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Steven Lister

So why did Clapton pass on the tone, SGs & LPs that made him God?

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Clapton acheived guitar God status playing Gibsons -- SG, L5, LPs mostly -- and mostly through one or two 100 watt Marshall stacks in his short time with Yardbirds, Cream, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and Blind Faith. He then takes a pass on that terrific "woman tone" and spends the majority of his career playing strats and tame love songs/ballads (albeit while making money hand-over-fist).

 

Like many other blues-rock players, I have longed for (and sought after) the tremendous growling, gravel-ey blues tone Clapton made famous in his Gibson days..., ala Cream's live version of "Crossroads"

-- where you can hear those 6L6 valves scorching red hot heat and blistering the house down.

 

Lately, I finally found something reasonably close with my current gear using Epiphone's VJr., LP, compressor, reverb, and overdrive pedals. If I was as accomplished as some of you are, I think my band and I could sell a few platinum cds. (even in this world filled with Spears/Madonna lovers) We did a show over the weekend using some of my new material and this tone and the people were on their feet!!!

 

I'm just saying --- there is sooo much tremendous blues-rock material lying as-yet untapped in these soul-wrenching tones that Clapton introduced and then abandoned, why, why, why? Maybe some of you care to offer your take on the big why?

 

Hit every BLUE NOTE baaaby..., I'm going to play on:-"

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Gibson Guitars: Eric’s history

Entry published in Guitars & Amps / Last modified on 29 April 2006

Eric built his reputation as a guitarist playing Gibson guitars. He played them almost exclusively between June 1965 up until about 1970.

 

Eric purchased his first Gibson Guitar in 1964. It was a 1964 Cherry Red Gibson ES-335 which he would use for the next forty years. He sold it at auction in June 2004.

 

In June 1965, Eric bought a second-hand, Cherry Sunburst 1960 Gibson Les Paul. No one could predict that with it he would change the history and sound of the electric guitar.

 

While with John Mayall?s Bluesbreakers, Eric used overdriven Marshall amplifiers to provide distortion, feedback and sustain. Although not the first to use electrical by-products to his advantage, Eric did refine their use. Partnered with his virtuoso abilities and most importantly, his angst-driven passion they combined to create his signature sound.

 

Eric purchased several more Les Pauls, but his first Cherry Sunburst remained his favorite. The guitar was stolen during early Cream rehearsals in the summer of 1966 and was never recovered.

 

However, the 1960 Les Paul that he purchased was a discontinued model. The original Les Paul model was manufactured between 1952 and early 1960. Cherry Sunbursts were not introduced until 1958. Eric’s popularizing of the Les Paul model affected the electric guitar world in such a manner that Gibson put the model back into production in 1968. Today, vintage Cherry Sunburts from the 1958-1960 period are valuable collector’s items.

 

While with Cream, Eric also played a 1964 Gibson Les Paul SG. He had this guitar painted by the artist duo, The Fool. It became known as the “Fool Guitar” or the “Psychedelic SG”

 

As the 1970s began, he abandoned the Gibson Les Paul in favor of the Fender Stratocaster. However, he never completely abandoned the brand. Today, Eric employs a Gibson L5 and a Gibson Chet Atkins acoustic in concert. He also uses various other Gibson models in his studio work.

 

For two dates in 2001 during the Reptile Tour, Eric abandoned his beloved Stratocasters in favor of Gibson guitars. Lee Dickson, Eric’s guitar tech recalled, “When we were on tour in America in 2001, [Eric] walked off stage on a Friday or Saturday night and called me in and said, ‘I want to play Gibsons at the next gig.’ and I thought ‘What am I going to be able to get at the weekend?’ I phoned lots of dealers to try and get a 60s one and Jimmy Archie in New York managed to somehow get us a 335 and a historic re-issue Les Paul and [he] played these for the whole next night and the Les Paul the following night on the encore then [he] went back to Strats,” in an interview with Christie’s prior to Eric’s 2004 guitar auction. The two dates were 7 August at the Rose Garden Arena in Portland, Oregon and 10 August at the Arlo Arena in Sacramento, California. Note that the Christie’s catalog description indicates the Les Paul was only used for three songs on 7 August: Layla, Will It Go ‘Round In Circles, and Sunshine of Your Love.

