Eric Clapton

Summary of Clapton’s Gear

Eric’s guitar collection features some of the most iconic instruments in rock & roll music history. His first guitar was a cheap Kay Jazz II model. But, by 1964 Clapton had 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 Standardthe “Beano-burst”. 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 notable guitar was a 1956 Fender Stratocaster, also known as “Brownie”. With this guitar, Eric recorded “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs”, before retiring it in 1975. The guitar that replaced it was another Stratocaster, Blackie.

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

This second Stratocaster Eric assembled himself, using parts from four different 1950s Stratocasters. He used Blackie until around a decade later, at which point Fender started producing replicas of the guitar. Eric began using these, and his guitar arsenal became a lot more varied.

Fender Eric Clapton StratocasterFender Eric Clapton StratocasterAmazon.com Check price

Eric’s main acoustic guitar was nearly some sort of a Martin. Most famously, he used a 000-42 model during the MTV Unplugged concert. More recently, he uses custom-made models from Martin, such as the 000-ECHF Bellezza Nera.

As far as amplification, the two amps worth singling out are the Marshall Bluesbreaker Model 1962 and a Marshall JTM45/100. The Model 1962 he 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 the Cream/Blind Faith era.

Martin 000-28 Eric Clapton SignatureMartin 000-28 Eric Clapton SignatureAmazon.com Check price

List of Guitars, Amps, Effects, and Accessories used by Eric Clapton

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Electric Guitars

1960s Kay Jazz II

Eric used this guitar prior to joining the Yardbirds circa 1962, while he was playing in his first band called “The Rooster”. The guitar was purchased from Bells in Surbiton, and according to Eric, he bought it with little help 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 but guitars, so maybe once a month I bought a guitar.

Eric Clapton: Blues Power – GuitarWorld.com

There are some interesting details about this guitar worth mentioning. Although most of the internet seems to agree that this is indeed a Kay Jazz II model, the fingerboard inlays on Eric’s guitar (Google “Eric Clapton Kay guitar” for images) don’t seem to fit the description.

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1963 Fender Telecaster

This was Eric’s main recording and gigging guitar during the Yardbirds era. The guitar allegedly belonged to the Yardbirds management. After Eric left the band, Jeff Beck who took over his role played the same guitar for some time prior to acquiring a Fender Esquire of his own.

(Jeff Beck:) We were on the road constantly and I didn’t even have my own guitar. I [initially] used Eric’s red Tele, which I think belonged to the Yardbirds.

Legendary Guitar: Jeff Beck’s 1954 Yardbirds Esquire

As said, this was Eric’s main guitar with the Yardbirds, and it was likely used on both the 1964 live album “Five Live Yardbirds” recorded at the Marquee Club in London [Yardbirds at The Marquee Club 1964], and on the tracks that Eric played on “For Your Love” in 1965. Basically everything except “I’m Not Talking”, “I Ain’t Done Wrong”, and “My Girl Sloopy” – which were of course played by Jeff Beck. [For Your Love (album) – Wikipedia] Read More

1961/62 Gretsch Chet Atkins Model 6120

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 online that this was the guitar that was sold at Christie’s auctions in 1999, it is important to note that this is not the case. That guitar was listed on the auction as the ‘Lot 18 – 1958 Gretsch Chet Atkins Tennessean (translucent red)’, and was without a doubt a single-cutaway model.

The Gretsch that Eric was seen with during the Ready Steady Go! TV show in 1964 is obviously a double-cutaway version. Furthermore, this model came into production only in 1961 [Vintage Guitars Info’s Vintage Gretsch Guitars] – making this theory not possible.

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1960 Gibson Les Paul Standard "Beano Burst"

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 to 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 Les Paul that he used in the early days of the Bluesbreakers, prior to the trip to Greece, was actually a different guitar.

So to avoid any confusion, the Beano Burst is the guitar that Eric was photographed with during the studio sessions with John Mayall, which of course produced the Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton album. Most of the photos from the Bluesbreakers era do indeed show Eric using a burst Les Paul, but due to things said in Eric’s autobiography, and due to fact that most of these photos are too grainy to see any detail on the guitar, it is almost impossible to figure out whether this is one same guitar or a couple of different ones.

