Eric Clapton’s Guitars and Gear

Short Summary of Eric Clapton's Equipment

Eric’s guitar collection features some of the most iconic instruments in the history of Rock and Roll. His first guitar was a cheap Kay Jazz II model, but by 1964 Clapton already moved onto a red Fender Telecaster, which he used on the majority of the material that he recorded with the Yardbirds. In 1966, he acquired a 1960 Gibson Les Paul Standard, nicknamed “Beano-burst”, that would become one of the most iconic guitars of the period. A year later, he started using a Gibson SG Standard, nicknamed “The Fool”, decorated in psychedelic colors and designs.

In 1970, Eric had made a big shift, and moved away from Gibson guitars, towards Fender. His first majorly important guitar was a 1956 Fender Stratocaster, also known as “Brownie”. With this guitar, Eric would go on to record “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs”, before retiring it in 1975 – in favor of another Stratocaster, Blackie.

Eric Clapton playing his most famous Fender Stratocaster nicknamed “Blackie”. Photographer: F. Antolín Hernandez

This second Stratocaster was assembled by Eric, using parts from four different 1950s Stratocasters that he bought from George Gruhn. He would use the Blackie until around a decade later, at which point Fender started producing replicas of the guitar, for Eric to use, and for the fans to purchase themselves.

As far as amplification, the two amps worth singling out are the Marshall Bluesbreaker Model 1962 and a Marshall JTM45/100. The Model 1962 was used to record “Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton” (a.k.a. The Beano Album) in early to mid-1966, while the JTM45/100 was Eric’s main amp during Cream/Blind Faith era.

Eric Clapton Equipment Guide

Which Clapton?

Considering that Eric went through few different phases in his career, in regard to which guitars he prefered, it's obviously important to decide which Eric sound we're trying to replicate. If we're going for Bluesbreakers/Cream era Clapton, we'd look for a humbucker equipped guitar - so what makes most sense is a Gibson Les Paul or Gibson SG (depending on your liking), or an Epiphone (for those on a budget).

The Derek-era (and the more modern era) Eric is, in contrast, pretty much all Stratocaster. So, in this case, we'd ideally want Clapton's Signature Stratocaster from Fender - which, take note, is somewhat pricey. The more budget friendly option would be something like a Squier Classic Vibe 50s, which lacks all the bells and whistles of the EC model (like the mid-boost and noiseless pickups) but is still pretty amazing.

In terms of acoustic guitars, Eric himself uses Martins, and has his own signature model - Martin 000-28EC. If you want something cheaper but similar, check out Sigma guitars.

Amps

Again, ideally, we'd go for something from Eric own signature line of amps from Fender. However, at the time of writing this, none of those models are available (production stopped). The second best would be basically any decent tube amp (so around $1000 and up). But, if you want to keep it simple and not spend too much, modern modeling amps are pretty good nowadays. Grab a Marshall Code 25 amp for example, and fiddle with the settings until it sounds good to you.

Strings, Accessories

Regarding strings, pick up a set of Ernie Ball Regular Slinky (10-46) for an electric guitar. If you're playing acoustic, Eric Clapton strings his own guitars with his signature set from Martin. Don't worry too much about picks, and choose whatever you prefer (Eric himself probably went through all of them).

Chronological list of Guitars, Amps, Effects, and Accessories used by Eric Clapton

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Eric Clapton's Electric Guitars

1960s Kay Jazz II

access_time1962

Eric used this guitar prior to joining the Yardbirds circa 1962, while he was playing in his first band called “The Rooster”. According to Eric, he received this guitar as a gift from his grandmother: The Kay was the guitar that my grandmother bought me on the “hire-purchase” scheme. That got me into the band, and then we started making money, I found I had nothing else to spend it on […]

