Music History

Music History Biographies

Music History Of The Week

Music History Calendar

Eric Clapton

On 30/03/1945: Eric Clapton was born in Ripley, Surrey. His full birth name was Eric Patrick Clapton. Clapton would grow up with his grandmother Rose and her second husband Jack Clapp who was stepfather to Eric's mother Patricia Clapton and her brother Adrian. He would believe that Rose and Jack were his parents and that his mother was his older sister. Later his mother married a Canadian soldier and moved to Germany.
When Clapton was 13, he received an acoustic Hoyer guitar for his birthday. Initially, he lost interest after finding it hard to play. Two years later he picked it up again and started to play regularly. He was highly influenced by the blues and practised by playing along to records. The practice sessions were recorded using a portable Grundig reel to reel tape machine, which he would then listen to until he felt he had got it right.
In 1961, Clapton left Hollyfield School, Surbiton and enrolled at Kingston College of Art. He was dismissed at the end of the academic year because he been neglecting his art studies in favour of music. He would busk around Kingston, Richmond and the West End.
In 1962, Clapton started performing with blues musician David Brock in pubs in Surrey. When he was 17, Clapton joined the R&B band the Roosters which also included guitarist Tom McGuiness. He would play with the band until August 1963.
In October 1963, Clapton joined the Yardbirds. Also in October, Clapton performed at seven gigs with Casey Jones & the Engineers. Clapton would become one of the most talked-about guitarists in the UK whilst in the Yardbirds. The band started off playing Chess/Checker/Vee-Jay blues numbers and grew a large following after they took over the Rolling Stones' residency at the Crawdaddy Club, Richmond. They went on tour with Sonny Boy Williamson II and recorded a joint album with him in December 1963 which was released in 1965.
Whenever Clapton broke a string during concerts with the Yardbirds, he would stay on stage to fix it. The audience would then slowly clap whilst waiting for him to finish. As a result, Giorgio Gomelsky would give him the nickname Slowhand.
In December 1964, Clapton made his first appearance at the Royal Albert Hall, London when the Yardbirds performed there. He would go on to perform at the venue over 200 times.
In March 1965, The Yardbirds had their first major hit with the song "For Your Love". It was written by Graham Gouldman who wrote songs for Herman's Hermits and the Hollies. Gouldman would later be a member of the band 10CC. The Yardbirds would change their sound after the success of the song to a more commercial pop sound. Clapton was unhappy with the move as he preferred sticking to the blues. Clapton left the band when the single came out and suggested his friend Jimmy Page as his replacement. Page declined out of loyalty to Clapton and suggested Jeff Beck who took the position. Page and Beck would later play together in the Yardbirds.
In April 1965, Clapton joined John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers. He would quit only a few months later. In June, Clapton recorded some tracks with Jimmy Page that would be later credited as The Immediate All-Stars. In the summer, Clapton joined a band called the Glands and left for Greece. In November, Clapton had rejoined John Mayall. Clapton would improve his reputation further whilst in the band as one of the best blues guitarists on the circuit. During his tenure with the Bluesbreakers, Clapton was deified when the phrase "Clapton is God" was spray-painted on a wall at Islington Underground station. It was captured in a famous photograph in which a dog was urinating on the wall.
In March 1966, whilst still, a member of the Bluesbreakers, Clapton collaborated with Jack Bruce and Steve Winwood amongst others for the short side project under the name of Eric Clapton and the Powerhouse.
In July 1966, Clapton left John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers for the last time. In the same month, the album "Blues Breakers - John Mayall - With Eric Clapton" was released. The album was hugely influential. Clapton would then join Ginger Baker to play in his new band. When asked who should play bass, Clapton suggested Jack Bruce unaware of the animosity he and Baker shared. Despite this, the three of them formed the band Cream. They played their first gig in an unofficial performance at the Twisted Wheel Club, Manchester on 29/07/1966, before performing at the National Jazz and Blues Festival, Windsor two days later.
In October 1966, the guitarist Jimi Hendrix attended a Cream performance at Central London Polytechnic and sat in on a version of the song "Killing Floor". Hendrix had specifically asked to meet Clapton as he admired his guitar playing. Clapton, in turn, was amazed by the performance of Hendrix.
