Eric Clapton’s 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 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 never version, which would eventually became a separate model now known as the SG.
As far as usage, it is assumed that this was Clapton’s backup guitar during the time he used The Fool SG, although it was never really seen on any of the photos. Because of that, the guitar is mainly associated with a later period of Eric’s career – or more precisely, the tour he did with Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett in late 1969.
On the most famous (and the our knowledge, the only available) photos taken of Eric during the Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett tour [Getty Images – Eric Clapton with Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett] he is seen playing what is presumed to be this same guitar but now featuring some changes – both the pickup covers and the pickguard are now removed.
Gone to Albert Lee
In 1979, Clapton gave this guitar to Albert Lee who starting with 1978, worked for five years with Eric Clapton. The guitar is still in his possession.
I was using the Gibson Les Paul Custom Eric gave me. That’s the one he used with Delaney & Bonnie and Cream. He gave me that guitar when we started playing together in ’79. It’s one of my treasures. [Albert Lee Talks Gear, Technique, “Cocaine,” “Country Boy” and Eric Clapton]