Eric Clapton "Slow Hand" is a famous English guitarist, singer and composer. He excels in blues, and was ranked nº4 in Rolling Stone's "100 Guitarists of all time". He has released or taken part in over 50 different albums, either on his own or in the different formations he has taken part in his large career.
He also belongs to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame three times: for Cream, The Yardbirds and his solo albums. He is nº53 in Rolling Stone's "100 Greatest Artists of All Time". On top of that, he also belongs to the Order of the British Empire (CBE).
Eric Clapton was born in Ripley, England, in 1945. His father abandoned his mother and he never got to meet him. Later on, his mother left him to be raised by his grandparents. He started playing guitar at the age of 13, he was self-taught in his beginnings, when he tried to emulate the songs he liked, specially blues. At the age of 17 he took part in his first band "The Roosters", a rhythm and blues formation, for a short time, before playing with another band, Casey Jones and the Engineers, also for a brief period of time.
In 1963 he joined The Yarbirds, a rock/blues band. This way he toured England and began to earn a well deserved reputation as guitarist, but he left the group because he didn't like the orientation the band was leaning towards, specially after the release of the single "For your love", which he refused to play. It was during these concerts that he got his nickname "Slow Hand", not because he played slow (he can be lightning fast), but because the audience always clapped slowly when he broke a string and replaced it on stage.
In 1965 Clapton was part of John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, and by the end of the year that he stayed with them he was already considered a cult guitarist, with a legion of followers who saw him as one of the most skilled blues guitarists of all time.
In 1966 Clapton formed the band Cream along with Jack Bruce as singer & bassist and Ginger Baker on the drums. The band toured Europe and USA, and were famous for they long jamming and emotional gigs, with a mixture of blues, rock and jazz. The band was active only between 1966 and 1968, but in that time they became extreamly successful, releasing four studio albums and three live albums, selling millions of copies, with widely known hits such as "Crossroads" and "Sunshine of Your Love".
Cream split in 1968 due to growing tension between Clapton and Ginger Baker, and soon afterwards they released their album "Goodbye", featuring live perfomances and a collaboratuon with George Harrison which would lead to many other releases involving Clapton in George Harrison's future recordings.
Twenty five years later Cream would briefly join again to give a few concerts though.
1969 - 1977
In 1969 Clapton joined Blind Faith for a few months, releasing one album and its subsequent tour. He soon got tired and decided to tour as guitarist with Delaney and Bonnie and Friends, and also found time to release his first solo album at the same time, named "Eric Clapton". It was 1970 and Clapton not only had switched bands twice, but also released his first LP and recorded with many other different artists such as Ringo Starr, King Curtis, Howlin' Wolf, Plastic Ono Band, and some others.
In Spring 1970 he decided to form yet another "famous artists" band, called Derek and the Dominos (called Eric and friends at first), which lasted a year, until 1971. It was in those days that Clapton & George Harrison were so close, that Clapton wrote many of the songs for the Derek and the Dominos album "Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs", including (surprise!) "Layla" as its main hit, one of the most famous songs Clapton ever wrote. Clapton wrote that song thinking of Harrison's wife, which he fell in love for. "Layla" album is regarded as one of his bewst ever made, and it was recorded with the aid of Allman Brothers guitarist Duane Allman.
Though the album was great the critics weren't so good at release, and that fact coupled with the recent death of Clapton's admired friend Jimi Hendrix were part of the reasons that made Clapton fall in a drug addiction and alcoholism. Derek and the Dominos went on tour but soon they split.
Bad years were ahead for Clapton as he left the stages and felt deep into a heroin addiction until 1973, year in which Pete Townshend (The Who) helped him to come back organising a concert for the occasion. Come 1974, cured from his addiction, and being with Harrison's ex-wife Pattie Boyd, he released a new solo album named "461 Ocean Boulevard". One year later he released "There's One in Every Crowd", and went on tour again, resulting in a live album, "E.C. Was Here.".
In 1976 came "No reason to cry" and a year later "Slowhand", which included his famous hits "Wonderful Tonight" and "Cocaine".
In 1981 he teamed up with Jeff Beck, released some duets, and also took part in the Amnesty International concert.
The 80s were not good years for Clapton though, as he fell into addictions once more.
In 1983 he became friend of Roger Waters (Pink Floyd), recorded and went on tour with him. In 1985 Clapton released "Behind the Sun", followed by "August" in 1986, produced along with Phill Collins, with whom he toured for a couple years.
In 1989 Clapton released "Journeyman", a good album with amazing collaborations from George Harrison, Phil Collins & Mick Jones among others.
Tragedy was about to hit hard Clapton's life though: in 1989 Clapton divorced Boyd, having a son named Conor with an Italian model 5 years before. Then in 1991 Conor died falling from the 53rd floor of their apartment in NYC. As a result of such tragic incident Clapton wrote another of his most memorable songs, "Tears in heaven".
If that was not enough, just a couple years before, in 1989 another tragic death had ocurred: Stevie Ray Vaughan, the amazing guitarist and friend of Clapton was on tour with him, and he died in a helicopter crash in between gigs.