Eric Clapton with the Beano Burst on the top right. Image source - original vinyl sleeve.
Eric Clapton with the Beano Burst on the top right. Image source – original vinyl sleeve. More photos are available if you simply Google the term “Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton studio sessions”
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1950s Gibson Les Paul Standard

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 the guitar looked suspiciously similar to Keith Richards’ Les Paul, it is somewhat possible that Eric indeed borrowed it from him, since they were friends at the time and Keith had already made a switch to a black Gibson Les Paul Custom. [Keith Richard’s Gear Page – Les Paul Standard]

Keith playing his 1959 Les Paul, also equipped a Bigsby tremolo. The Rolling Stones Live at ABC Cinema, Hull (September 1964).
Keith playing his 1959 Les Paul, also equipped a Bigsby tremolo. The Rolling Stones Live at ABC Cinema, Hull (September 1964).
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1959/60 Gibson Les Paul Standard "Summers Burst"

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 his.

About the time that we share a stage at the Flamingo, I acquire a new Gibson from a store on Charing Cross Road. When Eric sees me with it, a ’59 Les Paul Sunburst, he asks where I bought it. I innocently tell him that they have another one on sale for eighty quid and he could go get it. Eric gets the other Les Paul and eventually changes the sound of rock guitar forever. 

One Train Later: A Memoir by Andy Summers, p. 140

That same Les Paul, that Eric used with John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, got stolen sometime during the early Cream rehearsals. So, for a brief period of time, Clapton used a borrowed Les Paul with a Bigsby tremolo – as seen at the Windsor Jazz and Blues Festival. As he obviously needed a guitar of his own, preferably something that would sound as close as possible to the stolen one, Clapton contacted Andy Summers:

Knowing that I have the other one, Eric starts calling and asking me to sell it to him. By this time, I have moved on to a Fender Telecaster, and I also think that there’s something wrong, with my Les Paul, the back pickup doesn’t work or something. […] He is offering me two hundred pounds, which is more than twice what I paid for it. […] The next day I drop off the Les Paul at Advision in the West End, where Eric’s in the middle of recording with Jack and Ginger. […] I go into the toilet at the side of the reception area and when I come out I can hear Eric’s voice over the PA system, which is inadvertently hooked into the foyer. He is remarking how great the guitar is, just like his old one.

One Train Later: A Memoir by Andy Summers, p. 147

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1956 Fender Stratocaster "Brownie"

Clapton purchased the maple neck Stratocaster at London’s Sound City on May 7, 1967 [Eric Clapton“Brownie” Tribute Stratocaster, Fender Custom Shop]. Based on the serial number, 12073, the guitar was manufactured in 1956 in Fullerton, USA.

At that time of purchasing this guitar, Eric was using the Fool SG practically exclusively, and the Strat itself didn’t see much stage light until around three years later. But, the neck from the Brownie had a history of its own on another guitar prior to that.

On the page about the 1962 Fender Telecaster/Stratocaster Custom, it is mentioned that the neck that Eric used on the Telecaster likely came straight from the Stratocaster that later became known as Brownie. This hasn’t been confirmed by Eric, but based on the photographic evidence (neck’s matching visually) and the dates when the guitars were used (never at the same time), this could as well be true.

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1959/60 Gibson Les Paul Custom

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 is 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 guitar on the album. [Disraeli Gears – Studio Sessions]

The guitar appears to be a 1959 or a 1960 model mostly based on the fact that it was equipped with Grover tuners – which were fitted on models made post-1958, and the three PAF (Patent Applied For) pickups which were available on models made starting from late 1957. The guitar was of course discontinued in 1961 and replaced with a newer version, which would eventually become a separate model now known as the SG.

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1964 Gibson SG Standard ”The Fool”

Clapton acquired this guitar presumably sometime in 1967. 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 colors. I asked them to decorate one of my guitars, a Gibson Les Paul, which they turned into a psychedelic fantasy, painting not just the front and back of the body, but the neck and fretboard, too.

Clapton: The Autobiography; p.167

Few things to point out in the quote above – John Lennon’s Rolls Royce was not painted by the same artists, but by Steve Weaver [Interesting Facts About John Lennon’s Rolls-Royce Phantom] The Fool collective did however work on many of the Beatles’ stuff, including George Harrison’s Mini Cooper, and the facade of the Beatles’ Apple Boutique in London’s Baker Street [The Fool (design collective) – Wikipedia]

Second – the guitar is not a Les Paul but an SG. This can be deducted from two clues – the guitar is equipped with a Maestro tremolo which was first introduced in 1963, and the pickguard featured six screws that were fitted on SGs from the beginning of 1964. Based on this, the guitar was made likely sometime in 1964, or at least a couple of months after the model was officially renamed from Les Paul to “SG”, which stood for “Solid Guitar”.

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1962 Fender Telecaster/Stratocaster Custom

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 era – or more precisely the first gig that the band ever played together.

On June 7, 1969, Blind Faith had their debut concert in front of more than 100,000 people at Hyde Park in London. Eric was seen playing what to most people was a completely unknown guitar – a sunburst Telecaster with a maple Stratocaster neck. This, of course, was the same guitar he was seen wielding on a few rare occasions with the Cream, although the old rosewood neck was now gone.