In March 1967, Cream performed 9 shows at the RKO Theater, New York. It was the first time that Clapton had visited the US.
During May 1967, Cream recorded the album "Disraeli Gears" in New York. It was released in November 1967.
By the end of 1968, tensions in the band were high with drug and alcohol use escalating the problems. On 19/10/1968, Cream recorded their performance at The Forum, Los Angeles for use on their final album called "Goodbye". The album was released shortly after the group disbanded. The album would also feature the song "Badge" which Clapton had co-written with his friend George Harrison from the Beatles. Clapton would play lead guitar on Harrison's song "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" on the Beatles album known as the "White Album" released in November 1968. Clapton would also feature on Harrison's debut solo album "Wonderwall Music" in 1968. In December 1968, Clapton would play with John Lennon at The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus as part of the one-off group the Dirty Mac.
Clapton would next form the supergroup Blind Faith with Ginger Baker, Steve Winwood and Ric Grech. The group was short-lived. Their debut show was on 07/06/1969 in Hyde Park, London to 100,000 fans. They toured Scandinavia and the US in July.
In August 1969, Blind Faith released their debut album "Blind Faith". The group disbanded after less than seven months,
Clapton joined the group Delaney and Bonnie and Friends as a sideman. The band had been the opening act for Blind Faith. Delaney Bramlett from the band would encourage Clapton to sing and write more. In the summer of 1969, Clapton and Bramlett contributed to the "Music From Free Creek" project.
Clapton would also play at two dates with the Plastic Ono Band. On 30/09/1969, Clapton played lead on John Lennon's song "Cold Turkey". On 15/12/1969, Clapton performed with John Lennon, George Harrison and others as the Plastic Ono Band at a fundraiser for UNICEF in London.
In Spring 1970, Clapton recorded for George Harrison's album "All Things Must Pass". During the period, he would also record with other artists including Dr John, Leon Russell, Plastic Ono Band, Billy Preston, Ringo Starr and Dave Mason.
In August 1970, Clapton released his first album entitled "Eric Clapton" which also featured co-written songs with Delaney Bramlett and Bonnie Bramlett.
After leaving Delaney and Bonnie, Clapton formed a new band called Derek and the Dominos with former members of Delaney and Bonnie's rhythm section, Bobby Whitlock, Carl Radle and Drummer Jim Gordon. The band placed less emphasis on Clapton in a starring role. The band was initially called Eric and Clapton and Friends. The new name came about when a provisional name of Del and the Dynamos was misread as Derek and the Dominos. Del was a nickname given to Clapton by Tony Ashton of Ashton, Gardner and Dyke.
In 1970, Derek and the Dominos released the album "Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs". It featured songs written about Clapton's unrequited love for his friend George Harrison's wife Pattie Boyd. The blues orientated album also featured guitar from Duane Allman.
On 17/09/1970, Clapton bought a left handed guitar which he intended to give to Jimi Hendrix as a birthday gift. Just one day afterwards Hendrix died. Clapton was devasted by the news. Derek and the Dominos went on tour and would record a live double album. The tour did not go smoothly with the group shaken by recent events and taking large amounts of drugs and alcohol. Clapton left the group soon after and disbanded the band.
On 29/10/1971, Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident. Allman and Clapton had become close during the earlier recording sessions.
In 1974, Clapton started living with Pattie Boyd. In the same year, he released the album "461 Ocean Boulevard". It would include the Bob Marley song "I Shot the Sheriff" which became a number 1 hit.
In 1975, Clapton released the album "There's One in Every Crowd".
In 1976, Clapton released the solo album "No Reason to Cry".
In 1977, he released the album "Slowhand".
In 1979, Clapton and Pattie Boyd married.
In 1981, Clapton appeared at the "The Secret Policeman's Other Ball" benefit for Amnesty International in London. He would perform on stage with Jeff Beck.
In January 1982, Clapton checked into Hazelden Treatment Center, Minnesota to combat his alcoholism. A few months after being discharged, Clapton worked on his album "Money and Cigarettes" against doctors orders. It was released in February 1983.
In 1984, he performed on Roger Water's solo album "The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking" and joined the subsequent tour. In the same year, Clapton would have a relationship with Yvonne Kelly the manager of AIR Studios Montserrat. They would have a child together called Ruth.
