ERIC CLAPTON


Born 30th March 1945.


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THE YARDBIRDS

Keith Relf is born in Richmond, London, on 22 March 1943.
Paul Samwell-Smith is also born in Richmond, on 8 May 1943.
Jim McCarty is born in Liverpool, on 25 July 1943.
Eric Clapton is born in Ripley Surrey, on 30 March 1945. ( Eric Clapton. )
Chris Dreja is born in Surbiton, London, on 11 November 1945.
Tony Topham is born two years later.

Eric Clapton was brought up by his grandparents and believed them to be his parents. The truth was revealed to him when he was nine, when he met his real mother for the first time. Although he was later reconciled with her, the revelation of rejection left him angry and confused. For his 13th birthday he was given an acoustic guitar and he began discovering some reference points for his sense of loneliness and isolation - the Mississippi Delta and Chicago blues - and one role model in particular:
Robert Johnson.

After leaving school, Eric made a rather half-hearted attempt at being an art school student. But he was working much harder at learning to play the guitar from every blues record he could find, while attempting to live the life of an itinerant bluesman - as far as was possible for a teenager living at home in suburban London during the early 1960's. Doing some odd jobs by day, Eric soon gained a reputation as an accomplished country blues player by gigging around local pubs and clubs with a repertoire of songs by Robert Johnson, Furry Lewis, Big Bill Broonzy, Jesse Fuller and others. The sounds of Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry and Jimmy Reed then prompted him to switch to electric guitar. In January 1963, Eric joined his first band, the Roosters, which included Tom McGuinness, later of Manfred Mann and the Blues Band.

The Roosters played blues and R&B covers, but as the band was considered chaotic and amateurish it fizzled out that August. Looking to earn their bread and butter as professional musicians, Eric and Tom went into a no-hope band called Casey Jones and the Engineers doing Chuck Berry material. The Yardbirds formed in 1963, were originally named the Metropolis Blues Quartet, with Keith Relf ( vocals, harmonica), Paul Samwell-Smith (lead guitar), Jim McCarty (drums) and Laurie Gains (rhythm guitar) playing sets at the local coffee bars around Richmond and Kingston in Surrey. In the early days, they were trying to play slow country blues rather than the frenetic R&B that became their trademark. The change of emphasis came with the change in line-up. Chris Dreja took over from Laurie Gains, with Samwell-Smith switched to bass after Eric had come to him after a gig and had suggested he never play lead guitar again. He took the hint and Tony Topham joined on lead guitar.

The Rolling Stones were the big band in the area at the time. They were managed by Giorgio Gomelsky, who owned the Crawdaddy Club, Richmond, where the Stones played to packed houses. After the Stones had left Gomelsky for richer pickings, the Yardbirds were signed up as the replacement resident band at the Crawdaddy. However, as the Yardbirds became more and more popular, there were problems with Tony Topham. He was only 16 years old and his parents were unhappy that he was neglecting his education to play with the band. In October 1963 Topham left to return to art school.Keith Relf remembered a good guitarist from his art school who might become a replacement and Eric turned up for a Yardbirds rehearsal at the South Western Hotel in Richmond. As Chris Dreja said he was so much more talented and advanced as a guitarist, knew more numbers. The whole thing went straight into a new dimension. Eric fitted in well with the band's repertoire, but the social adjustments took a bit longer; Jim McCarty found Eric moody and unapproachable, while Eric thought Paul Samwell-Smith was far too straight to be playing the blues. Eric also had strict ideas about his appearance: while the others were trying to be rebellious with long hair, Eric sported an Ivy League haircut.

But soon Eric, Keith and Chris were sharing a flat and tensions eased. Eric recalled later, "I remember that as being one of the best periods of my youth you know, 'cos everyone was just having fun, it was fantastic sharing that bedroom with Chris, hilarious times". For Chris, Eric was a revelation: "I shared a room with Eric and for those six months it was like we were brothers. He was a big influence on the Ivy League look; we used to go to a store on Shaftesbury Avenue and he would advise me on what I should wear". At this point, Eric was having a good time on stage too. The Yardbirds had succeeded in winning over the Stones fans at the Crawdaddy and Eric was now the star of the show, often being introduced by Gomelsky as 'Slowhand'. Eric believes it was a play on his name: slowhand clap-ton.

