Rock Through the Ages: Eric Clapton

"I just managed to convince my grandmother that it was a worth while that was something to do, you know, and when I did finally get the guitar, it didn't seem that difficult to me, to be able to make a good noise out of it." - Eric Clapton

Eric Clapton and his guitar, in the early yearsEric Patrick Clapton is an English blues-rock guitarist, singer, songwriter and composer. He is "probably most famous for his mastery of the Stratocaster guitar."Clapton has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Yardbirds, of Cream, and as a solo performer, being the only person to be inducted three times. He is often viewed by critics and fans alike as one of the greatest guitarists of all time. In the late 1960s, one of the most prominent pieces of graffiti seen in London and New York was "Clapton is God." Eric Clapton's meandering and groundbreaking musical career has been punctuated by extreme personal hardship and tragedy. Through the emotional truth of his music, Eric Clapton has sought refuge and release from the suffering of drug and alcohol addiction, personal relationships gone awry, and the deaths of several loved ones.

Eric Patrick Clapp, was born March 30, 1945, in Ripley, Surrey, England, his mother Pat being a 16 year old unwed mother. Pat’s parents, Rose and Jack Clapp, stepped in as surrogate parents and raised Eric as their own. Thus, he grew up believing his mother was his sister. His grandparents never legally adopted him, but remained his legal guardians until 1963. Eric’s last name comes from Rose’s first husband and Pat’s father, Reginald Cecil Clapton. The world's premier living rock guitarist will be forever grateful to his grandparents, for they gave him his first guitar. He received a 14 acoustic guitar for his fourteenth birthday, then proceeded to copy the great blues guitarists note for note. Eric was raised in a musical household. His grandmother played piano and his uncle and mother both enjoyed listening to the sounds of the big bands.  As an adolescent, Eric Clapton glimpsed the future when he tuned in to a Jerry Lee Lewis appearance on British television. Lewis's explosive performance, coupled with young Eric's emerging love of the blues and American R&B, was powerful enough to ignite a desire to learn to play guitar. He commenced studies at the Kingston College of Art, but his intended career path in stained-glass design ended permanently when the blues-obsessed Clapton was expelled at seventeen for playing guitar in class.

Eric spent his early days in music hanging around Richmond and Kingston, he also began spending time in London and the West End. Eric Claptonfirst band was the Roosters, a local R&B group that included Tom McGuinness, a future member of Manfred Mann. Clapton stayed for eight months until he and McGuinness left to join Casey Jones And The Engineers. In October 1963, Keith Relf and Paul Samwell-Smith recruited him to become a member of The Yardbirds because Clapton was the most talked about guitar player on the R&B pub circuit. During his 18-month tenure with The Yardbirds, he earned his nickname, Slowhand, and recorded his first albums: Five Live Yardbirds and Sonny Boy Williamson and The Yardbirds. The band also recorded the single, “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl”. But, Eric Clapton had not abandoned his serious research into the American Blues. When The Yardbirds began moving towards a more commercial sound with “For Your Love”, he quit. His path in music was the blues. The perfect vehicle for his musical frustrations was John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, one of Britain's top blues bands.

Eric Clapton, Clapton is GOD, Eric Clapton still singing and playing the guitarIt was with Mayall that Eric Clapton would earn his second nickname: "God"! Rarely had there been a similar meteoric rise to such an exalted position. Clapton only made one album with Mayall but the record is now a classic; on its famous cover Clapton is sitting reading a copy of The Beano comic. Between Mayall and his next band, Clapton made numerous session appearances and recorded an interesting session with a conglomeration called the Powerhouse, comprised of Paul Jones, Steve Winwood, Jack Bruce, Pete York and Clapton. They recorded three tracks, "Crossroads", "I Want To Know" and "Steppin' Out". Clapton was elevated to superstar status with the formation of Cream in 1966, together with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, he created one of the most influential rock bands of our time. Additionally, due to his close friendship with George Harrison, he was asked to play the beautiful lead solo on Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" on The Beatles ("The White Album"). Cream lasted just over two years, and shortly after their demise he was back with Baker, this time in Blind Faith. The line-up was completed by Steve Winwood and Ric Grech. This "supergroup" was unable to stay together for more than one self-titled album, although their financially lucrative American tour made the impending break-up easier to bear. Eric tried to hide from his growing fame by touring as a sideman with Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, where Eric Clpaton was encouraged to sing by Delaney Bramlett. He also began composing more. A live album from the Delaney & Bonnie tour was released in 1970. Clapton’s self-titled debut was released that same year.

In the summer of 1970, Eric Clapton formed Derek and the Dominos with Jim Gordon, Carl Radle and Bobby Whitlock. The Dominos would go on to record the seminal rock album, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. A concept album, its theme revolved around Clapton’s love for George Harrison’ wife, Patti Boyd. The band would drift apart following an American tour. Hit hard by the break up of The Dominos, the commercial failure of the Layla album and his unrequited love, Eric sunk into three years of heroin addiction. He kicked his drug addiction and re-launched his career in January 1973 with two concerts at London’s Rainbow Theater organized by his friend, Pete Townshend (The Who). The concerts represented a turning point in his career. In 1974, he reappeared with a new style and sound with 461 Ocean Boulevard. Eric  Clapton had become an assured vocalist and composer in addition to a guitar hero. Clapton found additional time to play at the Band's historic The Last Waltz concert.

The early 1990s saw tragedy enter Clapton's life again. In August of 1990, fellow guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan, who was touring with Clapton, and two members of their road crew were killed in a helicopter crash. Then, in March of 1991, Clapton's four year old son Conor, died falling from a window. Clapton's grief was expressed in the song "Tears in Heaven", which was co-written by Will Jennings. He received a total of six Grammys that year for the single "Tears in Heaven" and the Unplugged album. From The Cradle wwas a worthy release, bringing him full circle in producing an electric blues album. Those guitar buffs who mourned his departure from Mayall and despaired when Cream called it a day could rejoice once again: "God" had returned. The follow-up, Pilgrim, was a long time coming, and was a great soul-influenced album, sounding more like Curtis Mayfield than anybody else. Clapton has contributed to numerous artists' albums over many years, including Phil Collins, Duane Allman, Joe Cocker, Roger Daltrey,  Bob DylanRingo Starr, Leon Russell, Roger Waters and many more. Eric has always toured extensively performing thousands of concerts around the globe. In February 2008 Eric performed three concerts with long-time friend Steve Winwood at New York’s Madison Square Garden. In 2009, Eric was on the road with his band visiting Japan, New Zealand and Australia before returning home for a 11 night stand at London’s Royal Albert Hall in May.
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Eric Clapton (Slowhand)
Rock n Roll Musician- Played with Cream, George Harrison, Derek and the Dominos, and the Yardbirds
English singer and guitar play whose songs include: "Layla", "461 Ocean Boulevard" "Crossroads", "I Want To Know" and "Steppin' Out"