $30,000. All proceeds from the auction were donated to Clapton’s Crossroads drug and rehabilitation centre in Antigua.
The “woman tone” is the informal term used by Clapton to refer to his distinctive mid- to late-1960s electric guitar sound, created using his Gibson SG solid body guitar (with Humbucker pick-ups) and a Marshall tube amplifier. It is an overdriven sound that is articulate yet thick. It is characterised by being quite distorted (or even achieved with a fuzz) but muted, in contrast to the bright and twangy distortion that most guitarists were using at the time. Many players have tried to duplicate it, usually without success, in part because Clapton’s playing technique had a lot to do with the tone.
Among the techniques used to replicate Clapton’s sound is a technique by which the amplifier’s volume is turned up to full, while the guitar’s tone knob is turned down to zero or one.
Perhaps the best example of the “woman tone” is Clapton’s famous riff and solo from Cream’s 1967 hit “Sunshine of Your Love”. Clapton has explained that he obtained the tone with his Gibson’s tone control rolled all the way down, switching to the neck pick-up (closest to the fretboard) and the volume all the way up, with his distortion turned all the way up. The treble, mids and bass controls on the amplifier were also maxed out. Some versions of the “woman tone” may also have involved strategic positioning of Clapton’s wah-wah pedal.
- Fender Eric Clapton Signature Stratocaster (aka Blackie)
- Gibson 1960 Les Paul Standard Sunburst
- Gibson SG Standard
- Gibson ES-335
- Gibson Firebird
- Fender Telecaster blonde 1952
- Martin 000-28EC Eric Clapton signature model
- Gibson Signature Eric Clapton 1960 Les Paul guitar
- Gibson Les Paul Custom black (seen playing on stage with John Lennon in a 1969 video)
- Gibson Custom 1957 Les Paul Custom 2-Pickup Vos Electric Guitar Ebony
- BC Rich Seagull
Amps and Cabinets
- Fender EC Clapton guitar amps
- Vox AC-30
- Marshall 1962 2X12 45-watt combo (BluesBreaker) (output tubes changed to KT66’s)
- Marshall JCM800 Lead 1959 100-watt Marshall Heads
- Fender Twin (Tweed. Modified by Caesar Diaz, used in 80’s and 90’s)
- Marshall Cabs
- Marshall 1960B and 1960A Cabinets / 4×12
- Marshall JTM-45 Head
- Soldano SLO-100 heads
- Soldano SLO100 Super Lead Overdrive Amp Head with Depth Mod Gray Boa fier
- Cornell Custom 80 combo amplifier
- 1974 Pignose amp
- Fender Vibro-king amplifiers
- Fender tweed Champ amp (Layla)
- Fender 57 Champ Custom 5W 1×8 Tube Guitar Combo Amp Tweed
Effects and Floor
Note: Eric Clapton does not use an overdrive pedal. He gets all of the overdrive from the 25dB boost in his guitar, a Fender Eric Clapton Signature Stratocaster.
- Digitech Eric Clapton CrossRoads Signature pedal
- Boss Chorus CE-3
- Boss CE-5 Chorus Ensemble Pedal
- Leslie pedal
- Jim Dunlop 535 Crybaby wah-wah pedal
- Dunlop Jimi Hendrix Wah Wah Pedal
- Vox Wah Wah Pedal
- Boss TR-2 Tremelo Pedal
- DBX 160 compressor
- Samson wireless pack
- Avalon DI box
Strings and picks
- Ernie Ball 10-46 gauge Regular Slinky strings (for electric)
- Martin MEC13 Clapton’s Choice Bronze Acoustic Guitar strings
- Ernie Ball Regular Slinky Acoustic Phosphor Bronze .012 – .054
- Ernie Ball heavy guitar picks