Eric Patrick Clapton was raised in a musical household. His grandmother played piano and his uncle both enjoyed listening to the sounds of the big bands. Pat later told Eric's official biographer, Ray Coleman, that his father was a gifted musician, playing piano in several dance bands in the Surrey area.
By 1958, Rock and Roll had exploded onto the world. For his thirteenth birthday, Eric asked for a guitar. Finding the inexpensive Spanish Hoya difficult to play, he put it aside. In 1961, when he was 16, Eric began studying at the Kingston College of Art on a one-year probation. He was expelled at the end of that time for not submitting enough work, because guitar playing and listening to the blues dominated his waking hours.
Typical of his introspective nature, Eric looked beneath the surface and explored the roots of rock in American Blues. The blues also meshed perfectly with his self-perception as an outsider and of being "different" from other people. Sometime in 1962, he asked for his grandparents' help in purchasing a 100 electric double cutaway Kay (a Gibson ES-335 clone) after hearing the electric blues of Freddie King, B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, and others.
In early 1963, Eric joined his first band, The Roosters. Following the band's demise, he spent one month in the pop-oriented Casey Jones and The Engineers. Before turning to music as a full-time career, he supported himself as a laborer at building sites, working alongside his grandfather, a master bricklayer and plasterer.
In October 1963, Keith Relf and Paul Samwell-Smith recruited him to become a member of The Yardbirds because Clapton was the most talked about guitar player on the R&B pub circuit. During his 18-month tenure with The Yardbirds, he earned his nickname "Slowhand" and recorded his first albums: Five Live Yardbirds and Sonny Boy Williamson and The Yardbirds. The band also recorded the single, "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl". But, Eric had not abandoned his serious research into the American Blues. When The Yardbirds began moving towards a more commercial sound with "For Your Love", he quit. His path in music was the blues.
In April 1965, John Mayall invited Eric to join his band, John Mayall's Blues Breakers. With this group, Clapton established his reputation as a guitarist and earned his second nickname: "God". It came from an admirer's graffiti on the wall of London's Islington Tube Station that boldly proclaimed "Clapton is God". Eric's time with the band was turbulent and he left for a while to tour Greece with friends. Upon his return from Greece, Eric rejoined The Blues Breakers. It was during this time that the now classic Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton was recorded. While with The Blues Breakers, Eric also recorded a one-off four-track session with a band dubbed The Powerhouse. This studio band included John Paul Jones, Steve Winwood and Jack Bruce.
After leaving The Blues Breakers for a second and final time in July 1966, Eric teamed up with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker to form Cream. Extensive touring in the U.S. and three solid albums - Fresh Cream, Disraeli Gears, and Wheels of Fire - brought the band worldwide acclaim. While a member of Cream, he cemented his reputation as rock's premier guitarist and was elevated to superstar status. Although Cream was together for only two years, they are considered one of the most influential rock groups of the modern era. Clapton was unique because he did not simply replicate the blues riffs he heard on records. He incorporated the emotion of the original performances into his own style of playing, thus expanding the vocabulary of blues guitar. Cream crumbled beneath the weight of the member's egos and constant arguing. They disbanded after two final performances at London's Royal Albert Hall on November 26, 1968.
Following Cream's break-up, Clapton founded Blind Faith - rock's first "supergroup" - with Steve Winwood, Ginger Baker, and Rick Grech. Disbanding after one album and a disastrous American tour, he tried to hide from his growing fame by touring as a sideman with Delaney and Bonnie and Friends. While with this outfit, Eric was encouraged to sing by Delaney Bramlett. He also began composing more. A live album from the Delaney and Bonnie tour was released in 1970. Clapton's self-titled debut was released that same year.
In the summer of 1970, Eric formed Derek and The Dominos with members from Delaney and Bonnie's band. The Dominos would go on to record the seminal rock album, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. A concept album, its theme revolved around Clapton's unrequited love for George Harrison's wife, Pattie. The band would drift apart following an American tour and a failed attempt at recording a second album.
Hit hard by the break up of The Dominos, the commercial failure of the Layla album and his unrequited love, Eric sunk into three years of chemical abuse. Although he rarely emerged from his Surrey Estate, he filled box upon box with tapes of songs. He kicked his drug addiction and re-launched his career in January 1973 with two concerts at London's Rainbow Theater organized by his friend, Pete Townshend of The Who. The concerts represented a turning point in his career. In 1974, he reappeared with a new style and sound with 461 Ocean Boulevard. Eric had become an assured vocalist and composer in addition to a guitar hero.
With each album after 461 Ocean Boulevard, Eric reinvented himself musically. Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, albums and tours would follow year in and year out. In 1985, Clapton found a new audience following his performance at the worldwide charity concert, Live Aid. Annual stands at the Royal Albert Hall and successful albums like August, Journeyman and the Crossroads boxed set kept him well in the public mind. In the late 80s, he carved out a second career as the composer of film scores. His career went from strength to strength and reached new heights in 1992 with the release of Unplugged and the Grammy-winning single, "Tears in Heaven".