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1957 Gibson Les Paul “Lucy”

Clapton purchased this guitar at Dan Amstrong’s Guitar shop in New York on 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.]

Eric himself seems to remember (in the interview shown below) that he was with Cream at the time, which was most likely true, and that he gave the guitar to George Harrison shortly after returning home to London.

Andy Babiuk in his book Beatles Gear mentions that George received the guitar in August of 1968, which means that Eric likely purchased it sometime between March, April, or June of 1968 – based on the concert dates and cities visited during the US tour [1968 Eric Clapton Tour and Set List Archive – WhereIsEric.com] Read More

1950s Gibson Les Paul Goldtop

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 1953/54 Goldtop – based on the fact that it has a wrap-over bridge as opposed to a stud tailpiece/bridge combination that was introduced on the model in early 1955.

Aside from this, not much else is known about the guitar. It could’ve been Eric’s, or it could’ve been borrowed just for that occasion – at this moment no one seems to know. As always, if you happen to do know something, be sure to leave a comment below.

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1963/65 Gibson Reverse Firebird 1

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 Bob Adcock (who was allegedly a tour manager) 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 info that the Electric Factory was played either from 12th to 14th or from 19th to 21st. However, based on the actual promo poster, April 12th, 1968, is the correct date for the first day of the gig. [Electric Factory 1968 Cream Concert Poster]

Second, according to people who have been at the gig, on the first day on April 12th, Eric played his Gibson SG “The Fool”. Based on the photos, the Firebird was used on the second and/or the third day. [On the Road to Dreams 1968 – AngelFire]

Connecting these two things, it would seem that the ‘musical equipment’ expense was most likely Eric buying himself the Gibson Firebird, and he probably used it that same day at Philadelphia’s Electric Factory. The only thing that seems impossible to confirm at this time is whether he bought it at a store called 8th Street Music (one of the former salesmen was personally interviewed on the phone by one of our contributors, claiming Clapton bought it here), or at the Music City store on Chestnut Street (seems to be what most people think is true). If you happen to have any info that would conclusively confirm one of these possibilities, please be sure to leave a comment below.

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1964 Gibson ES-335TDC

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.

The first theory is largely based on Eric’s claim that he purchased the guitar while playing with the Yardbirds. As noted in the opening paragraph, this places the date of purchase sometime in 1964.

I bought this guitar with the first money I managed to save up playing with the Yardbirds, I bought it brand new from a store on Denmark Street or Charing Cross Road. This guitar was really acceptable on every front. It was a rock guitar, a blues guitar—the real thing.

I choked up as my guitars were sold, Eric Clapton, DailyMail.co.uk

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1958 Gibson Les Paul Standard (Darkburst)

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’s 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 (for photos please visit On the Road to Dreams 1968 – AngelFire.com)

Moving forward, Eric used this guitar on the Blind Faith’s Scandinavian Tour in June 1969 [Blind Faith’s Concert Performances – AngelFire], while on North American tour he alternated between the Telecaster, Firebird, and the ES-335. The reason why this is the last time we see the guitar was Eric’s encounter with Paul Kossoff.

Although the origins of the guitar are unknown, its fate is somewhat well documented. Sometime during the Blind Faith North American tour, Clapton gave this guitar to Paul Kossoff, who played in the band Free and supported Blind Faith alongside Taste and Delaney & Bonnie. In exchange, Eric received a Les Paul Custom, although this guitar is somewhat of a mystery (you can read a bit about it here – The Paul Kossoff Custom)

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Danelectro Shorthorn Custom

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 aside from that. So, apart from 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, but this is just a wild guess and not likely.

Blind Faith rehearsals. Left to right: Steve Winwood, Ric Grech, Ginger Baker, Eric Clapton. Photo credit: Unknown

The only other interesting thing about this guitar is that recently Danelectro released a tribute model based on it named DC59O-PSY. Unfortunately, no additional info regarding the guitar’s history was revealed.

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Les Paul Custom (Paul Kossoff)

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 Paul Kossoff (Free) swapped guitars. [Paul Kossoff – The Back Street Crawler; Tom Guerra] This most likely happened either in July or August 1969 [Concerts Wiki – Blind Faith]

As far as these things go, this story seems to be pretty solid. It is known that Paul Kossoff gave Eric his Les Paul Custom in exchange for a Darkburst Les Paul that Eric played on the Blind Faith tour. This has indeed been confirmed by Eric himself in a typescript note that accompanied the above mentioned Les Paul Standard Darkburst which was sold in 2000 at Christie’s [Eric Clapton/Paul Kossoff/Cream/Blind Faith/Free – Christie’s]

Unfortunately, Clapton was only seen playing a three-pickup Les Paul Custom around these dates, and Kossoff himself was never seen playing such a guitar prior to the exchange – he only had a two-pickup 1955 Custom which was actually one of his first guitars (more on this guitar on Paul Kossoff’s gear page). This was years prior to 1968/69 when the exchange took place, so it is possible that Kossoff didn’t have that Custom anymore.

