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Eric Clapton

Eric Clapton

Ian Gavan

Eric Clapton

Eric Patrick Clapp, was born March 30, 1945, in Ripley, Surrey. The world's premier living rock guitarist will be forever grateful to his grandparents for they gave him his first guitar. The young Eric was raised by his grandparents Rose and Jack Clapp when his natural mother could not face bringing up an illegitimate child at the age of 16. He received a £14 acoustic guitar for his 14th birthday, then proceeded to copy the great blues guitarists note for note.

His first band was the Roosters, a local R&B group that included Tom McGuinness, a future member of Manfred Mann, and latterly part of the Blues Band. Clapton stayed for eight months until he and McGuinness left to join Casey Jones And The Engineers. This brief sojourn ended in 1963 when Clapton was sought out by the Yardbirds, an aspiring R&B band, who needed a replacement for their guitarist Tony Topham.

The reputation swiftly established by the Yardbirds was largely centred on Clapton, who had already been nicknamed 'Slowhand' by the partisan crowd at Richmond's Crawdaddy club. Clapton stayed for 18 months until musical differences interfered. The Yardbirds were taking a more pop-orientated direction and he just wanted to play the blues. He departed shortly after the recording of For Your Love.

The perfect vehicle for his musical frustrations was John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, one of Britain's top blues bands. It was with Mayall that 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. They recorded three tracks - Crossroads, I Want To Know and Steppin' Out - the line-up comprising Paul Jones, Steve Winwood, Jack Bruce, Pete York and Clapton.

Clapton was elevated to superstar status with the formation of Cream in 1966, and together with ex-Graham Bond Organisation members 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 White Album. Cream lasted just over two years, and shortly after their demise he was back with Baker, this time in Blind Faith.

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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. During the tour Clapton befriended Delaney And Bonnie, decided that he wanted to be their guitarist, and then joined them before the sweat had dried following his last Blind Faith gig in January 1970. He played on one album, Delaney And Bonnie On Tour, and three months later he had again absconded and finished up recording the disappointing Eric Clapton. Most of the previous band sessioned on that recording and three members (Jim Gordon, Bobby Whitlock and Carl Radle) ended up flying over to the UK to join Clapton again.

The band then metamorphosed into Derek And The Dominos. This memorable unit, together with Duane Allman, recorded one of his most famous compositions, the perennial Layla. This clandestine love song was directed at George Harrison's wife Pattie, with whom Clapton had become besotted. Harrison, unaware of this, invited him to play at his historic The Concert For Bangladesh in August 1971. Clapton then struggled to overcome a heroin habit that had grown out of control, since being introduced to the drug during the recording of Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs. During the worst moments of his addiction he began to pawn some of his precious guitars and spent up to £1,500 a week to feed his habit. Pete Townshend of the Who was appalled to discover that Clapton was selling his guitars and proceeded to try to rescue him and his girlfriend Alice Ormsby-Gore. Townshend organised the famous Eric Clapton At The Rainbow concert as part of his rehabilitation crusade, along with Steve Winwood, Ric Grech, Ron Wood and Jim Capaldi.

His appearance broke two years of silence, and wearing the same suit he had worn at the Bangladesh concert, he played a majestic set. Although still addicted, this was a turning point, and following pleas from his girlfriend's father, Lord Harlech, he entered the Harley Street clinic of Dr Meg Patterson for treatment.

A rejuvenated Clapton began to record again and released the buoyant 461 Ocean Boulevard in August 1974. The future pattern was set on this album; gone were the long guitar solos, replaced instead by relaxed vocals over shorter, more compact songs. The record was an incredible success, a No.1 hit in the US and No. 3 in the UK. The singles drawn from it were also hits, notably his number 1 US hit with Bob Marley's I Shot The Sheriff. Also included was the autobiographical message to himself, Give Me Strength, and the beautifully mantric Let It Flow. Clapton ended 1974 on a high note; not only had he returned from the grave, but he had finally succeeded in winning the heart of Pattie Harrison. During 1975 he maintained his drug-free existence, although he became dependent on alcohol.

But he maintained his reputation, and since then Clapton has continued to grow in stature. During 1977 and 1978 he released two more major albums, Slowhand and Backless.

Clapton had completely shrugged off his guitar hero persona and had now become an assured vocalist and songwriter, who, by chance, played guitar. A whole new audience, many of whom had never heard of the Yardbirds or Cream, saw Clapton as a wholesome, healthy individual with few vices, and no cobwebs in his attic. He even found additional time to play at the Band's Last Waltz concert.

He has enjoyed a high profile in recent years with his touring television documentaries, biographies, and the now annual season of concerts at London's Royal Albert Hall. In 1998, he parted ways with his long-time manager Roger Forrester aiming to spend more time working with Crossroads, the drug rehabilitation centre he founded in Antigua. He changes his styles of rock music as often as he changes his hairstyle but ultimately he returns time and again to his first affair, the blues. Eric Clapton plays the Odyssey on May 10

A life so far ...

Eric Patrick Clapton, CBE is an English guitarist, vocalist, and 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 is hailed as one of the most important and influential guitarists of all time.

He ranked fourth 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.


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