Birth name: Eric Patrick Clapton
Born: March 30, 1945, Ripley, Surrey, England
Years active: 1962-
Official site: http://www.ericclapton.com/
Eric Clapton is one of the greatest guitarists of all time, he is currently at spot #2 on the Rolling Stones Top 100 Guitarist list. He never simply replicated the blues riffs he heard on records, rather incorporated the emotion of the original performances into his own distinctive playing style, thus building the vocabulary of blues guitar, and of rock music in general. After all, modern rock guitar is based on the blues based sound.
There is a subtle simplicity to Eric's groove, his vibe and his sound. He has played several style during his career, but he consistently return to the blues. You could say that he plays basic blues, but not in a basic way.
He lists his greatest influences in his biography:
Eric Clapton's mother was 16 years old when she gave birth, his father was a 24 year old Canadian soldier stationed in England during WW II, who returned to his wife in Canada before Eric was born. The name Clapton is from Eric's mother's side of the family.
His grandparents raised him, since his mother, at 16, could not care for him. His mother moved to Germany when Eric was a toddler, and until the age of 9, he thought his grandparents were his parents. This was a pivotal moment in Eric's life, which scarred him emotionally.
Eric was raised in a musical family, his grandmother played piano and his mother and uncle enjoyed listening to big bands. He later learned that his biological father was also a musician (piano and saxophone). Eric got his first guitar when he was 13, an inexpensive German-made Hoyerand steel stringed acoustic. It was hard to play, so he lost interest at first, but started playing it consistently from the age of 15.
At an early age, he was influenced by the blues, and devoted most of his time to learning the chords of blues records by playing along with them.
In 1963, at the age of 17, Eric joined his first band, The Roosters. He was part of several other formations before forming Cream in 1966, which brought him international fame. Cream broke up after 2 years.
In 1970, he formed Derek and the Dominos, which split up after a year, but not before releasing the rock classic Layla, the 27th greatest song of all time. The song was inspired by Eric's unfulfilled love towards George Harrison's wife.
After Derek and the Dominos split up and his unrequited love, Eric fell into a 3 year long heroin addiction.
He reemerged to reinvent himself as not just a guitarist, but also a singer in 1973, and has not stopped touring, composing and performing ever since.
He has released more than 20 studio albums, and has collaborated with the biggest names in music, like B.B. King, Keith Richards, and many more.
In 1998, Eric established the Crossroads Center located in Antigua to rehabilitate drug and alcohol addicts. He is active in its management oversight and fundraising. He regularly brings together the biggest names in music with the Crossroads Guitar Festival, to help fund the Crossroads Center. The festival has taken place in 2004, 2007, 2010 and 2013 thus far.
Eric has been married several times. He married his present wife, Melia, in 2002 and they have 3 daughters: Julie Rose (born 2001), Ella Mae (born 2003) and Sophie (born 2005). Eric’s eldest child is his daughter, Ruth (born 1985).
Eric also had a son, Conor (born 1986), who tragically died at the age of 4, when he fell from a window in his mother’s New York City apartment. This event inspired the song Tears in Heaven.
Eric Clapton's main guitar choice is the Fender Stratocaster. Fender sells a signature strat model based on Eric's specifications.
He has performed with a large variety of guitars, including:
- Fender telecaster
- Fender Jazzmaster
- Gretsch 6120
- Gibson ES-335
- Gibson Les Paul
- Gibson SG
- Fender Bass VI
- Gibson Firebird
Eric has auctioned off many of his guitar to fund charitable causes.
Eric's most famous guitar was called Blackie, which he assembled from the best components he could find. He played it from 1973 to 1985.
Eric refers to the distinctive tone he used during the '60s as the Woman Tone. The tone is quite distorted and muted, very characteristic of his style then.
He used a Gibson SG on the neck pickup, turned all the tone knobs on the guitar down to 0, and the volume knob up all the way. He plugged the guitar into a Marshall tube amp, maxed out the distortion, as well as the treble, mids and bass controls.
Classic instructional vid by the "early" Eric Clapton
MTV Unplugged full concert
Great VH1 interview