By Devon Saccomanno
for the Joe Bonamassa Official Blog
The mere thought of notable vintage guitars immediately brings to mind guitar hero Eric Clapton, his legacy includes an abundance of iconic guitars that helped him shred the blues for almost 50 years. The only three-time inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Clapton has had a career spanning more than half a century and is one of the most influential guitarists of all time. Clapton has played a lot of memorable guitars on stage and in studio, such as his 1964 Gibson SG Standard, which was dubbed “The Fool” because of its abstract paint job. Or his 1964 Cherry Red Gibson ES-335 aka the “Cream” Guitar which he played throughout his time with Cream and The Yardbirds. The guitar was named such because during Clapton’s time in CREAM one of the roadies painted the band’s name in large letters on the side of its case. If guitars could talk, they would all have their own stories especially Eric Clapton’s guitars. Clapton is a crucial force in popularizing particular modes of guitar and below you will find three of his most fabled vintage guitars.
1939 Martin 000-42 acoustic
Clapton’s 1939 Martin 000-42 acoustic guitar was usually his go-to acoustic in his live performances, the style of Martin is a spruce top, with a Brazilian rosewood body guitar with pearl trim on the top. The 42 style Martin has a beautiful sounds and impeccable craftsmanship. Clapton generated such a demand for the guitar that Martin recently reissued the Martin 000-42 acoustic. Clapton played his Martin 000-42 most famously on an acoustic version of “Layla” on MTV Unplugged in 1992. The guitar was sold at an auction in 2004, it sold for $791,500, the highest price ever paid for an acoustic guitar.
1956 Fender Stratocaster AKA “Brownie”
The next coolest Clapton guitar would be his 1956 Fender Stratocaster aka “Brownie”. Clapton used the guitar in the late 60’s and 1970’s, on his debut album and with Derek and the Dominos, and most notably to record “Layla”. The 1956 Fender Stratocaster has a sunburst finish, maple neck, twenty-one fret fingerboard with black dot inlays, skunk-stripe routing, three pickups, five-way selector switch and white pickguard. In 1971, however “Brownie” became just the backup guitar to another Fender Stratocaster named “Blackie.”
“I just set the switch between the first and middle pick-ups. There is a little place where you can catch it so that you can get a special sound somehow. I get much more rhythm and blues or rock kind of sound that way.” Eric Clapton in Guitar Player
“Blackie” Fender Stratocaster
At a Nashville, TN guitar shop, Clapton bought six 1950’s Fender Stratocasters and in 1968 he gave one of the Stratocasters to musicians Pete Townshend, Steve Winwood and George Harrison. Clapton took the remaining three guitars to create his own custom-built black Fender Stratocaster, which came to be known as “Blackie” and one of the most famous vintage guitars in existence. First appearing onstage with Clapton on January 1973 at the Rainbow Concert, Clapton favored his custom Stratocaster for many years and it can be heard on a number of his hit songs, such as “I Shot the Sheriff” and “Wonderful Tonight.” Due to an issues with the guitar’s neck, “Blackie” was retired in 1985 and in 2004 the Fender Stratocaster was sold at auction for just under a million dollars and the funds were donated to Crossroads Centre, a rehabilitation center founded by Clapton. In 2006 Fender released a limited run of 275 Blackie reissues, identical to the original and the Blackie reissues sold out within hours of being officially released.