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1950s Gibson Byrdland

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, and this seems to be the only time Clapton ever used this guitar on stage.

Eric playing a Gibson hollow-body at the Concert for Bangladesh, 1971
Eric used a Gibson hollow-body at the Concert for Bangladesh in August 1971

Based on the visual cues – like the flowerpot headstock inlay, gold-plated hardware, pointy fingerboard at the end, and the tailpiece – the guitar appears to be a Byrdland model. There are however some deviations – like the fact that the fretboard has double parallelogram inlays which are usually found on the 350T model. 

But, given the fact that most things point towards a Byrdland, and taking into consideration that Eric himself was apparently quoted saying he played that exact model during Concert for Bangladesh, it is safe to assume that this is indeed a closed case. But, it’s also very interesting that there doesn’t seem to be another one of these in existence – a Byrdland with double parallelogram inlays.

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1950s Fender Stratocaster “Blackie”

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 he purchased from Sho-Bud Guitars around the corner from my shop the same day.

Eric Clapton Collection Gruhn Guitars

Eric Clapton - Swing Auditorium, San Bernardino, CA There's One In Every Crowd Tour Aug. 15, 1975. Photo by ultomatt/Flickr
Eric Clapton – Swing Auditorium, San Bernardino, CA – There’s One In Every Crowd Tour – Aug. 15, 1975. Photo by ultomatt/Flickr

Some sources claim that the guitar was put together in Nashville by Ted Newman Jones, but Clapton has stated that he carried the guitars back to England before disassembly.

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1958 Gibson Korina Explorer

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 in 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 and the guitar turned up to be modified by the previous owner. This allegedly made Clapton somewhat pissed, up to the point of trying to return the guitar to the store. [internet babble, reliable source needed on this]

Nevertheless, he used this guitar on several songs from the album E.C. Was Here released in 1975. It is also most likely the guitar he was photographed with for the Music Man ad for HD-130 Reverb amplifiers in 1976. The photo was taken so that the sleeve on Eric’s shirt directly covers up the portion of the guitar that was cut off, so this is mostly just a guess.

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1950s Fender Telecaster

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 [Eric Clapton 1974 – Barrie Wentzell PhotographyBarrie Wentzell Photography].

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. It’s unknown whether it was even Eric’s, and whether it was ever used again.

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1954 Fender Stratocaster

According to the info Eric gave to Christie’s auction house, he used this guitar from around the mid-70s. The earliest photo seems to be the one taken at the Forum on October 15, 1981, in Copenhagen, Denmark].

Embed from Getty Images

However, again based on the info from Christie’s, the guitar was used from at least 1979 to 1983 as Eric’s main slide guitar, primarily for the song Tulsa Time. It can be seen in this exact scenario on the ARMS Charity Concert filmed on September 20th, 1983 at the Royal Albert Hall, London. It can be also seen on a photo showing a collection of Clapton’s tour guitars taken in late 1985 backstage at Yoyogi Olympic Pool, Tokyo [Eric Clapton’s guitars – GettyImages].

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1960 Gibson Les Paul Standard

This guitar was first seen at the Ahoy, Rotterdam, Netherlands, on April 23rd, 1983. 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]. and at The Prince’s Trust Rock Gala in 1987 (thanks George).

Eric Clapton played the Les Paul on While My Guitar Gently Weeps at The Prince’s Trust Rock Gala in 1987.

The guitar is most likely a vintage 1960 Gibson Les Paul Standard, which Eric apparently liked because the neck shape reminded him of the Beano Burst (see comments).

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1983 Roger Giffin Stratocaster (Blue)

This guitar was built by Roger Giffin, an English guitar luthier, as a direct replica of the Blackie – aside from the color choice obviously. As the story goes, Eric actually loaned the Blackie to Roger in order to copy the exact specifications.

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.

Eric with the Giffin Strat at the A.R.M.S. concert, Royal Albert Hall, London, England – September 20, 1983. Source; YouTube Screencap
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1983 Roger Giffin Stratocaster (Green)

According to the info available on the Giffin Guitars’ website, Clapton not only had the 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 guitar at the time.