ç Eric Clapton surprised his fans in 1992 with an unplugged album that featured "Tears in Heaven", which surprisingly became his best selling album to date.
In 1994 Clapton released his live album "From the Craddle", really bluesy, reaching nº1 on the Billboard and getting the Grammy as Best Traditional Blues Album. Three years after he would record the studio album "Pilgrim". He made collaborations with BB King, Santana and Sheril Crow (With whom he had a brief relation), and two years later, in 1999 he married a twenty three year old named Melia McEnery.
In 2001 he released a new album named "Reptile", and two more in 2004 covering classics of Robert Johnson. From then on he re-united with Cream to give some concerts, and made lots of collaborations with famous artists and tribute & benefit concerts, being remarkable the one to George Harrison, and the release of "The Road to Escondido" in 2006 along with J.J. Cale.
Now a days he is working on a new album along with Robbie Robertson (The Band), with whom he has played some concerts in 2008. He has also been invited to play live in North Korea, the concert should take place sometime in 2009.
Since young, Clapton stayed away from pop music and preferred listening to Big Bill Broonzy, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters and Sonny Boy Williamson. His roots were the blues, and as such he grew strong into a legendary guitarist. Other artists he has learnt from and sometimes covered in his gigs are Buddy Guy, Freddie King and B. B. King, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Albert King, Jimi Hendrix and Elmore James.
But if we had to choose just one guitarist of all time it would have to be Robert Johnson, in Clapton's own words: "Robert Johnson to me is the most important blues musician who ever lived. He was true, absolutely, to his own vision, and as deep as I have gotten into the music over the last 30 years, I have never found anything more deeply soulful than Robert Johnson. His music remains the most powerful cry that I think you can find in the human voice, really. ... it seemed to echo something I had always felt."
He started out playing Gibson guitars, specially Les Pauls, but also SG, ES-335 and Firebird when he was with Cream. later on he switched to Fender, specially Fender Stratocaster, he made his own Stratocaster out of the best pieces of three starts he bought, and being black he called it "Blackie". Since 1988 there's an Eric Clapton Signature Strat (first signature strat created), named after "Blackie". He also played other Fenders such as the Telecaster during his time in The Yardbirds.
As for amps he has also used a huge variety ranging from Vox AC-30 with The Yardbirds, Marshall 2x12 40W Combo with The Bluesbreakers, 1959 100W Marshall heads through 4x12 cabs with Cream and Fender Showman & Fender Champ in his days with Blind Faith and Derek and the Dominoes.
His setup, in his own words: "All of them (guitars) need to be about 1/8" in the action, and I like it to be constant all the way down. I can't stand it if the nut is low, and the action gets higher as you go up the neck. I always take the wang bar off and have five springs, and just tighten the whole thing up. I like frets to be generally somewhere between a Strat and a Les Paul. Les Pauls are too thick, and Fenders are sometimes too thin. The Fender Elite is very nice because it's a blend. The neck on Blackie, the Strat I play all the time, is probably my favorite shape. It's almost triangular on the back -- V-shaped -- with a slightly curved fingerboard, as opposed to the flat one. That, to me, is the best."
Clapton's strings are usually Ernie Ball Slinky and Super Slinky strings, .009, .011, .016, .024, .032, .042.
1964 Sonny Boy Williamson and The Yardbirds (live)
1964 Five Live Yardbirds (live)
1965 For Your Love
1965 Having a Rave Up
John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers
1966 Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton
1966 What's Shakin'
1966 Fresh Cream
1967 Disraeli Gears
1968 Wheels of Fire
1969 Best of Cream
1970 Live Cream (live)
1972 Live Cream Volume II (live)
1972 Heavy Cream (compilation)
1983 Strange Brew (compilation)
1995 The Very Best of Cream (compilation)
1997 Those Were the Days (box set)
2000 20th Century Masters (compilation)
2003 BBC Sessions (compilation)
2005 Cream Gold (compilation)
2005 Royal Albert Hall London May 2-3-5-6 2005 (live)
1969 Blind Faith
Delaney & Bonnie & Friends
1970 On Tour with Eric Clapton (live)
Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band
1974 The History of the Bonzos (compilation)
1992 Cornology (compilation)
2000 New Tricks (compilation)
Derek and the Dominos
1970 Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs
1973 In Concert
1990 The Layla Sessions: 20th Anniversary Edition
1994 Live at the Fillmore
1970 Eric Clapton
1974 461 Ocean Boulevard
1975 There's One in Every Crowd
1976 No Reason to Cry
1981 Another Ticket
1983 Money and Cigarettes
1985 Behind the Sun
1994 From the Cradle
2000 Riding with the King
2004 Me and Mr. Johnson
2004 Sessions for Robert J
2005 Back Home
2006 The Road to Escondido (with J. J. Cale)
1973 Eric Clapton's Rainbow Concert
1975 E.C. Was Here
1980 Just One Night
1991 24 Nights
1996 Crossroads 2: Live in the Seventies
1997 Eric Clapton - Live in Hyde Park
2002 One More Car, One More Rider
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Originally by Fran