Eric Clapton’s 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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Not true, he also used it occasionally during early Cream in late 66. SEe attached.
That’s most likely a different guitar. Notice the Trapeze tail piece and no white plastic around pickup switch. I’ll add it as a separate guitar.
Here’s another early Cream pic with EC on a Gold Top….maybe it is another model but it still clearly demonstrates he used Gold Tops in the past. I included a composite comparing the Gold Top from early Cream to the Hunter show. You might be correct but how do we know he didn’t later remove the trapeze tail piece and simply add the white plastic piece around the toggle switch? I once talked to his Cream guitar tech (he later fired) and the tech told me, “Eric owned several Les Pauls during Cream including a gold top”. The same tech admitted, “contrary to what the Burst Brothers are claiming, Eric did NOT own a 335 during Cream until mid November 68 just a few weeks before the Royal Albert Hall Farewell concert” which corroberrates Tony Bacon (more on that later).
EC’s had far more Les Pauls than people realize including at least two Les Paul Custom Black Beauties, one with three gold humbuckers and one with what appears to be two white P90s. Speaking of Eric’s guitars, I’m sure your’e aware of the grossly bloated myth that EC owned a 64 ES-335 from Yardbirds period that suddenly appeared at the very end of Cream for their Royal Albert Hall Farewell show on November 26, 68 which of course turns out to be incorrect since Tony Bacon’s brilliant research on the ES-335 where he proved, based on serial numbers that the original block inlay 335 seen being played by Chris Dreja (it was HIS guitar) & occasionally Clapton, was produced earlier that the 335 seen on Cream’s final RAH Farewell gig where both the movie and stills show EC using the 335 for the second set and earlier during sound check and publicity photos. The original Yardbirds 335 block inlay was destroyed, according to Keith Relf, when a PA cab fell on it. Chris Dreja later purchased a replacement DOT inlay 335 which Eric also occasionally borrowed although, as we all know, Eric’s main Yardbirds guitar was a Telecaster then later a Jazzmaster plus the occasional Gretsch, early on, which either his or borrowed.
Bacon also proved that the 335 was purchased in mid November 68 at London’s Selmer Music store & he interviewed the sales clerk, Jerry Donahue, who sold Eric the guitar. Donahue was thrilled to attend the RAH show just two weeks later and proudly watch EC use that 335. EC himself has often had a faulty memory, especially regarding his own equipment and that includes his comments about the 335, however; in a 1968 interview, Clapton said, “I also HAD a Gibson 335” note the past tense. Hopefully, between you, me and other Clapton guitar researchers, we can put together an accurate count of the guitars Clapton used during his magnificent tenure with Cream. I was fortunate enough to see Clapton as his zenith with Cream at Philadelphia’s Electric Factory on April 19, 1968, where he used his SG through a dual Marshall stack run by one Marshall head and one Fender Dual Showman head (see my photos)…apparently his other Marshall head was being repaired. The next day, April 20, Clapton purchased his Gibson Firebird at Philly’s 8th Street Music & decades later, I talked to the salesman who sold EC the Firebird. Clapton tried out the Firebird on Saturday night April 21 then according to friends of mine who saw their last show on Sunday the 22nd, he was back on his SG. See my photos of Cream from April 19, 1968 at the Electric Factory. He was transcendent that night, just incredible including at least a 20 to 25 minutes long “Steppin Out”. I took photos and have included two of them. I was only 15 feet away from his Marshalls and we were blasted into sonic bliss. The sound of hearing his guitar at full volume up close, is something that non live Cream recording or boot has ever captured. When he hit high register notes, and did wide interval bends, they sent visceral shockwaves up your spine:-) Take care.
As far as I know, the photo with the Gold Top you posted was not from Hunter College on March 29, 1968 but from Staples High School, Westport, CT, March 27, 1968. Thank you for your precious job Dan!