 

In the same interview with Christies, Eric spoke about his brief flirtation with Gibson guitars. He said, ?A lot of it is in my head ? I?ll get a nostalgic yearning for something?or maybe the amps are giving me trouble. It?s never the guitars…it?s often the amp. The combination of the Fender and this amp is not working or…it?s not warm enough or something. The thing with Gibsons has always been their warmth. I?d go to them for the bottom end, the mid range and so on. Perhaps it was just my ears were tired…or I was tired…or I wanted a change.?

 

The 2001 Cherry Sunburst Les Paul Historic Re-issue used for the two concerts was sold by Eric at auction on 24 June 2004.

 

For more information about Eric?s use of Gibson products in the 1960s, visit the History of EC?s Cream Guitars. A history of vintage Les Pauls may be viewed here.

 

 

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Another reason, that Eric has admitted "might" have influenced his switch to Strats, was Hendrix's influence!

He was completely blown away, the first time he saw Jimi play, and also Jeff Beck was an influence, in that

direction, if less so, than Hendrix. EC says it wasn't really a deliberate decision because it was the guitar that

Jimi played, but he's admitted it could have been subconscious, in that regard. But, I think he's like most of us,

with "Guitars!" We love to switch around, and explore all kinds of tonal possibilities. He still uses LP's, 335's

and L-5's as well as his old blonde Byrdland. Anyway...just some thoughts..

 

 

CB

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I actually think Eric`s style stopped being unique when he stopped playing Gibsons. And I haven`t cared for him ever since. You can hear the sound change on his first solo LP. Same goes for Jeff Beck. I saw the "original" Jeff Beck group and he played a Les Paul to great sonic effect.

Changing to a strat coz of Hendrix is a great homage to Hendrix the greatest guitar player ever. But Hendrix also played the occasional Gibson and it still sounded like him. And there`s no way Clapton could ever sound like Hendrix no matter how many strats he owns.

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Steven Lister..... you said it:-

 

albeit while making money hand-over-fist

 

And he never sold or gave away the fingers or his soul - which is where it comes from, not the tools.

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Good question. Could the change have something to do with a paid endorsement for Fender? There really doesn't seem to be any (other) good reason for him to abandon Gibson that I can think of...

 

What I've always wondered is how Clapton attained the status of "God". I'm not saying he's not a great guitar player, but when one compares his work to that of a Jimmy Page, Tony Iommi, Mark Knopfler, Steve Howe, Pete Townshend, David Gilmour, Jimi Hendrix, etc., etc., it really doesn't seem to hold up. Every one of these guys has written more great guitar songs than "God'.

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I totally agree with you all... I don't like Eric with Strats... It just looks silly. For my taste it's too much "I get free Fender Guitars so I play them ALL THE DAMN TIME"

I really don't like it when artists get "stuck" with one particular guitar! To me that says: "I've lost the strive to improve my tone by playing many guitars which ALL HAVE DIFERENT TONES.." = "I've lost my will to live!"

Eric Clapton is boring... his music is boring too, sorry... I was a huge Clapton fan once, but the crap he plays at the moment is just silly..

For my taste he tries too hard to be American and black! Which he isn't! Stick to your roots and lose a couple of punds man!

 

So much for that.

 

Nick

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Heck, cut the guy some slack.

 

When you start playing guitar, you don't take some kind of pledge to one manufacturer. And your'e not disloyal if you pick up other brands. This isn't like supporting the Yankees for 20 years and then suddenly saying, "What the heck? - I kind of like the Red Sox after all."

 

Clapton changed to Fenders when his musical style changed. Apparently he was horrified when a music journalist in the early '70s used the term "usual blues cliches" when reviewing his work. So he broke away from his earlier stuff.

 

Listen to the Derek & the Dominoes album and tell me that he doesn't put a Strat to good use. Mind you, I had a similar argument with a friend recently, and he says that album is only worth listening to because of Duane Allman anyway. You can't influence those who have already set their ideas in stone.

 

To be fair to Clapton. he was "God" for maybe 5-7 years. But he's had a career for 45 years. What did you expect him to do? Keep the same sound / style as he used on the John Mayall 'Beano' album for 40+ years? Wouldn't you then criticize him for being limited?

 

Of all the 'greats' in his genre, Clapton has had the longest and most sustained career. Hendrix died at 27. Peter Green went nuts. Page is mainly famous for his Led Zeppelin work alone. BB King is unique - he's basically been BB King for decades, and we are all grateful for that. He didn't have to change. I don't thiink anyone else could have pulled that off.