In 1985, Clapton performed at the Live Aid concert. Also in 1985, Clapton produced Phil Collins' album "Behind the Sun". Clapton would win a British Academy Television Award for his collaboration with Michael Kamen on the score for the 1985 thriller "Edge of Darkness".
In 1986, Lory Del Santo gave birth to her and Eric's child Conor.
In 1987, Clapton received the award for Outstanding Contribution to Music.
In 1988, Pattie and Clapton divorced.
In 1989, Clapton released the album "Journeyman". It also featured George Harrison, Phil Collins, Daryl Hall, Chaka Khan, Mick Jones, David Sanborn and Robert Cray.
On 27/08/1990, Stevie Ray Vaughan was killed in a helicopter crash between concerts whilst on a tour with Clapton.
On 20/03/1991, Clapton's four-year-old son Conor died after falling from the window of his mother's friend's New York apartment. Clapton would express his grief in the song "Tears in Heaven" co-written with Will Jennings. Clapton would receive six Grammy Awards for the single and for his Unplugged album which featuring him performing the song amongst others at Bray Film Studios, Berkshire, England. On 09/09/1992, Clapton performed "Tears in Heaven" at the MTV Video Music Awards and won the award for Best Male Video.
In October 1992, Clapton performed at Bob Dylan's 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration.
In 1993, Cream were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They reunited to perform at the ceremony.
In 1994, Clapton released the album "From the Cradle".
In 1995, Clapton featured on a UK number 1 single for the first and only time when he appeared on the song "Love Can Build a Bridge" which was released in aid of the UK telethon Comic Relief.
In 1996, Clapton had a relationship with musician Sherly Crow, They would appear in concert together.
In 1997, Clapton won a Grammy Award for Song of the Year for the song "Change the World" recorded for the film "Phenomenon". He would also record the electronic album "Retail Therapy" with Simon Climie. On 15/09/1997, Clapton appeared at the "Music for Montserrat" concert.
In 1998, Clapton released the solo album "Pilgrim". It was also in 1998, that Clapton met Melia McEnery who would later marry in 2001. They have three daughters.
In 1999, Clapton received a Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for his song "My Father's Eyes".
In 2001, Clapton released the solo album "Reptile".
In 2002, Clapton performed at the "Party at the Palace" concert at Buckingham Palace. In November 2002, he performed at the "Concert for George" tribute concert for George Harrison who had died the previous from lung cancer.
In 2004, Clapton released two albums of Robert Johnson covers called "Me and Mr. Johnson" and "Sessions for Robert J.".
In 2005, Cream reunited to play 4 concerts at the Royal Albert Hall and 3 shows at Madison Square Garden, New York. Also in 2005, Clapton performed at the "Tsunami Relief Concert" at the Millenium Stadium, Cardiff. 2005 also saw the release of Clapton's solo album "Back Home".
In 2006, JJ Cale and Clapton released a joint album called "The Road to Escondido". The album also featured Derek Trucks and Billy Preston. Trucks was invited to join Clapton's band for his 2006/2007 tour as well as Doyle Bramhall II who had worked with Clapton on the Robert Johnson albums. Also in 2006, Clapton performed at Highclere Castle in support of the Countryside Alliance.
In 2008, Clapton performed with Steve Winwood at Madison Square Garden and guested on his single "Dirty City".
In 2009, Clapton was scheduled to perform at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 25th anniversary but had to pull out due to gallstone surgery.
In 2010, Clapton would appear in a 2-night show with Jeff Beck at the O2 Arena, London. They would then extend the tour to Madison Square Garden and Canada. Clapton would also tour the US and Europe. Also in 2010, Clapton released the solo album "Clapton". In November, he performed at the Prince's Trust rock gala at the Royal Albert Hall, London.
In 2012, Clapton performed at the "Howlin' for Hubert" concert in tribute to Hubert Sumlin who had died the previous year. In November, Clapton joined the Rolling Stones at the O2, London as apart of their 50th anniversary. In December, he appeared at "The Concert for Sandy Relief" at Madison Square Garden.
In 2013, Clapton released the solo album "Old Sock".
In 2014, Clapton released the covers album "The Breeze: An Appreciation of JJ Cale" in dedication to JJ Cale who had died the previous year.
In 2015, Clapton performed at Madison Square Garden and the Royal Albert Hall to celebrate his 70th birthday.
In 2016, Clapton revealed publicly he had been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy. In the same year he released the solo album "I Still Do".

The Music History Calendar is written by the Blues Rock artist Marshland Pete
If you would like more, come join our Music News and History Facebook Group Community