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6/25/07

Eric Clapton


Eric Patrick Clapton CBE (born 30 March 1945), nicknamed "Slowhand", is a Grammy Award winning English guitarist, singer and composer, who is one of the most successful musicians of the 20th century, garnering an unprecedented three inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Often viewed as one of the greatest guitarists of all time among critics and fans alike, Eric Clapton was ranked 4th in Rolling Stone’s list of The Greatest Guitarists of All Time and #53 on their list of the The Immortals: 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

Although Clapton's musical style has varied throughout his career, it has always remained rooted in the blues. Clapton is credited as an innovator in several phases of his career, which have included blues-rock (with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers and The Yardbirds) and psychedelic rock (with Cream). Clapton has also achieved great chart success in genres ranging from Delta blues (Me and Mr. Johnson) to pop ("Change the World") and reggae ("I Shot the Sheriff"). Clapton also achieved fame with Derek and the Dominos with the song "Layla".

Eric Clapton's guitar
Clapton's choice of electric guitars have been as notable as the man himself, and alongside Hank Marvin, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix, Clapton has exerted a crucial and widespread influence in popularising particular models of the electric guitar.

Early on in his career, Clapton used both Gibson and Fender guitars, but became exclusively a Gibson player in mid-1965, when he purchased a used 1959 Gibson Les Paul Sunburst Standard guitar from Police guitarist Andy Summers, which he used on the 1966 album with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers and was largely responsible for Gibson's reintroduction of the original Les Paul body style after it was replaced by the Gibson SG.

Early during his stint in Cream, his treasured 1960 Les Paul Standard was stolen, although Clapton continued to play Gibson guitars with Cream and Blind Faith including Les Paul models, a Gibson Firebird and a Gibson ES-335, but his most famous guitar in this period was a 1964 Gibson SG. The guitar was noted for its remarkable, psychedelic appearance. In early 1967, just before their first US promotional tour, Clapton's SG, Bruce's Fender VI and Baker's drum head were repainted in eye-popping psychedelic designs created by the visual art collective known as The Fool.

Clapton played a Les Paul on the Beatles' studio recording of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." He later lent his SG to singer 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." Rundgren played the guitar extensively on record and in concert in the mid-1970s, eventually retiring it in 1977. He retained it until 2000, when he sold it at an auction for US$150,000.

During Clapton's heroin addiction from 1969 to 1974, he began to sell off his collection of guitars to pay for his drug habit. Seeing Clapton selling his most treasured possessions was one of the reasons Pete Townshend was prompted to help him get over his addiction. Slowhand occasionally used a sunburst Fender Custom Telecaster with a Stratocaster neck during a Blind Faith concert at Hyde Park (1969-70).

Another moment involving Clapton's guitars and Pete Townshend resulted in Hard Rock Cafe's unique and gigantic collection of memorabilia. In 1971, Clapton, a regular at the original Hard Rock Cafe in Hyde Park, London, gave a signed guitar to the cafe to designate his favourite bar stool. Pete Townshend, in turn, donated one of his own guitars, with a note attached: "Mine's as good as his! Love, Pete." From there, the collection of memorabilia grew, resulting in Hard Rock Cafe's atmosphere.

Later (due to the influence of Jimi Hendrix and fellow Blind Faith bandmate Steve Winwood, as well as his love of Buddy Guy's sound), Slowhand began using Fender Stratocasters. First was "Brownie" used during the recording of Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs which in 1971 became the backup to the most famous of all Clapton's guitars, "Blackie." In 1970, Eric bought 6 Fender Stratocasters from the Sho-bud guitar shop in Nashville, Tennessee. He gave one to George Harrison, Steve Winwood and Pete Townshend. He used the best components of the remaining three to create "Blackie." On 24 June 2004, Clapton sold "Blackie" at Christie’s Auction House, New York for $959,500 to raise funds for his Crossroads Centre for drug and alcohol addictions. It held the world record for most expensive guitar until a white Fender Stratocaster, signed by Clapton and a number of other artists, was auctioned to help raise money for victims of 2004's tsunami disaster.

During the "Edge of Darkness" period in 1985, Clapton briefly played a red Roland G-505 synth guitar controller with two synthesizers (Roland GR 700 and PG 200 floor pedals). This Japanese Strat copy from 1982 was also used for the "Never Make You Cry" track from the "Behind the Sun" album (recorded that same year) and during The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking tour with Roger Waters in 1984. The guitar was sold in the 1999 Clapton Crossroads auction at Christie's for $29,000 and went for $36,000 at the Rock 'n' Roll / Hollywood Auction presented by the London-based Cooper Owen auction house in association with Barrett-Jackson of Scottsdale (AZ) on January 15, 2007.

In 1988 Fender honoured Clapton, along with fellow Strat player Yngwie Malmsteen, with the introduction of his signature Eric Clapton Stratocaster. These were the first two artist models in the Stratocaster range and since then the artist series has grown to include models inspired by both Clapton's contemporaries such as Mark Knopfler, Jeff Beck and those who have influenced him such as Buddy Guy. The late Stevie Ray Vaughan also has an artist series model. Clapton has also been honoured with a signature-model acoustic guitar made by the famous American firm of C.F. Martin & Co..

In 1999, Clapton auctioned off some of his guitar collection to raise over $5 million for continuing support of Crossroads Centre in Antigua, which he founded in 1997. The Crossroads Centre is a treatment base for addictive disorders like 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 also held on 24 June 2004. The total revenue garnered by this auction at Christie's was US $7,438,624.

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