 

BTW :

John Mclane 5000: For my taste he tries too hard to be American and black!

 

Yes, blues began as an African-American artform. Go and look at a copy of Marybeth Hamilton's In search of the blues for an excellent account of its development - http://www.librarything.com/work/64749

 

That doesn't mean that a non-African American person trying to play the blues is pretending to be black, however.

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"Usual Blues chliches" --> And the stuff he does now doesn't sound blues chliche at all, no...

 

The strat is a boring guitar! I don't see why this should be a blues guitar! It isn't! It's a very versatile guitar but I don't see why he plays it for over 30 years now... doesn't he ever get tired of it?

 

I'm just saying he should grab another guitar for a change. Maybe his Es-335 or his Byrdland or whatever, but give that strat a break... it's not as if this was the only guitar that ever existed in the universe... =D>

 

Nick

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Good question. Could the change have something to do with a paid endorsement for Fender? There really doesn't seem to be any (other) good reason for him to abandon Gibson that I can think of...

 

What I've always wondered is how Clapton attained the status of "God". I'm not saying he's not a great guitar player, but when one compares his work to that of a Jimmy Page, Tony Iommi, Mark Knopfler, Steve Howe, Pete Townshend, David Gilmour, Jimi Hendrix, etc., etc., it really doesn't seem to hold up. Every one of these guys has written more great guitar songs than "God'.

 

Just as an FYI; the endorsement from Fender didn't come until years later.

 

As far as the "Clapton is God" statement, his fans were the ones that presented that label to him. Did it inflate his ego, probably more than a tad, but he has the talent to back it up. The others that you mention are in their own rights phenomenal guitar players (the cream of the crop) but you had to be there to understand. Remember there was a lot of wierd stuff going around during the mid to late '60's..

 

As an aside; I owe you a big thank you. I never never knew that Jimi wrote most of his material. Don't know why, just never realized that fact. He had more talent than I even imagined. I learned something new today so I will enjoy the day to its fullest. Thanks again.

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"Usual Blues cliches" --> And the stuff he does now doesn't sound blues cliche at all' date=' no...

 

The start is a boring guitar! I don't see why this should be a blues guitar! It isn't! It's a very versatile guitar but I don't see why he plays it for over 30 years now... doesn't he ever get tired of it?

 

I'm just saying he should grab another guitar for a change. Maybe his Es-335 or his Byrdland or whatever, but give that strat a break... it's not as if this was the only guitar that ever existed in the universe... =D>

 

Nick[/quote']

 

Well Nick,with all due respect, I think it's the exact opposite! Gibson's are the one trick ponies and in that respect boring(although that's a poor choice of words IMHO). Strats are the most versatile guitar ever made in many peoples eyes and they are the choice of many top players for that reason. Why should Eric have just stayed with the Beano sound when everyone around him was experimenting with all kinds of sounds? Sure it was a great tone,but just one of many in Clapton's arsenal. Bottom line for me is Clapton sounds like Clapton on a Strat,LP,335 whatever. Give the guy credit for having the sense and the balls not to limit himself by one genre of music.

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He was playing a standard tele when he joined J Mayall, but had switched to the LP before they made the famous Beano album. I suspect that he felt he'd taken that sound / style as far as he could when Cream split. He used his Tele fitted with a Strat neck with Blind Faith, before getting more into Strats with the country/blues influenced stuff he did with Delaney and Bonnie, leading into Derek and the Dominoes. I love his sound on the Layla album.

 

With Cream he needed a big fat humbucker sound to fill the space you get with a trio. As he got more into ensemble playing it was less important. He still uses a 335 and a LP for some stuff.

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Good discussion topic!

 

I am a huge Clapton fan, but his early woman tone always has a special place in my heart. The Strat stuff is cool too though.

 

Whilst we are on the subject, does anyone know where I can find the TAB for his version of Further on up the Road? Its the version he played live with The Band on the Last Waltz. I have tried to listen and watch what he and Robbie are doing, but there are quite a few parts that I can't work out.....=D>

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To be honest, the only guitar work that I've ever found appealing by Clapton is the guitar solo he laid down on While my Guitar Gently Weeps. My older brother was a big YardBirds fan, and I just couldn't get into his style or the group for that matter. For me Jeff Beck was the guy later on when I was becoming a lead player, and I really liked Peter Framptons work in Humble Pie. The Frampton Comes Alive album completely yanked me out of my Beatles rut I was hopelessly trapped in, during my early years of playing guitar. Led Zeppelin was also an album I've never stopped enjoying.

