Eric Clapton: 17 Things You Need To Know
By Dave Basner
March 30, 2023
On March 30, 1945, Eric Clapton was born in Surrey, England. Throughout his incredible career, Clapton has become the only person to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three times, once as a solo artist and as a member of Cream and The Yardbirds. While Clapton has been struggling with the loss of his hearing and the possibility of retirement, that doesn't take away from the fact he has won 18 Grammys, been included in every list of the greatest guitarists, pioneered blues and rock music. We all know about his amazing guitar skills and his time in bands like The Yardbirds, Cream, Blind Faith, and Derek and the Dominos, but here are 17 things you might not know about the legendary guitarist:
1. Eric was raised by his mom’s mother and stepfather thinking they were his parents and that his mom was his older sister.
2. Eric’s mother’s stepfather’s last name was Clapp, but his grandmother’s first husband, who fathered Eric’s mom, was named Clapton. Eric went by that name since his father, a Canadian soldier, went to war before Eric was born, and returned to Canada.
3. Clapton got his first guitar, an acoustic Hoyer made in Germany, when he was 13. However, it wasn’t a high-quality instrument and was tough to play, so he gave up on it, but at age 15, he picked it up again and started really getting into it.
4. Eric studied at Kingston College of Art but was dismissed at the end of the academic year because he was too focused on music and not art.
5. As a 17-year-old, Eric joined his first band, an R&B group called TheRoosters.
6. Clapton’s nickname Slowhand comes from when he was in the The Yardbirds and broke guitar strings during a shows - he’d stay onstage and change it out as the audience waited by doing a slow handclap. Because record producer Giorgio Gomelsky thought Eric was a fast player, he put that with slow handclap and coined Slowhand.
7. Eric became good friends with George Harrison after The Yardbirds and The Beatles shared a bill in London. The Beatles would go on to bring Clapton in to perform the lead guitar solo on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
8. When The Beatles were working on Let It Be in 1969, there was so much tension in the band that George quit for a few days. John Lennon was caught on tape saying if “George doesn’t come back by Monday or Tuesday, we ask Eric Clapton to play.”
9. Clapton was strongly considered to replace Brian Jones in Rolling Stones the following the guitarist’s 1969 death.
10. Steven Stills once asked Clapton to join Crosby, Stills, and Nash to help with their live sound, but Eric turned them down since he was forming Blind Faith.
11. Eric was very close with Duane Allman, even calling him the “musician brother I’d never had but wished I did.” Duane played on Derek and the Dominos’ “Layla.”
12. Eric has appeared in two movies: 1975’s Tommy as The Preacher and 1998’s Blues Brothers 2000 as one of The Louisiana Gator Boys.
13. Clapton recorded a theme to the 1989 Bond filmLicense to Kill along with guitarist Vic Flick, who played on the original Bond theme. The pair shot a video across London as well, but film producers scrapped the theme and chose to have Gladys Knight sing a song for the movie instead. The instrumental has never come out.
14. One of Eric’s favorite hobbies is fly fishing.
15. In 1996, Eric dated singer Sheryl Crow.
16. Eric is an avid collector and has amassed a bunch of sports cars, hotrods, art, watches, and of course, guitars.
17. Eric is the only three-time inductee in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: once for his solo career, once for The Yardbirds and once for Cream.
Happy birthday Slowhand!