Although the blue guitar was seen on numerous occasions in the mid-80s, it seems that Clapton never appeared with the green one. He might’ve given it to someone, or simply kept it safe at home.

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1983 Fender Stratocaster '57 Reissue

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 Tavares during the ARMS concert tour in 1983.

This guitar was seen on a photo that’s referenced a few times on the website already, showing a collection of Clapton’s tour guitars taken backstage at Yoyogi Olympic Pool, Tokyo [Eric Clapton’s guitars – GettyImages]. In the photo, the ’57 Reissue Strat is the one in the back, with Brownie sitting right in front of it, and the ’54 hardtail Strat sitting on the right.

To which extent this guitar was used is unfortunately unknown.

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1982 Roland G-505

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 an additional MIDI pickup sitting right next to the tremolo bridge, six rotary controls, two switches, and Gotoh tuners. Eric used it with three different floor units: GR-700 serial No. 400401, in a metallic grey finish; PG 200 unit; and a GR-300 serial No. 314451, in a blue finish.

Eric’s Roland G-505 was one of the guitars sold through Christie’s in 1999, selling for $33,350. [A 1982 Roland G-505 – Christie’s]. The guitar was sold once again in 2008, presumably by the same person who bought it in 1999. This time it fetched $69,000. [LOT 346 OF 407: ERIC CLAPTON’S RED ROLAND G-505] Read More

1980s Fender Stratocaster Elite

This is the last of the seven guitars seen in 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 Eric Clapton Signature model began between him and Fender, and these Elite Strats served as a blueprint.

The only Strats left (during the factory closure) were some non-trem Elites, which he asked to test before he would sign them for the promo. They had Alnico 3 pickups, a dummy coil, a YBX tone control, and the MDX midrange boost. Eric liked how it sounded.

[The Stratocaster Chronicles: Celebrating 50 Years of the Fender Strat, Tom Wheeler, p.222

It is also possible that this was not an actual Elite Stratocaster, but one of the earliest prototypes of the Eric Clapton Signature model. Apparently, the first prototypes were built by using a ’57 Strat reissue neck fitted on an Elite Strat body.

Be that as it may, there doesn’t seem to be one single occasion where Eric used the guitar live so it was likely just used in a private setting. If you happen to come across something, leave it in the comments.

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1986 Fender Stratocaster Eric Clapton Prototype (Red)

This is the prototype of the Eric Clapton Signature model. The EC Signature Strat was based in part on the Fender Elite Stratocaster, a ’57 Reissue Strat, and Clapton’s own Blackie. Based on photos, Eric started using the prototype 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]

Eric playing the red Prototype Strat. Source: Eric Clapton & Friends Live 1986

The prototypes were based overall on the Blackie, including the vintage-style headstock and spaghetti logo, body shape, and contours. The maple neck itself was based on a ’57 reissue model (a guitar which Clapton had access to since the ARMS tour in 1983), and it featured a slightly softer V-profile neck than what Clapton was used to on the Blackie. Although an exact replica of the Blackie’s neck was apparently Clapton’s initial wish, he ended up liking the softer V neck, and it remained on his Signature model ever since [source needed].

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1986 Fender Stratocaster Eric Clapton Prototype (Gray)

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. Regarding the finish on this one, it was a custom color based on one of Eric Mercedes cars.

As pointed out by John in the comments, this guitar was fitted with a 22-fret neck in 1988. If any additional information comes up regarding this specific prototype it’ll be added up in the future.

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1986 Fender Stratocaster Eric Clapton Prototype (Gray #2)

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.

By 1988 this grey prototype received a 22-fret birds-eye maple neck in place of the standard vintage-style 21-fret neck. This is also confirmed in the info posted on the 1999 Christie’s auction [Lot 62, A 1986 Fender Stratocaster Eric Clapton Signature Model – Christie’s], noting that Mike Stevens of Fender Custom Shop did the swap.

22-fret added. Eric Clapton Live September 21st, 1988 at The Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View, CA.
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1996 The Gold Leaf Stratocaster EC1

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, and it took three trials prior to finding the right combination of finish/hardware.

Eric Clapton playing a Gold Leaf Stratocaster at Montreux 1997
Eric used the Gold Leaf Stratocaster at Montreux 1997

Clapton’s guitar was built by Masterbuilder Mark Kendrick. It featured a clear polyester finish that protected the gold leaf patterns, curly maple neck, gold-plated hardware, and three Lace Sensor pickups.

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2004 Fender Stratocaster "Crashocaster"

This is a guitar custom-made for Eric by the Fender Custom Shop Master Builder Todd Krause and painted by the graffiti artist John “Crash” Matos, who previously painted two of Eric’s guitars (first one in 1996, second in 2001).

