Sitting in bare feet on the edge of a massive bed with a carved wood headboard, Eric Clapton talked with Guitar Player. His soft-spoken manner made it difficult to hear his words clearly over the noise of conga drums and tourist chatter rising from Sausalito’s main street. Eric’s hotel room overlooked the park where so many of San Francisco’s freaks and hip-types spend pleasant Marin County afternoons watching the tourists watch them.
With thin, sculptured fingers and fine, collar-length hair parted in the middle, Eric has the reserved bearing common to most Englishmen. He was born a quarter of a century ago to a working class family in a small town 30 miles south of London. Soon after his short-lived art school education, he was playing lead guitar for the Yardbirds. That was the beginning of a career that has netted Eric Clapton fame, fortune, and—strangely enough—humility. In the midst of the whirlwind madness of first-line appearances at San Francisco’s Fillmore West and elsewhere, Eric has preserved a quiet dignity.
Eric left the Yardbirds to join John Mayall, England’s foremost patron of American blues. He stayed with Mayall for two years. During that period, he mastered the blues idiom, and that training has been the cornerstone of the Clapton sound ever since. After the Mayall band, Eric got together with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker. The result was the phenomenal Cream. Particularly for underground audiences, the Cream was a dynasty of sound. Through four unbelievable record albums and as many tours, no rock group had more charisma with audiences than the Cream. Cream followers were cultish in their enthusiasm. Eric’s entrancingly sustained notes were an apex of rock-guitar solos.
Since the Cream, Eric formed and toured with Blind Faith, and has played guitar behind Delaney and Bonnie and the Beatles. He sings, plays guitar, and has written most of the tunes on a record album, Eric Clapton Sings, recorded in Los Angeles on the Atlantic label.
When I saw you recently with Delaney and Bonnie, I noticed you weren’t using the Les Paul you used with the Cream.
I still play a Les Paul. But with Delaney and Bonnie, I used an old Stratocaster I’d acquired. It’s really, really good—a great sound. It’s just right for the kind of bag I was playing with them. more