Eric Clapton’s 1960s Kay Jazz IIaccess_time First seen circa 1962
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 but guitars, so maybe once a month I bought a guitar. [Eric Clapton: Blues Power – GuitarWorld.com]
There are some interesting details about this guitar worth mentioning. Although most of the internet seems to agree that this is indeed a Kay Jazz II model, the fingerboard inlays on Eric’s guitar don’t seem to fit the description. If you Google a photo of a vintage Jazz II, you’ll probably notice that almost every single guitar has uniquely shaped inlays, while Eric’s Kay has simple block inlays. Next to that, you’ll also notice that Eric’s guitar is fitted with a black round pickguard, while every other Kay Jazz II features a very distinctively shaped pickguard mostly in white.
This possibly goes to show that the guitar was somewhat modified, or that it was simply misidentified, or perhaps this is just inconsistency across the same model over the years. If you happen to know more, as always – shoot us a message using the contact form at the bottom of this list.
In his autobiography book Eric also talked a bit about the guitar, mentioning that what he was really after was the Gibson ES-335 – which he would acquire later on while playing with the Yardbirds. In the book he also goes on to explain how the Kay had no truss rod, which resulted in the neck bowing – making it even harder to play.
It was the same guitar I had seen Alexis Korner playing, a double-cutaway semi-acoustic Kay, which at the time was quite an advanced instrument, although essentially, as I later learned, it was still only a copy of the best guitar of the day, the Gibson ES-335. The Gibson would have cost over a hundred pounds then I think, well beyond our reach, while the Kay cost only ten pounds, but still seemed quite exotic. It captured my heart. The only thing that wasn’t quite right with it was the color. Though advertised as Sunburst, which would have been a golden orange going to dark red at the edges, it was more yellowy, going to a sort of pink, so as soon as I got it home, I covered it with black Fablon. [Clapton: The Autobiography; p.80]
Interestingly enough, the guitar was never seen the black Fablon covering the whole body, but perhaps that explains the black pickguard.