Eric Clapton’s 1963/65 Gibson Reverse Firebird 1
Clapton purchased his Gibson Firebird on the afternoon of April 19th, 1968 just before a three-day gig at Philadelphia’s Electric Factory, at a store called 8th Street Music (this has been confirmed by three former salesmen who witnessed it, one of which was personally interviewed on the phone by one of our contributors). Clapton used his SG for the Factory performances – however, there are other photos of EC using the Firebird during an afternoon rehearsal at the Factory on the 20th or 21st, obviously testing it out. [On the Road to Dreams 1968 – AngelFire]
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]
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 wrap around 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.