Eric Clapton’s 1960s Kay Jazz II K775
Eric used this guitar prior to joining the Yardbirds circa 1962, while he was playing in his first band called “The Rooster”. The guitar was purchased from Bells in Surbiton, and according to Eric, he bought it with little help 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 (Google “Eric Clapton Kay guitar” for images) 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 – leave a comment at the bottom of this list.
Not an ES-335, but it did the Job
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.
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 with the black Fablon covering the whole body. That means that Eric either doesn’t remember all the details or that they removed the Fablon shortly afterward (not likely, for reasons discussed later) because, on the only photo of Eric with the Kay, there’s no such tape on the body.
Kay after Eric, Roger Pearce
According to Peter Moody, who was kind enough to send share the story via email, Eric still had the Kay when he joined Yardbirds in October 1963. However, after the band purchased the 1963 Fender Telecaster, the Kay ended up with Roger Pearce.
When Eric joined the Yardbirds in the October he still had it, but not for long. The pink Telecaster came on the scene via being purchased by the Yardbirds Ltd. Eric let Roger Pearce have the Kay – as long as Roger would go over to Ripley and pay the HP money over to Rose.
Roger was in a ‘duo’ with Keith Relf as ‘The Dreamers’ during 1960s. Eric had seen them. At the same time both Eric and Keith were at Kingston Art college. When Eric went to Germany in December, the Yardbirds got Roger to take Eric’s place. All the gigs are noted.
I saw Roger with them. Met him and we set-up a band calling it The Grebbels! Along with our own gigs that Giorgio booked us for – we supported the Yardbirds throughout 1964 at the Crawdaddy in Richmond on every Sunday.Peter Moody – via email
Regarding the black Fablon covering the body, Peter himself notes that both Eric and Roger claim that it was done by them. One thing that likely points towards the truth is that (as previously noted) Eric was never seen with the Kay black, while Roger was. That obviously means that Roger’s version of the story is more plausible, although the other possibility is still out there.
Roger says he did it. Eric wrote once that he did it. The guitar was sunburst. Latterly It was covered in matt Fablon. You’ll see it in that finish here in the early pictures. Roger, in early summer 1964 sprayed in black gloss – see later pictures.Peter Moody – via email
Also according to Peter, Roger used the Kay up until around summer 1965, when it was exchanged for a Fender Telecaster. From that point on, the guitar’s history is unknown.
Roger and I were pally with Pete Green back then – and latterly (around Summer 1965). Roger swapped the Kay for a Telecaster from a friend of Greeny. Roger remembers, about a month or so later after the swap he saw it hanging up in a guitar shop window in Charing Cross Road.Peter Moody – via email
Truss Rod Issues?
One of the things that Eric complained about this guitar, listing it as the reason for moving on to other guitars, was a lack of truss rod. This was also believed to be true by Roger Pearce.
Much as I loved this guitar, I soon found out that it wasn’t that good. It was just as hard to play as the Hoyer because again, the strings were too high off the fingerboard, and, because there was no truss rod, the neck was weak. So after a few months’ hard playing, it began to bow, something I had to adapt to, not having a second instrument.Clapton: The Autobiography
However, the Kay catalog from 1962 clearly states the K775 model that Eric and Roger used was fitted with what Kay branded as the “Thin-Lite” adjustable neck, which in fact has a truss rod.
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I have pictures of Eric’s Kay Jazz with Roger Pearce (May 1964 all copyright @ Peter Moody. Eric passed it on to Roger Pearce of The Grebbels, a Crawdaddy band managed by Giorgio Gomelsky. Roger continued the HP payments with Rose, Eric’s grandmother. If anyone asks – I can send copies.
Peter, I have some questions for you about the Crawdaddy – could you drop me a line, please ([email protected]).
The guitar may have cost a £10 down payment- he mentions the hire purchase and the post below mentions that Roger Pearce continued to pay off the hire purchase instalments. I would imagine that the Kay, with its 25 & 3/4 inch scale as a bit harder to play for that reason- not the string height. I have seen the British price list for Kay guitars at this time and the Jazz II was not that much cheaper than the Gibson 335.