“Crashocaster” at the 2004 Crossroads Festival.

The guitar was used for a relatively short period of time, from March 15, 2004, to around mid-June that same year. The main reason for this was that Eric organized an auction on June 21st [CROSSROADS GUITAR AUCTION at Christie’s] through which he sold a huge number of his guitars, among them being this Crashocaster.

The guitar ended up selling for $321,100, which was surprisingly high considering how short Eric had used it. The fact that it was after all a unique instrument painted by Crash probably played a huge role in setting that price, along with the fact that Eric played it during the 2004 Crossroads Festival.

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Acoustic Guitars

1969 Zemaitis 12-string

This guitar was built for Eric by Tony Zemaitis in early 1969, apparently with direct input from Clapton on the design. According to Bobby Whithloc, the guitar was used at the first-ever Derek and the Dominos gig, played by Dave Mason.

When we did the Lyceum gig we had planned on doing a couple of acoustic numbers. It was just Eric and Dave [Mason, who played Clapton’s 12 string called ‘Ivan The Terrible’] and me playing acoustic guitars and singing…..We did several numbers and then Carl and Jim came on and we all plugged in and rocked the house.

Bobby Whitlock: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Autobiography

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According to info shared by the auction house though which the guitar was sold in 2004, “Ivan The Terrible” was used on the Blind Faith album, but it is not shared on which song(s) specifically. Also according to the auction, at some point, it was borrowed by George Harrison, who recorded parts of My Sweet Lord on it. [ANTHONY C. ZEMAITIS, 1969, 12-STRING GUITAR CO-DESIGNED WITH ERIC CLAPTON] At this point, it is unknown how true this story is, and if you happen to come across an interview from George talking about it, please be sure to leave a comment below.

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Martin D-45

Eric was first seen with this guitar backstage in the dressing room of Lyceum Ballroom, London, on June 14th, 1970. This was the debut concert of his new band – Derek and the Dominos.

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 – albeit not the one that they were introduced under –

On a Sunday night in June, we tried the band out in front of an audience at a charity concert at the Lyceum in the Strand, in aid of Dr. Spock’s Civil Liberties Legal Defense Fund. In the excitement of just forming the group, one thing had slipped our minds, and that was, right up to the last minute before we were to go onstage, we had no name for ourselves. Ashton, Gardiner, and Dyke were the opening act, and Tony Ashton always used to call me Del and suggested that we should be Del and the Dominos.

When he did finally announce us, without any mention of our real names, it was as Derek and the Dominos, and the name just stuck. Our set consisted of songs from our Delaney days, like “Blues Power” and “Bottle of Red Wine,” a couple of blues numbers, “Crossroads” and “Spoonful,” and, because Dave Mason had joined us for this one show, a Traffic song, “Feelin’ Alright.”

Clapton: The Autobiography

Although it can’t be said for sure, based on the photos taken at the show – a lot of the gig at the Lyceum Ballroom seemed to have been an acoustic set (see comments for more on this). This means that this Martin is actually somewhat special since it was right there with Eric at the first-ever Derek and the Dominos concert.

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1970s Dobro/Regal Resonator Custom

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.

Eric Clapton playing a Dobro Resonator guitar.
Clapton played the guitar at the Unplugged concert in 1992.

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 kind enough to send upon our inquiry.

I built that guitar using an old, I believe, regal body that I was able to modify by making a different neck, putting in a sound well, and installing a dobro spider and cone with a dobro cover plate which I engraved along with the tailpeice etc. Its been many years ago and I don’t remember all the details, however, this is essentially correct. Eric ordered the guitar on one of his trips to tape the Johnny Cash show. Also this instrument was made in, I think, 1970 or 71.

Randy Wood at randywoodguitars.com

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1966 Martin 000-28/45 ‘The Longworth’

Eric acquired this guitar sometime in 1970, during the Derek and the Dominos US tour. It was bought at George Gruhn’s shop, around the time the band was filming for the Johnny Cash tv show. According to Eric, the filming was done in 1970 – but that particular episode didn’t air until January 6, 1971.

I bought it from GTR and it had been upgraded already…I bought that when I was doing the Johnny Cash show in 1970…It’s a great guitar…a star guitar.

Eric Clapton – Christie’s

As noted by Eric in the above quote, the guitar was already modified when he purchased it. It styled pearl inlays around the soundhole and the body, and the headstock featured a 000-45 style Martin logo, also done in pearl. The neck and the headstock were also bound in plastic.

