Eric Clapton’s 1964 Gibson SG Standard ”The Fool”

access_time First seen circa 1967

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 colors. I asked them to decorate one of my guitars, a Gibson Les Paul, which they turned into a psychedelic fantasy, painting not just the front and back of the body, but the neck and fretboard, too.

Clapton: The Autobiography; p.167

Few things to point out in the quote above – John Lennon’s Rolls Royce was not painted by the same artists, but by Steve Weaver [Interesting Facts About John Lennon’s Rolls-Royce Phantom] The Fool collective did however work on many of the Beatles’ stuff, including George Harrison’s Mini Cooper, and the facade of the Beatles’ Apple Boutique in London’s Baker Street [The Fool (design collective) – Wikipedia]

Second – the guitar is not a Les Paul but an SG. This can be deducted from two clues – the guitar is equipped with a Maestro tremolo which was first introduced in 1963, and the pickguard featured six screws which were fitted on SGs from the beginning of 1964. Based on this, the guitar was made likely sometime in 1964, or at least couple of months after the model was officially renamed from Les Paul to “SG”, which stood for “Solid Guitar”.

The Design

According to Vintage Guitar interview with the two artists behind it [Clapton’s Fool – History’s Greatest Guitar?;], the guitar was painted over a course of two weeks. It was first sanded down and painted with primer, with all the design added by hand, using oil-based, brush-applied enamel paints. Marijke Koger was behind the design, and Simon Posthuma was responsible for most of the painting. The design wrapped all around the body and extended to the back of the neck and the headstock. Some early photos also show that a small portion of the fretboard was painted, as well as both of the pickup rings, but it seems that this part of the design wore off over the course of years.

Embed from Getty Images

There are numerous photos online showing the artwork in great detail, perhaps the best again posted on Vintage Guitar’s feature on the guitar [Clapton’s Fool – History’s Greatest Guitar?;], which shows both the back and the front of the guitar. A couple of photos are also available over at Marijke Koger’s website, which also shows the designs she did on Jack Bruce’ bass guitar and Ginger Baker’s drums to go along Clapton’s SG during the band first US tour in 1967.

The Usage

It is assumed that most of Disraeli Gears was recorded on this guitar, although Eric was photographed during the sessions using a Les Paul Custom which might’ve ended up on a couple of songs as well. Although some people had tried to listen to the songs and determine which featured which of the two guitars, based on what we’ve read and seen most of it is based on pure guessing. When asked whether the Fool was used on the album even Clapton himself seems to have a fuzzy memory concerning the sessions:

Yeah, Disraeli Gears, I think, and from then on, really, a lot of the time. That became my mainstay until I bought a Gibson Firebird with one pickup, and that for a time became my most favorite guitar.

Eric Clapton: Blues Power;

What is known is that the guitar was used as Clapton main instrument for the remainder of the 1967 and for the early part of 1968. At this point of time, almost everything on the guitar remained stock, except for the Kluson tuners which were replaced with Grovers sometime in August of 1967.

Embed from Getty Images

Eric Clapton “Woman Tone” interview with the Fool SG

One of the most iconic interviews recorded with Eric Clapton featured this exact guitar. The interview was included on the original theatrical release of the Cream’s Farewell Concert, which according to most sources dates to late 1967 or early 1968, even though the concert itself was recorded on November 26th, 1968.

The Demise

By late 1967, most of the paint on the back of the neck was gone due to extensive use, and the fact that the paint apparently wasn’t sealed at all. There are photos from around this period (see below) clearly showing the guitar from the back (also note that this is the last time we see the SG with the original Kluson tuners).

Embed from Getty Images

Because of this, and the fact that by mid-1968 Eric had already moved on to a Gibson Firebird, the SG slowly began disappearing from the stage use. The SG was used from April 1968 into May with the Firebird eventually taking its place by June where later in June, Eric allegedly gave the SG to George Harrison. The SG is prominently featured during the historic March 1968 Winterland recordings including the iconic March 10 recordings of Crossroads and Spoonful plus others that appeared on Live Cream I & II. [On the Road to Dreams 1968 – AngelFire]

Post-Clapton and Current Whereabouts

The guitar is currently owned by Todd Rundgren, an American multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and record producer. He acquired the guitar in 1971 from Jackie Lomax.

I have the feeling that Eric had given that guitar up because it went through a number of hands before I got it. I think he gave it to George Harrison, and I’d heard that Paul Kossoff from Free owned it, too. I got it from Jackie Lomax, who was signed to Apple. This was when I was up in Woodstock working with the Band.

Todd Rundgren Talks Eric Clapton’s ‘The Fool’ SG

Unfortunately, the details surrounding the guitar’s history between the time Lomax got his hands on it and the time it left Eric’s, is not entirely known. Most sources seem to claim that Lomax got it from George Harrison after Eric allegedly just left the guitar at Harrison’s place at some point in the late 60s. The claim that Paul Kossoff owned the guitar is something only mentioned by Todd Rundgren, and we haven’t been able to track it to any other source.

Todd Rungdren playing Clapton's SG during a gig with Jack Bruce and Ringo Starr in 1999. Source: YouTube
Todd Rundgren playing Clapton’s SG during a gig with Jack Bruce and Ringo Starr in 1999. Source: YouTube

At the time Todd acquired the SG the paint from the back of the neck was completely gone, and the guitar was in a really bad shape overall. This eventually caused the headstock to break, at which point it appears that Todd decided to temporarily fix it by gluing the old headstock back on. According to the quote below, it seems that at some point the upper part of the neck was completely replaced, and following that, the back of the neck and the headstock itself were repainted by an artist that Todd hired himself:

The neck was all beat up, especially near the headstock. […]I played the guitar for a while and eventually, the headstock just snapped off, so I had to have that reattached. That eventually was replaced, […] And the original paint had never been sealed – they used, like, acrylic paint, but never put sealer over it, so bits of paint had been falling off over the years. I got an artist friend to restore the paint job and seal it so that it wouldn’t fall apart anymore. Plus, I had to repaint the back of the neck since it had been replaced.

Clapton’s Fool – History’s Greatest Guitar?;

From the looks of it, Todd also got rid of the old Maestro tremolo at some point and installed a stop-tailpiece and what looks like a Kluson Harmonica bridge. All four control knobs also seem to have been changed from the original reflector knobs to two gold bell knobs for the volume controls, and two black one for the tone.

The Fool Auctioned

In 2000 Todd Rundgren sold the Gibson SG at Sotheby’s for around $150,000 to pay off a tax debt, donating 10% to Clapton’s Crossroads Centre. [Clapton’s Fool: History’s Greatest Guitar?”. Vintage Guitar. pp. 62–66.] Following that, the guitar was resold to a private collector a few years later for around $500,000. [Legendary Guitar: The Saga of Eric Clapton’s Famous Fool SG]

Leave a Reply

Photo and Image Files
1 Comment threads
3 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
2 Comment authors
GroundGuitar DanMike Recent comment authors
newest oldest most voted
Notify of

Good work but one observation – I own an SG with a Maestro tremolo, I can clearly see from your photo of EC (April 1967) playing the guitar that at this point it does not have a tremolo, I believe it was never a Maestro…

Continue browsing, or go subdirectory_arrow_leftBack to Eric Clapton Gear Page
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 1968

1963/65 Gibson Reverse Firebird 1

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 […]

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 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”. 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 […]

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 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 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

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 […]

Interested in other artists? Check out GroundGuitar's subdirectory_arrow_rightGear Page