1963 Fender Telecaster

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This was Eric’s main recording and gigging guitar during the Yardbirds era. The guitar allegedly belonged to the Yardbirds management, and after Eric had left the band, Jeff Beck who took over his role, played the same guitar for some time prior to acquiring a Fender Esquire (more on Jeff Beck’s Gear Page). (Jeff Beck:) We were on the road constantly and I didn’t even have my own guitar. I [initially] used Eric’s red […]

1961/62 Gretsch Chet Atkins Model 6120

access_time1964

Eric was seen playing this guitar during the Yardbirds’ Ready Steady Go! TV appearance sometime in 1964. The show seems to have aired on May 22nd, 1964 [Ready Steady Go! Season 1 – TheTVDB.com], and as far as we could find, this is the only time Eric appeared with this guitar. This could possibly mean that the guitar was borrowed. Since there’s some talk that this was the guitar that was sold at Christie’s auctions in 1999, it is somewhat […]

1950s Gibson Les Paul Standard

access_time1966

This guitar seemed to have been a very brief affair, but since the goal with this list is to make it as complete as possible at least when it comes to the early years, it is somewhat important to include it as well. To our knowledge, Eric only used the guitar at the 6th National Jazz & Blues Festival, the Windsor Jazz and Blues Festival in Berkshire, England in July 1966. Since […]

1960 Gibson Les Paul Standard "Beano Burst"

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Eric used this guitar during the John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers era, although it is likely not the only Les Paul he owned at that time. In his autobiography [Clapton: The Autobiography] Eric mentions buying a couple of guitars prior heading to Greece in 1966 and leaving one Les Paul behind after he bailed out and left the Juniors (a Greek band he had a short stint with). This could possibly mean that the […]

1959/60 Gibson Les Paul Standard "Summers Burst"

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This is the guitar that Eric used as his main with the Cream from around July 1966 to mid-1967. He purchased this guitar from Andy Summers (who later went on the form The Police) after his own Les Paul was stolen sometime in mid-1966. The two guitars were originally purchased from the same store, Summers being the first of the two to buy one. About the time that we share […]

1956 Fender Stratocaster "Brownie"

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Clapton purchased the maple neck Stratocaster at London’s Sound City on May 7, 1967 [Eric Clapton“Brownie” Tribute Stratocaster, Fender Custom Shop]. At that time, Eric was using the Fool SG practically exclusively, and the Strat itself didn’t see much stage-light until around three years later, although its neck had a history of its own on another guitar prior to that. One the page regarding the 1962 Fender Telecaster/Stratocaster Custom, we’ve mentioned […]

1959/60 Gibson Les Paul Custom

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Clapton likely purchased this guitar on the Cream’s first mini-tour in the US in March 1967. Eric mentioned in his autobiography that he visited Manny’s Music shop in New York during the visit, so it possible that this guitar was purchased right there and then. The first time he was seen playing it was during the Disraeli Gears studio sessions, although it is not known to what extent he used the […]

1964 Gibson SG Standard ”The Fool”

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Clapton acquired this guitar presumably sometime in 1967, likely purchasing it himself. It first appeared at Cream’s debut US concert on March 25th, 1967 at the RKO theater on 58th Street, Manhattan, New York. By that time the guitar already featured the custom body paint done by Simon Posthuma and Marijke Koger, who later went on to form a design collective called The Fool. They had also painted John Lennon’s Rolls-Royce in lurid psychedelic […]

1962 Fender Telecaster/Stratocaster Custom

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This guitar first appeared in the late Cream days, more precisely during the band’s guest appearance on the Danish movie “Det var en lørdag aften” (It Was a Saturday Evening), filmed on February 5th and 6th, 1968 in Copenhagen. At this time the Telecaster was fitted with a late 60s Stratocaster neck with rosewood fretboard and a large headstock. Most of the people, however, associate this guitar with the Blind Faith […]