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1974 Martin 000-28 "Rodeo Man"

Eric purchased this guitar sometime in the mid-1970s, and it directly replaced his 000-28/45 conversion Martin as his main acoustic guitar. He was first seen using it around early 1977. Allegedly, he used the guitar to write and record some of the songs from the 1977 album Slowhand, including Wonderful Tonight.

Eric Clapton playing a 1974 Martin 000-28 "Rodeo Man"
Eric Clapton Live in 1977

From the photos, it is apparent that Eric’s 000-28 had a custom bridge or a bridge that was heavily modified. At first, in the 70s, the bridge had some kind of a pickup in front of it, with the wire being completely visible.

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1988 Guild Songbird Amber

Clapton was seen playing this guitar at 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 he and Mark Knopfler, who joined him on stage, used the exact same model that night.

Eric Clapton, Shoreline Amphitheatre, 21st September 1988

The guitar was one of the many that were auctioned by Clapton in 2011, in aid of The Crossroads Center – a drug and alcohol addiction rehabilitation center located on the Caribbean island of Antigua. The official posting of the auction of the Guild can be found over at Bonhams’ website [Lot 104 -A LATE 1988 GUILD SONGBIRD AMBER, Serial No. KK000365]. The guitar was sold for $3,416.

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1977 Juan Alvarez

Most notably, Eric used this guitar for the recording of Tears in Heaven (1991). The guitar was also played during the MTV Unplugged concert in 1992, during which Clapton used it on the intro track, as well as on Tears in Heaver, Circus Left Town, and Lonely Stranger.

The guitar was also seen in the music video for the song “Tears in Heaven”. The shots of Eric playing the guitar were recorded at Bray Studios during the rehearsals for the 1991 George Harrison Japan tour.

The guitar features a rosewood back and sides, cedar top, and cedar neck with ebony fingerboard. This is, of course, a hand-made instrument, made by one of the most respected classical guitar luthiers of the 20th century – Juan Alvarez. Since Alvarez’s death in 2001, the production was taken over by his son, Juan Miguel.

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1939 Martin 000-42

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”.

Eric Clapton playing a Martin 000-42 acoustic guitar during Layla
Eric played an acoustic version of “Layla” on his Martin 000-42 during the MTV Unplugged show.

Although there don’t seem to be any photos of Eric using the guitar prior to the 1992 show, it’s possible that he acquired the 000-42 all the way back in 1970. This is according to an interview from 1976 with Stephen Stills, in which he notes that he gave a 000-42 Martin to Clapton.

Stills also gives away his guitars, his latest present being a Martin 000-42 to Eric Clapton. “It was sitting around gathering dust,” Stephen states. “Eric needed an acoustic, and I had one that would fit his needs. If he doesn’t play it though, I’ll go and take it back. But he’ll understand that.

Guitar Player, January 1976, by Lowell Cauffiel

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Martin 000-ECHF Bellezza Nera

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 the same design.

In July 2004, Martin announced a limited edition of this guitar. The guitar was officially named ‘000-ECHF Bellezza Nera’ (Bellezza meaning beautiful, and Nera meaning black). A total of 476 of these guitars were produced.

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Martin OM-ECHF Navy Blues

This guitar came out in 2014 as a special limited edition by Martin, in collaboration with Eric and Hiroshi Fujiwara – a Japanese musician and designer.

The guitar is basically an OM (longer scale) version of the Martin 000-ECHF Bellezza Nera, which Eric used since around 2003. It features east Indian rosewood back and sides, spruce top, and dark navy blue finish.

Eric playing a Martin 000-ECHF Navy Blue circa 2014.
Eric playing a Martin 000-ECHF Navy Blue circa 2014.
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Amps

1960s Vox AC30

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 if he had something else on the side.

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Marshall Bluesbreaker Model 1962

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 and built specifically for Eric.

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 the whole thing in the boot [trunk] of his car.

Musician’s Hotline magazine, 2003

Eric Clapton is photographed playing his Gibson Les Paul “Beano Burst” through a Marshall Model 1962 on the top right. Image source – original vinyl sleeve.
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Marshall JTM45/100

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 said, ‘I want that twice as loud,’” Townshend says. “And, almost like Krupps, the famous military manufacturer, Jim Marshall’s eyes lit up. He said, ‘I will supply this man with the weapon he requires.’ And out of that came the Marshall stack and the big amplifiers of the Sixties.”

Guitar World, September 2002, an excerpt from ‘History of Marshall Amps’

The JTM45/100 model went through a few different incarnations between 1965 and 1966, and Eric himself most likely used the version with the KT66 output tubes (as opposed to EL34s which were used on later models), and Drake 1204-43 power transformer (as opposed to a Radiospares transformer on the previous version).

