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 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.
Eric with the Custom
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 in 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 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 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. 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
Based on the more recent photos of the guitar, the Custom is now restored to its stock condition. All three pickup covers as well as the pickguard were re-installed.
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If Eric gave Albert the 3-pickup Custom he played with Cream AND Delaney & Bonnie (and John Lennon Plastic Ono Band, etc.), what about the 3-pickup Custom he received in trade from Paul Kossoff in late summer 1969? Seems funny that he got the guitar from Kossoff and immediately started playing his old Cream Custom again. I’m just curious what happened to the Kossoff Custom.
Is a mistery bruce , exist a confusion aroumd this guitar and the one exchanged with kossoff.
I know that story about Paul trading guitars on the Blind Faith tour. There is an important identifier on Erics early one, the more famous one. Iit had a small piece of binding chipped off at the corner of the headstock. I will take a look and get all this straight for folks…
I know this guitar well and have even used it on stage (thanks Albert!) It is actually a 1958 and is in it’s original condition except Eric swapped the pafs out for Dimarzios. I owned a 1959 and currently a 1960 w the original pafs and they sounded better than ECs, must be the lower output as Dimarzios can sound a little harsh. Talk about a magical guitar, historically!
Wait a minute! The guitar they picture here from Kossoff is an earlier, two pickup, LP Custom. If that is correct then Albert has the good one…
Apparently a Jazz musician bought it at one stage and ended up selling it in Australia as it wasn’t jazz enough for him. If I’m right there were only 10 made and a Japanese collector has 005, 006, 007 & 009. I think Eric’s was number 008.
OK, I know this guitar better than anyone, except Albert probably. However, I also know who has the answers to these questions and am going to find out. “Lee Dickson” knows the ins and outs and also know him so will reach out.
Make sure to report back Peter! Cheers.