1957 Gibson Les Paul “Lucy”

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Clapton purchased this guitar at Dan Amstrong’s Guitar shop in New York at an unknown date. The previous owner, Rick Derringer, had sold the guitar to the shop sometime in 1966 or 1967 (no credible source mentions any dates related to this), after he had it repainted in Gibson’s Kalamazoo factory (no dates mentioned either) [Million Dollar Les Paul, Tony Bacon, pp. 66–68.] Lucy with Eric Eric himself seems to […]

1950s Gibson Les Paul Goldtop

access_time1968

Eric was seen using this guitar only on one occasion – with Cream, during the second set at Hunter College NYC, on March 29, 1968. Based on the only existing photo of the guitar from that concert [Eric Clapton playing a Les Paul Goldtop, Hunter College NYC, on March 29, 1968], the guitar is most likely a 1953/54 Goldtop – based on the fact that it has a wrap over bridge as opposed […]

1963/65 Gibson Reverse Firebird 1

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Clapton purchased this Gibson Firebird most likely on the afternoon of April 13th, 1968, on the second day of the three-day gig at the Philadelphia’s Electric Factory. This is based on two things. First, the Cream concert tour expense ledger used by the band’s tour manager Bob Adcock reads “Musical equipment” – $905.50″ on April 13th [Cream 1968 Summer and “Farewell” Tours Original Signed Expense Ledger]. Please note that depending on the source, you’ll find […]

1964 Gibson ES-335TDC

access_time1968

According to Eric, he acquired this guitar sometime in 1964. However, according to the photographic evidence, and based on the info from Eric himself, the guitar wasn’t used almost at all (more on this later) during the Yardbirds era, even though – as said, Clapton claimed that he did own the guitar as early as 1964. Date of Purchase Theories The first theory is largely based on Eric’s claim that he […]

1958 Gibson Les Paul Standard (Darkburst)

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This was one of Eric’s main touring guitars during the Cream farewell tour. It seems however that the guitar was used rarely in comparison to the Firebird which was Clapton main guitar from the summer of 1968 and until the end of the tour. Based on the photos, the Les Paul was used at least a few times, including the gig at the Denver Coliseum on October 6th, and at The Spectrum, Philadelphia, on November 1st […]

Danelectro 3021 Shorthorn

access_time1969

This guitar was seen during the Blind Faith rehearsals in early 1969, although it is not known whether Eric ever used the guitar with the band in a live or a studio setting. Aside from its appearance on these photos, everything else about this guitar is a mystery. It is apparent that it featured some kind of psychedelic finish which could’ve been done by the same people who painted his SG, […]

Les Paul Custom (Paul Kossoff)

access_time1969

There has been some confusion regarding this particular guitar, but the story basically goes that sometime during the Blind Faith North American tour, for which the opening acts for Blind Faith included Free, Taste and Delaney & Bonnie; Clapton and Kossoff swapped guitars. [Paul Kossoff – The Back Street Crawler; Tom Guerra] According to what we’ve been able to find, this happened either in July or August 1969 [Concerts Wiki – […]

1950s Gibson Byrdland

access_time1971

Eric was seen with this guitar on a charity Concert for Bangladesh in August 1971 organized by George Harrison and Indian sitar master Ravi Shankar. The guitar was used during the first show (the Brownie being used for the second one), and this seems to be the only time Clapton ever used this guitar on stage. Based on the visual cues -like the flowerpot headstock inlay, gold-plated hardware, pointy fingerboard at the end, […]

1950s Fender Stratocaster “Blackie”

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Eric assembled this guitar in 1970 using parts from four different 1950s Stratocasters that he bought from George Gruhn, and from additional parts that were purchased at the Sho-Bud guitar shop in Nashville. Eric Clapton first visited my shop in 1970 when Derek & the Dominos performed on The Johnny Cash Show. He assembled his famous “Blackie” Stratocaster using components from the four Stratocasters he bought from me and parts […]

1958 Gibson Korina Explorer

access_time1973

Eric purchased the guitar at the Alex Musical Instruments in New York in the early to mid-70s. [original source needed] It can be seen on photos taken during the ’74-’75 tour. One unique feature on the guitar that attracted his attention was the shortened bass bout (the upper back horn). Clapton initially believed that this came as a result of the guitar being an original prototype, but that theory was eventually debunked […]

1950s Fender Telecaster

access_time1974

This Telecaster was seen on a few photos taken during the 1974 tour, all of which seem to be from the same concert – at KB Hallen on June 20th, 1974 in Copenhagen, Denmark. Based on the wear on the neck, the guitar was, most likely, a vintage model from the 50s, but beyond that, the guitar is a mystery. Based on what we know, it never appeared again.