In 1994, Eric returned to his blues roots with the release of From the Cradle. The album was Clapton's tribute to his musical heroes and contained cover versions of blues classics. He ventured into electronica in 1997 with the release of TDF/Retail Therapy with Eric posing as X-Sample. In 1998, he released the soul-influenced Pilgrim, his first album of all new material in nine years. In 2000, he continued his love affair with the blues when he recorded an album with American blues legend, B.B. King. Riding with the King was released in June and within three weeks of release, was certified gold. Shortly thereafter, Clapton was back in the studio recording his next solo project. Reptile was released in March 2001. In late 2002, he began to record a new studio album. Work continued through the summer of 2003 and enough material was recorded for two albums. In addition to new solo material, Eric recorded covers of Robert Johnson songs during these sessions. The Johnson songs were assembled and in March 2004, Eric's tribute album, Me and Mr. Johnson, was released.
In May 2005, Eric revisted the past. He, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker re-formed Cream for four very special reunion shows at London's Royal Albert Hall. The concerts took place at the venue where their farewell shows took place 37 years earlier, in November 1968.
In his more than 40-year career, Eric Clapton has received many awards. He is the only triple inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame (as a member of both The Yardbirds and Cream and as a solo artist). He has also won or shared in seventeen Grammy Awards.
Eric has also contributed to numerous artists' albums over the decades. The most well known session occurred in September 1968, when he added guitar to George Harrison's composition, "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". It is on the album, The Beatles (best known as the "White Album"). He can also be heard on albums by Aretha Franklin, Steven Stills, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Plastic Ono Band (John Lennon and Yoko Ono), Ringo Starr, Sting, and Roger Waters.
In February of 1998, Eric announced the opening of Crossroads Centre, a rehabilitation facility for drug and alcohol abuse on the island of Antigua. One of its principles is to provide subsidized care for some of the poorest people of the Caribbean who can not afford such care on their own. A foundation was established to provide "scholarships" for these individuals. On June 24, 1999, Clapton auctioned 100 of his guitars, including "Brownie" (the guitar on which he recorded "Layla"), at Christie's Auction House / New York. The sale netted almost five million dollars for the foundation. On June 30, 1999, Clapton hosted a concert to benefit the Centre at New York City's Madison Square Garden. Proceeds from its airing on VH1 and DVD and video sales benefited the Centre. Five years later, Eric planned the second and final major fundraising effort for the Centre. On June 4-6, 2004, he hosted the Crossroads Guitar Festival in Dallas, Texas. The three-day event presented the cream of the world's guitarists in a benefit event for the Centre. The event was filmed and proceeds from the sale of the DVD also benefit the foundation. Additionally, a second guitar auction took place on June 24, 2004. It raised an additional six million dollars for the foundation.
Co-produced by guitarist and long-time collaborator Doyle Bramhall II, Clapton (2010) features an all star cast of musical collaborations started with the legendary JJ Cale, drummer Jim Keltner, bassist Willie Weeks, and keyboardist Walt Richmond - and the sessions later added guests including Steve Winwood, Wynton Marsalis, Sheryl Crow, Allen Toussaint, and Derek Trucks. Clapton created a collection that touches on everything from century-old traditional brass bands to little-known country blues to brand-new originals. The result is both relaxed and revelatory, and unlike anything the guitarist has done in his legendary career.
ďThis album wasnít what it was intended to be at all,Ē says Eric Clapton. ďItís actually better than it was meant to be because, in a way, I just let it happen. Itís an eclectic collection of songs that werenít really on the map - and I like it so much because if itís a surprise to the fans, thatís only because itís a surprise to me, as well.Ē
The album, Old Sock produced by Eric Clapton, Doyle Bramhall II, Justin Stanley and Simon Climie, features two original songs "Every Little Thing" and "Gotta Get Over. The album is a collection of some of Clapton s favorite songs spanning from his childhood to present day that highlights his vast appreciation and knowledge of music. From Leadbelly to J.J. Cale; Peter Tosh to George Gershwin; Hank Snow to Gary Moore and Taj Mahal, this record is a celebration of so many who have inspired Clapton s rich musical life. Clapton has always had a remarkable ability to recognize great songs and a gift for knowing how to uniquely interpret them, as he does on Old Sock. The album explores romantic standards of the 30's, reggae, soul, rock, and includes a stand out playful collaboration with Paul McCartney, to create an experience that is quintessential Clapton.
Clapton assembled a band for the recordings consisting of longtime collaborators Steve Gadd (drums), Willie Weeks (bass) and Chris Stainton (keyboards) along with some surprise guest additions. JJ Cale joins the song "Angel" for backing vocals and guitar, Chaka Khan joins as backing vocalist for "Get On Over, " Steve Winwood on the Hammond B3 Organ on "Still Got The Blues, " Paul McCartney on bass/vocals on "All of Me, " Jim Keltner on drums for "Our Love is Here To Stay. "