Eric Clapton’s 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 Tele, which I think belonged to the Yardbirds. [Legendary Guitar: Jeff Beck’s 1954 Yardbirds Esquire]
However, since Jeff was never actually seen playing the guitar, there are some doubts whether this story is completely true. […]
As said, this was Eric’s main guitar with the Yardbirds, and it was likely used on both the 1964 live album “Five Live Yardbirds” recorded at the Marquee Club in London [Yardbirds at The Marquee Club 1964], and on the tracks that Eric played on “For Your Love” in 1965 (basically everything except “I’m Not Talking”, “I Ain’t Done Wrong”, and “My Girl Sloopy” – which were of course played by Jeff Beck). [For Your Love (album) – Wikipedia]
(When asked which guitar he used on Yardbirds recordings:) I think the Tele. Or the Gibson, but more likely the Tele, because I remember breaking strings a lot, and that’s why I moved to the Tele. [Eric Clapton: Blues Power; GuitarWorld.com]
In the quote below Clapton notes again that he would often break his strings while playing on the Tele, and how that eventually played a role in him acquiring the nickname “Slowhand”. This statement, however, makes the quote above a bit confusing, since he mentioned moving from Gibson to the Tele, while below he mentioned that he had the Tele from the day one. The Gibson ES-335 was purchased only after he had made some money playing with the Yardbirds (more about this in the ES-335 section)
I had a Telecaster in The Yardbirds from day one. I used light-gauge strings, with a very thin first string, which made it easier to bend the notes, and it was not uncommon, during frenetic bits of playing, for me to break at least one string. While I was changing my strings the audience would often break into a slow handclap, inspiring Giorgio (Gomelsky, The Yardbirds’ manager) to dream up the nickname of ‘Slowhand’ Clapton. [I choked up as my guitars were sold, Eric Clapton, DailyMail.co.uk]
After Eric left the Yardbirds on March 25, 1965, the guitar ended up with the band’s new guitarist – Jeff Beck, who used for a brief period of time before acquiring a Fender Esquire. The red Telecaster practically disappears from that point on, and its whereabouts are to this day unknown. It could’ve remained in the private possession of Giorgio Gomelsky, who was the band’s manager during the Clapton era, or it could’ve been sold since everybody in the band seemed to have settled with a guitar of their own.