1954 Fender Stratocaster

access_time1981

According to the info Eric gave to Christie’s, he used this guitar from around mid-70s. The earliest photo that we’ve been able to dig up of Clapton with the guitar is from late 1981 [Eric Clapton performs on stage at the Forum on October 15th 1981 in Copenhagen, Denmark]. However, again based on the info from Christie’s, the guitar was used from at least 1979 to 1983 as Eric’s main slide […]

Gibson Les Paul Standard

access_time1983

This guitar was first seen at the Ahoy, Rotterdam, Netherlands, on April 23rd, 1983. From the photos, it appears to be brand new, but it’s impossible to say for sure what’s the story of this guitar. Be that as it may, it was seen again in 1985, on a photo of a collection of Clapton’s tour guitar taken backstage at Yoyogi Olympic Pool, Tokyo [Eric Clapton’s guitars – GettyImages]. This means […]

1983 Roger Giffin Stratocaster #1

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This guitar was built by Roger Giffin, an English guitar luthier, as a direct replica of the Blackie, aside from the color of the finish obviously. Eric actually loaned the Blackie to Roger in order to copy the exact specifications. [Giffin Guitars – Client list] The blue Giffin Strat was first used in late 1983, during the ARMS concert at the Royal Albert Hall, for the song “Everybody Oughta Change”. From […]

1983 Roger Giffin Stratocaster #2

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According to the info available on Giffin Guitars website [Giffin Guitars – Client list], Clapton not only had a blue Giffin Stratocaster, but also a green one. Both were built by Roger Giffin as replicas of the Blackie – a 50s “Partcaster” that was Clapton’s main axe at the time. Although the blue guitar was seen on numerous occasions in the mid-80s, to our knowledge Clapton never appeared with the […]

1983 Fender Stratocaster '57 Reissue

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According to Tom Wheeler’s The Stratocaster Chronicles book [The Stratocaster Chronicles: Celebrating 50 Years of the Fender Strat, Tom Wheeler, p.222], Clapton was presented with one of the first ’57 reissue Strats by John Page and Freddie Tevares during the ARMS concert tour in 1983. This guitar was seen on a photo that we’ve referenced a few times already, showing a collection of Clapton’s tour guitars taken backstage at Yoyogi Olympic […]

1982 Roland G-505

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This guitar can be heard on “Never Make You Cry” from the Behind the Sun album released in 1985. According to the info posted on the auction page at Christie’s, he used it on tour in 1984 with Roger Waters, and in 1985 during the “Behind the Sun” tour. Serial No. K824044, the guitar features a double cutaway body finished in candy apple red. It is equipped with three Roland PU-134S single-coil pickups and […]

1980s Fender Stratocaster Elite

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This is the last of the seven guitars seen on a photograph taken in 1985 at Yoyogi Olympic Pool, Tokyo [Eric Clapton’s guitars – GettyImages], showing a collection of Eric’s tour guitars. According to Tom Wheeler’s The Stratocaster Chronicles book [The Stratocaster Chronicles: Celebrating 50 Years of the Fender Strat, Tom Wheeler, p.222], Clapton was given a couple of Elite Stratocasters in April 1985. At this time the talk about the […]