The 'Eric Clapton Mystique' established itself very quickly. Jim McCarty noted, "He seemed to have this aura about him straight away, a certain magnetism, and it was not totally due to his playing - the clothes, the way he looked was all part of it". The Yardbirds recorded a live album with Sonny Boy Williamson II in 1963; and early in 1964, when they had graduated to the Marquee Club, they recorded another live album - one that would prove a milestone in British R&B. Five Live Yardbirds was the quintessential British R&B album - raucous and frantic, full of energy and immediacy rather than technique. Eric was turning to gutsy renditions of Chuck Berry riffs and being generally carried along by the enthusiasm of it all, although in retrospect he saw the glaring limitations of this format for his own musical development.

We were building to musical climaxes, trying to develop crowd frenzy. Paul would start it on the bass, going up the fretboard and everyone else would go up and up and then you'd get to the leading pitch and come back down again. If you do that on just about every number. there's very little time for reflective or serious playing. It was in the studio that relationships soured; as the Rolling Stones had shown, it didn't matter how many clubs you packed out, the only way to make money was to have hit records. In late 1963 and February 1964, the Yardbirds recorded five tracks as demos, first for German CBS and then for EMI at a small suburban Studio in Surrey.

The hourly rate of 1.50 stretched the band's resources to their limits, but these sessions established the Yardbirds' studio sound, and they went on to release two singles in 1964, 'I Wish You Would' and 'Good Morning Little Schoolgirl'. The second single reached the British Top 50, but these were clearly watered-down versions of the songs they performed live and were nowhere near commercial enough.

By the end of 1964, Eric was getting tired of playing endless R&B riffs and he was increasingly unhappy that both Gomelsky and Samwell-Smith seemed bent on turning the Yardbirds into a pop band. The Yardbirds were realising, as the Stones had done much earlier on, that however much they might have worshipped Muddy Waters, they needed to sharpen up their pop sensibilities dramatically if they were going to make real money as professional musicians. Eric had other ideas, and the clash of ideologies that had lain dormant since he had first joined the Yardbirds rose to the surface.

The crunch came over the next single; Samwell-Smith wanted to record a song called 'For Your Love' by Graham Gouldman, a young songwriter who would later go on to big things in the 1970's with 10CC. Eric wanted to do an Otis Redding number that Giorgio had come up with. Looking back to that time, Eric said, "Everyone was so bowled over by the obvious commerciality of 'For Your Love' that we didn't do the Otis Redding song and I was very disappointed and disillusioned by that". Gomelsky recalled, "During the recording of 'For Your Love' I remember poor Eric lying on his back staring at the ceiling somewhat dispirited".

Gomelsky tried to reduce Eric's disappointment by recording a blues-based B-side 'Got to Hurry'. Gomelsky recollected, "It was recorded towards the end of the session at Olympic Sounds, when there wasn't much time and that's how it got its title... we spent quite a while experimenting with various effects... by sheer accident we ended up with some really good sounds on Eric's guitar. We had about 20 minutes left and nobody had any ideas as to what to tape. It was left to yours truly to remember some ancient blues riff, shout it, slightly panicked, through the studio intercom and hope Eric would pick it up. He did".

But Gomelsky still backed Paul over the decision to go with 'For Your Love'. Released in March 1965, the song went to Number 3 in Britain and reached the Top 10 in the USA. For all his misgivings, Eric was staring the big name in the face, but at one of the regular band meetings he said he had decided to leave, although Eric did comment later, "It was hinted that it was better for me to leave". Announcing Eric's departure to the press, Keith Relf said, "He loves the blues so much I suppose he didn't like it being played badly by a white shower like us". Within days of leaving the Yardbirds, Eric had signed up with the only band in Britain that could possibly match up to his expectations at the time - John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, he was replaced by Jeff Beck.

Since then, Eric has become one of the planet's most famous rock superstars. But the blues remained central to his stage shows and his albums. Eric's account of how he felt when Robert Johnson's music first hit him provides some clues as to why the blues, and the spirit of that 1930's bluesman in particular, powered his music for more than three decades. "It was too strong - too gutsy to listen to... then maybe about six months later, I started listening. He got me like a bug. I pictured him as a real lone wolf, who was just too good for anyone to hang out with". Eric himself was the blues lone wolf of the 1960's, a wolf the Yardbirds couldn't tame.

A live album, The Yardbirds with Sonny Boy Williamson II, from a 1963 concert recording, is released in 1966. Beck leaves the Yardbirds and is replaced by Jimmy Page. Antonioni's 1967 film Blow Up, featuring the Yardbirds, is released. Eric, meanwhile, is enjoying success with his blues-based supergroup Cream formed that year with Jack Bruce (bass) and Ginger Baker (drums). The trio's repertoire contained a good portion of blues standards: Hambone Willie Newbern's 'Rollin' and Tumblin', Albert King's 'Born Under a Bad Sign', Willie Dixon's 'Spoonful', and Robert Johnson's 'Crossroads'.

