Eric Clapton’s 1963/65 Gibson Reverse Firebird 1access_time First seen circa 1968
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 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 that he used it that same day at Philadelphia’s Electric Factory. The only thing that we have no idea of confirming 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.
Be that as it may, this guitar subsequently appeared on the Cream farewell tour in late 1968, and served as a direct replacement of The Fool SG – which by that time lost a good amount of its custom paint job due to extensive use.
(In relation to the Cream era:) The 335 was a big favorite and that particular Firebird, I had some great times on that; the single pickup produced a fantastic sound. [Classic Interview: Eric Clapton, June 1994]
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As noted by Clapton, the Firebird that he used in the Cream era was equipped with a single mini-humbucker pickup in the bridge position. The guitar obviously had no pickup switch, only had two knobs (volume and tone), and was equipped with a wraparound tailpiece. This is also the first Gibson solid-body to feature a neck-through-body construction, with the neck itself being made up of five pieces of mahogany with four narrow strips of walnut mingled between them for more strength.
Firebird with the Blind Faith
The guitar popped in occasionally during Blind Faith era, although photographic evidence is scarce so it’s hard to tell to which extent it was used during this period. Most of the photos seem to originate from the North American Tour, although there were occasional sightings of the guitar originating from the Scandinavian Tour as well. For instance, the recently released Blind Faith tape “The Undertaker” recorded in Göteborg, Sweden on June 18th, 1969, shows Clapton holding the Firebird meaning that the guitar was likely used on both tours.