1986 Fender Stratocaster Eric Clapton Prototype (V000007)

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This is the prototype of the Eric Clapton Signature model based in part on the Fender Elite Stratocaster, a ’57 Reissue Strat, and Clapton’s own Blackie. Based on photos, Eric started using it in early 1986, alongside two other prototypes finished in dark grey. They were all built by George Blanda. [Lot 62, A 1986 Fender Stratocaster Eric Clapton Signature Model – Christie’s] The prototypes were based overall on the Blackie, meaning […]

1986 Fender Stratocaster Eric Clapton Prototype (V000008)

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This is the second of the three prototypes that Eric received from Fender in early 1986. Since this guitar is identical to the red prototype (aside from the color obviously) please refer to Eric Clapton’s 1986 Fender Stratocaster Eric Clapton Prototype (V000007) page for more information. If any information comes up regarding this specific prototype we’ll add it in the future.

1986 Fender Stratocaster Eric Clapton Prototype (V000009)

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This is the third prototype made by George Blanda that Eric received from Fender sometime in early 1986. Based on photos and video recordings from around that time, the guitar was used parallel with the other prototypes but was the only one to have made it into the 90s. Also based on the photos, initially there didn’t seem to be any differences between the three guitars, aside from the color of the […]

Fender Stratocaster Eric Clapton Signature (First Edition)

access_time1988

The Eric Clapton Signature Stratocaster was officially released in 1988, and ever since then, Eric has been using the model as his main go-to guitar. The first version of the EC Signature Strat that came out that year was essentially kept the same all the way until 2001, although there have been some minor changes made to it in very early stages of production. We will focus on the final version, which […]

1996 The Gold Leaf Stratocaster EC1

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In 1996 Eric asked the Fender Custom Shop to build a one of a kind guitar for him. John Page, then vice president of the Fender Custom Shop, recalls that “Eric was in the search of something special, a piece that could hang in a museum like the Louvre”. John thought about gilding a Stratocaster using 23K gold leaves, it took three trials prior to finding the right combination of […]

Eric Clapton's Acoustic Guitars

Martin D-45

access_time1970

Eric was first seen with this guitar backstage at the dressing room of Lyceum Ballroom, London, on June 14th, 1970. This was the debut concert of his new band – Derek and the Dominos, but interestingly – the band had no official name prior to the gig. It was billed simply as “Eric Clapton and Friends”, but a discussion that ensued backstage prior to the gig led to a new name […]

1970s Dobro/Regal Resonator Custom

access_time1971

Eric used this guitar most famously during the MTV Unplugged show recorded in 1992. It can be heard on two of the slide tunes he played that night – “Running on Faith” and “Walkin’ Blues”. The guitar was ordered by Clapton as a custom build from Randy Wood and it was finished sometime in 1970 or 1971. Here’s what Randy remembers about it – quoted from an email that he was […]

1988 Guild Songbird Amber

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Clapton was seen playing this guitar on the concert played at Shoreline Amphitheatre, San Francisco, USA, on September 21st, 1988. He used it for the song “Can’t Find My Way Home”, and both him and Mark Knopfler who joined him on stage, used the exact same model that night. [Clapton / Knopfler – Can’t Find My Way Home – YouTube] The guitar was one of the many that were auctioned by Clapton in 2011, […]

1939 Martin 000-42

access_time1992

This is the guitar that Clapton played on MTV Unplugged on January 16, 1992. He played it throughout most of the show – which was highlighted by an acoustic version of “Layla”. Although there doesn’t seem to be any photos of Eric using the guitar prior to the 1992 show, it most possible that he acquired the 000-42 all the way back in 1970. This is according to an interview from 1976 […]

Martin 000-ECHF Bellezza Nera

access_time2004

During the 2003 Japan Tour, Eric used a custom-made guitar, designed as a collaboration between him and Hiroshi Fujiwara – a Japanese musician and designer. The model styled a completely clean black finish, snowflake inlays, and both men’s initials (EC and HF) were inscribed near the bottom of the fretboard. Only eight of these guitars were initially manufactured, but around a year later, Martin released a production model based on […]

