Eric Clapton’s 1963/65 Gibson Reverse Firebird 1

access_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.

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Karin Märs

Very informative!!

Continue browsing, or go subdirectory_arrow_leftBack to Eric Clapton Gear Page
access_time 1967

1964 Gibson SG Standard ”The Fool”

Clapton acquired this guitar presumably sometime in 1967, likely purchasing it himself. 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 […]

access_time 1968

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. Date of Purchase Theories The first theory is largely based on Eric’s claim that he […]

access_time 1962

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”. According to Eric, he received this guitar as a gift 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 […]

access_time 1967

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]. At that time, Eric was using the Fool SG practically exclusively, and the Strat itself didn’t see much stage-light until around three years later, although its neck had a history of its own on another guitar prior to that. One the page regarding the 1962 Fender Telecaster/Stratocaster Custom, we’ve mentioned […]

access_time 1973

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 […]

access_time 1966

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 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 […]

access_time 1966

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 one. About the time that we share […]

access_time 1964

1963 Fender Telecaster

This was Eric’s main recording and gigging guitar during the Yardbirds era. The guitar allegedly belonged to the Yardbirds management, and after Eric had left the band, Jeff Beck who took over his role, played the same guitar for some time prior to acquiring a Fender Esquire (more on Jeff Beck’s Gear Page). (Jeff Beck:) We were on the road constantly and I didn’t even have my own guitar. I [initially] used Eric’s red […]

access_time 1968

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 […]

access_time 1968

1957 Gibson Les Paul “Lucy”

Clapton purchased this guitar at Dan Amstrong’s Guitar shop in New York at 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.] Lucy with Eric Eric himself seems to […]

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