Despite Cream's success, the band broke up in late 1968 the same year as the Yardbirds split-up. Eric formed Blind Faith with Baker, Steve Winwood (Traffic) on keyboards, and bass player Rick Grech the following year. One album and one tour later the short-lived Blind Faith went the way of Cream.

Eric played with John Lennon in his post- Beatles group the Plastic Ono Band and with Delaney and Bonnie, the American R&B group that opened Blind Faith's US shows. Then, in 1970, he recorded his first solo album, Eric Clapton. On this album, Eric, for the first time, not only played lead guitar but sang all the lead vocals. The album produced the top - 20 single 'After Midnight'.

Some of Eric's best blues guitar was featured on the 1970 album Layla and Other Love Songs, recorded by his new group, Derek and the Dominoes, which included slide guitarist Duane Allman of the Allman Brothers Band. Songs such as 'Tell the Truth', 'Have You Ever Loved a Woman', 'Key to the Highway' and 'Layla' opened up a new dimension in blues-rock and proved Eric was indeed a guitar genius.

Eric plays on The London Session album released in 1971, with Howlin' Wolf.

Like Eric's earlier bands, Derek and the Dominoes, was short-lived: 'Layla' was its only studio album. After a couple of live performances, Eric returned to England, where for two years he battled his heroin addiction. He resumed his solo career in 1973, free of drugs and moving in the direction of pop and rock. Although nearly all of his '70s and '80s solo album contain a blues number or two, Eric had all but abandoned the blues as a recording artist. Live, however, he continued to spice his shows with blues favorites like 'Crossroads' and 'Motherless Children', the hit off his 1974 solo effort was '461 Ocean Boulevard'.

Keith Relf dies in 1976, electrocuted at home in London while playing guitar.

Eric's double album Just One Night, recorded live in Japan, is released in 1980. It contains several blues standards. After a few quiet years, Eric's career is resurrected in 1985 after his appearance at Live Aid. The album Journeyman is released in 1989, with songs like:- 'Bad Love', 'Hound Dog', 'Old Love' and 'Breaking Point'. Later 1980's, Eric's commitment to the blues was rekindled with the rise in popularity of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Robert Cray. Eric performed with Stevie Ray the night he was killed in a helicopter crash in 1990. EC Unplugged, recorded by Eric as an acoustic set for MTV, is released in 1992. The year 1993 was a particularly special one for Eric, he receives six music Grammy awards for Unplugged, he and his old group Cream are inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Cream play together again.

Eric followed his multi-platinum triumph Unplugged with a new album released in 1994, From The Cradle. A return to his musical roots, Eric performed 16 blues classics including works like :- 'Hoochie Coochie Man' and 'Groaning The Blues' by Willie Dixon, 'It Hurts Me Too' by Elmore James, 'Standin' Round Crying' by Muddy Water and 'Reconsider Baby' by Lowell Fulson. "This album is me in terms of my musical identity today-where I came from and what I mean", says Eric. "And wherever I go in the future, it will be as a result of this.

Eric along with other superstars including Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant of Led Zepplin and Stephen Stills of Crosby, Stills and Nash, secretly recorded in a New York studio in 1997 as the Jimmy Rogers All Star Band. The masterplan was to make two CD's that would help Rogers, a former guitarist in Muddy Water's band, become a crossover artist in the mould of John Lee Hooker who has recoded million-selling albums such as The Healer and Mr Lucky, backed by rock musicians including Van Morrison and Carlos Santana. Sadly, it was not to be. Rogers, one of the unluckiest of bluesmen, died half-way through the planned sessions after complications following an operation for cancer.

In 1989 the album Pilgrim is released with 14 tracks, 5 by Eric, 5 by Eric & Simon Climie including :- 'My Father's Eyes', 'River of Tears' and 'Broken Hearted' and Bob Dylan's 'Born in Time'.

On 5 January 1999, Atlantic Records / Warner release the CD Blues Blues Blues by the Jimmy Rogers All Stars, with some great tracks like:-
'Blow Wind Blow' by Muddy Waters, featuring Jeff Healey.
'Blues All Day Long' and 'That's All Right' by Jimmy Rogers, featuring Eric Clapton.
'Trouble No More' by Muddy Waters, 'Don't Start Me To Talkin' by Sonny Boy Williamson and 'Goin' Away Baby' by Jimmy Rogers, featuring Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.
'Bright Lights Big City' by Jimmy Reed and ' Ludella' by Jimmy Rogers, featuring Taj Mahal.
'Gonna Shoot You Right Down' (Boom Boom) by John Lee Hooker, featuring Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and Eric Clapton.



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