Eric Clapton's Amps

1960s Vox AC30

access_time1964

Eric was seen using this amp with the Yardbirds, during the band’s Ready Steady Go! performance on May 22, 1964. Due to the small number of photographs taken around the Yardbirds era, it is unknown whether Eric used this amp exclusively during this period, or he had something else on the side. Embed from Getty Images

Marshall Bluesbreaker Model 1962

access_time1966

This is the amp that Eric used to record ‘Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton’ (a.k.a. The Beano Album) in early to mid-1966. According to Jim Marshall, the amp was developed upon a request from Eric himself. Eric used to practice in my shop and he was one of the first guitarists to ask me to build a combo. He wanted one so it would be easy for him to put […]

Marshall JTM45/100

access_time1966

Eric was seen using a Marshall JTM45/100 (or Marshall Super 100 – depending on how you prefer to call it) during the Cream era. This amp was developed by Jim Marshall upon a request from Pete Townshend of The Who, who wanted a more powerful version of the 50W Marshall amp that he was using at the time (circa 1965). I went to Jim Marshall, stomped down my 50-watt amp and […]

Marshall JTM45/100 Super Lead 100

access_time1969

Eric started using this amp sometime with the Cream, likely in mid to late 1967. The amp was an updated version of the 1966 Marshall JTM45/100 that Eric played at the beginning of the Cream, and most likely used to record ‘Fresh Cream’. To learn about the difference between the two older and the newer version please refer to The Evolution of the 100W Circuit: From JTMs to JMP Superleads. Most […]

Fender Dual Showman

access_time1970

According to Eric, he used this amp with Delaney and Bonnie, circa early 1970. At that time, he mostly played his 1956 Fender Stratocaster “Brownie”, but occasionally went for 1959/60 Gibson Les Paul Custom. With Delaney and Bonnie, I used a Dual Showman—a big Fender amp. But I hardly ever jack it right up, you know. I’m not getting the sustain or hold-over sound I used to get. It’s still […]

Eric Clapton's Effects

Vox V846 Wah-Wah

access_time1968

According to Eric, he used a Vox wah pedal to record “White Room” from Cream’s 1968 album Wheels Of Fire. Based on this, it is also likely that the same pedal was used on earlier stuff, like “Tales Of Brave Ulysses” from Disraeli Gears. G.P.: What kind of wah-wah pedal do you use, like on the “White Room” track on Wheels Of Fire?E.C.: Vox. GP Flashback Eric Clapton June 1970 […]

Eric Clapton's Strings

Fender Rock and Roll Electric Guitar Strings

access_time1968

Clapton used these strings in the early days, around the Cream era. According to his own words, these strings were used on his Les Paul during the recording of Wheels of Fire (1968). Based on that statement, it is likely that these strings were used even prior to that, were his main choice before he started playing Stratocasters (at which point he began using Ernie Ball strings) G.P.: How about […]

Ernie Ball Super Slinky Electric Guitar Strings

access_time1970

According to a statement that Eric gave during a 1970 interview with Guitar Player, at that time, he used Ernie Ball Super Slinky set on his Fender Stratocaster (Brownie). The gauges are as follows: .009, .011, .016, .024, .032, .042. G.W: What kind of strings do you use on the Stratocaster?E.C: Ernie Ball Super Slinky GP Flashback Eric Clapton June 1970

Ernie Ball Regular Slinky Electric Guitar Strings

access_time2004

According to Eric’s guitar tech, Lee Dickson, in recent years Eric has been using Ernie Ball strings on his electric guitars. Lee doesn’t go into specifics about gauges, but according to most sources, including the Ernie Ball website, he uses Regular Slinky set (.010, .013, .017, .026, .036, .046.). He uses a pretty standard set-up. We use Ernie Ball strings on all the electrics, both the solid and semi-solid-body guitars. […]

External Links

linkEricClapton.com (official website)

linkWhereisEric.com (fan-made website)