Interesting to note, another guitarist that was becoming popular at that time by the name of Jimi Hendrix, purchased a pair of JTM45/100s himself upon landing his feet in the UK in late 1966. This means that both Fresh Cream and Are You Experienced were likely recorded on the same exact model of an amp, which explains why so many people consider this to be the best amp that Marshall has ever put out.

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Marshall JTM45/100 Super Lead 100

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 notably, the older version (Version 3B) used KT66s output tubes, while the newer version (version 5A) used EL34s.

It is also worth pointing out that Eric possibly also used other versions besides these two, but it’s very hard to differentiate the different versions because from the front they all looked the same. You can only tell difference by looking inside the amp, or by looking at the backplate. By the stroke of luck, there is actually a photo showing the back of one of Eric’s Marshalls, from which we can see that this Marshall reads “Super Lead 100”, meaning that it’s a newer version.

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The photo above was taken at Blind Faith’s Hyde Park concert in London, on June 7, 1969, but since the amp reads “Cream” on the back, it was obviously also used with the Cream. To which extent, unfortunately, no one seems to know, but it is possible that Cream’s second and third albums were recorded on this newer version of the JTM45/100.

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Fender Dual Showman

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 the 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 there a bit, but that’s the Stratocaster.  

When I use the Stratocaster and Dual Showman, I have the pickup switch set between the first and middle pickups—which is a very bright sound, but not completely trebly. I take a little of the treble off, and I put on all of the bass and the middle. And I set the volume at about half.

GP Flashback Eric Clapton June 1970

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Fender Custom '57 Twin Tweed Amp

This has been Eric’s main stage amp since around 2004/2005. Based on photos, he usually had two of them on stage, and it seems that he used them pretty much all the time. The only other amp that he used somewhat regularly from 2005 to around 2011 seems to be a smaller Fender 57 Bandmaster.

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It is important to note that from 2011 it becomes somewhat difficult to identify the amp since by that time Fender released the Twinolux EC model – which basically looks exactly the same as the ’57 Twin. The main difference between the two is the small “EC” badge on the bottom right of the speaker grill.

If you want to see the differences between the two, check out this thread on the GearPage forums: Two Fender Tweed Beauties: Fender Custom 57 Twin and Fender Eric Clapton Twinolux.

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Fender EC Twinolux Amp

This amp was introduced in 2011 as a custom version of the Fender 57 Twin (which Clapton used up until that point), made to Eric’s specifications.

Photo credit: Fender

Visually, the two amps look the same, apart from the badge on the top, and the fact that Twinolux has an additional badge reading “EC” on the bottom right of the speaker grill.

Spec-wise, the Twinolux also takes a lot from the original 57 Twin. The amp is based on the same 5E8-A schematic and features four 12AX7 preamp tubes and two 6L6GE tubes, and dual 5U4GB rectifier tubes.

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Effects

Vox V846 Wah-Wah

According to Eric, he used a Vox wah pedal to record the song 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 obviously didn’t specify the exact model, but given the time period, it is likely that he used a V846 model (more about this pedal and the origins of wah-wah can be read here – The History of the Development of the Original Vox Wah Pedal).

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Boss TR-2 Tremolo Pedal

Used on tour in the 90s and 2000s, usually just on Badge. Most notably, you can hear (and see) him use the pedal at the concert in Hyde Park in 1996 (video below). Around the mid-way through the song, he steps on the TR-2, and the sound shifts dramatically, creating a “wobbly” effect.

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Strings

Fender Rock and Roll Electric Guitar Strings

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 the strings you used on the Les Paul, on the live side of Wheels Of Fire?
E.C.: Fender Rock and Roll strings.

GP Flashback Eric Clapton June 1970

The ‘Rock and Roll’ likely refers to Fender’s 150 set, which featured gauges
.010, .013, .015, .026, .032, .038 (see Fender Catalogs From 1953 to 1979, specifically from 1968, page 41.)

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Ernie Ball Super Slinky Electric Guitar Strings

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

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Ernie Ball Regular Slinky Electric Guitar Strings

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.

An Interview with Eric Clapton Guitar Technician Lee Dickson

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Accessories

Kazoo (MTV Unplugged)

Most famously, Eric used this Kazoo during the MTV Unplugged concert recorded on January 16, 1992. He played it on the song San Francisco Bay Blue and had it mounted on a harmonica rack.

Eric used a Kazoo during “San Francisco Bay Blues”.

As far as the exact model, unfortunately, kazoos are a bit of a mystery to the author of this page. From the looks of it, it looks just like a generic plastic kazoo with no branding visible whatsoever. If any kazoo experts stumble upon this page, be free to demystify the subject in the comments.

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