Eric Clapton’s Les Paul Custom (Paul Kossoff)

access_time First seen circa 1969

There has been some confusion regarding this particular guitar, but the story basically goes that sometime during the Blind Faith North American tour, for which the opening acts for Blind Faith included Free, Taste and Delaney & Bonnie; Clapton and Kossoff swapped guitars. [Paul Kossoff – The Back Street Crawler; Tom Guerra] According to what we’ve been able to find, this happened either in July or August 1969 [Concerts Wiki – Blind Faith]

As far as these things go, this story seems to be pretty solid. It is known that Paul Kossoff gave Eric his Les Paul Custom in exchange for a Darkburst Les Paul that Eric played on the Blind Faith tour. This has indeed been confirmed by Eric himself in a typescript note that accompanied the above mentioned Les Paul Standard Darkburst which was sold in 2000 at Christie’s [Eric Clapton/Paul Kossoff/Cream/Blind Faith/Free – Christie’s]

Unfortunately, Clapton was only seen playing a three-pickup Les Paul Custom around these dates, and Kossoff himself was never seen playing such a guitar prior to the exchange – he only had a two-pickup 1955 Custom which was actually one of his first guitars (more on this guitar on Paul Kossoff’s gear page). This was years prior to 1968/69 when the exchange took place, so it is unlikely that Kossoff still had the Custom with him.

Plausible Theories

The possible solution to this mystery might simply be that Eric was never photographed using Kossoff’s Les Paul Custom, and Kossoff himself was never photographed with it prior to the exchange. Clapton continued using the three-pickup Les Paul Custom (presumably the same one seen on the Disraeli Gears sessions) with Delaney and Bonnie, and in 1979 he gave that guitar to Albert Lee. All this time Kossoff’s Custom is somewhere safe among Clapton’s guitars.

The second plausible theory is that the Custom that Eric used with Delaney and Bonnie was Kossoff’s guitar. Clapton toured with Delaney and Bonnie right after the US Blind Faith tour (during which the exchange likely took place), so this would make sense if looked from that perspective. This guitar, compared to the one seen on Disraeli Gears sessions, also had no pickup covers and pickguard – which isn’t much to go by because they can be removed very easily, but it could also possibly mean that they were two different guitars after all.

Lastly, Albert Lee mentioned that the Les Paul Custom that was given to him by Eric was used with both Delaney & Bonnie and Cream. An interesting detail to point out is that Lee’s Custom had both the pickup covers and the pickguard installed [Albert Lee with Eric Clapton at Ahoy Rotterdam – Rob Vershorst Getty Images] while, as mentioned previously, Eric’s Custom didn’t have them last time it was seen. Could’ve they been simply re-installed sometime in the mid-70s? Or is it more likely that these are two different Custom after all?

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access_time 1967

1964 Gibson SG Standard ”The Fool”

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 […]

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 […]

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. […]

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”. 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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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