 

EDIT*

 

No offense to anyone that likes the song Layla, but the slide work is terrible on that song IMO....

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No offense to anyone that likes the song Layla, but the slide work is terrible on that song IMO....

 

Well, Duane Allman played the slide on that song & you won't offend him!

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Well' date=' Duane Allman played the slide on that song & you won't offend him![/quote']

 

Really..... He must have been really drunk, because I've heard Duane Allman do much better slide work....

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I think part of his achieving "god" status was because of his playing itself and not necessarily his sound although that played a part.

 

Also, if you look at the direction he took in music, the strat fits that sound better; that sort of bluesy/country sound. Although he always had at least one song on every album that used the ES-335.

 

also strats sound better.

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To be honest' date=' the only guitar work that I've ever found appealing by Clapton is the guitar solo he laid down on While my Guitar Gently Weeps. [/quote']

 

Superb playing by Clapton on that track.

 

You might also be impressed by his take on Yer Blues at the Rolling Stones' Rock & Roll Circus in 1968.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LAjdRHzH4M8

 

Listening to the White Album version and the Dirty Mac version back-to-back reveals (to me) how the song could be lifted from being a fairly pedestrian, plodding 6/8 blues. When the Beatles ventured into blues territory, I'm not convinced that they had the blues guitar chops to truly deliver the rabbit out of the hat. But in the hands of a master Bluesman like Clapton, the song is transformed into something quite wonderful.

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I'd be delighted to be as bad as Clapton! LOL! EC has been one of, my favorite guitarists all my guitar playing life!

I (personally) don't think his Strat work is worse than his Gibson work. Just different! It's fine, if folks prefer one

period or sound, over another, in his career. But, if anything, to me...he's a much better "player" now, than previously.

He can still "rip it up," but he also has an economy, subtlety, and taste that he's grown into, in a very comfortable fashion.

People tend to focus on recorded solos, etc. But, he's a player from the heart...so, every solo I've ever heard him do,

was different, and quite often better, than his recorded solo(s). He has times, when he's merely fantastic, and other times,

transcendent/unbelievable!!! But, as always...my opinion. And I don't really "compare" him with other guitarist, preferring

instead, to appreciate him, and those others, for what They Do! Never much cared for "Mine's better (bigger) than yours," mentality.

As John Lennon once said: "It's All ****!" ;>)

 

CB

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Superb playing by Clapton on that track.

 

You might also be impressed by his take on Yer Blues at the Rolling Stones' Rock & Roll Circus in 1968.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LAjdRHzH4M8

 

Listening to the White Album version and the Dirty Mac version back-to-back reveals (to me) how the song could be lifted from being a fairly pedestrian' date=' plodding 6/8 blues. When the Beatles ventured into blues territory, I'm not convinced that they had the blues guitar chops to truly deliver the rabbit out of the hat. But in the hands of a master Bluesman like Clapton, the song is transformed into something quite wonderful.

[/quote']

 

Clapton would had been a great 5th Beatle.. Too bad he couldnt have laid some tracks on Get Back and Dig A Pony.... Also Mr Mitchelle does a fantastic job with the drums on Yer Blues

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When I managed to save enough to buy my first "real" electric guitar, I wanted a Les Paul because it screamed Jimmy Page, among other reasons. I don't think there's anything wrong in at least giving a try to the gear used by those artists that influence you the most.

 

I am nobody to criticize Eric Clapton for his choice of guitar, he's a career musician and I look at his switch as a career move, just like switching from a Mac to PC or buying a different kind of blackberry, if you're into that. I'm sure he had his reasons.

 

Since I'm no Miss Cleo I cannot tell the real reasons behind the switch to the Strat, but what I do know is that every guitar player, wether we want to admit to it or not, is on a perennial quest for that elusive "perfect sound". Some folks tell me I'm dumb because I have a huge array of MXR and Boss pedals, 'cause I won't buy any other brand. I'm sure every person here goes through the same thing, we try stuff, test new gear, trying to achieve that perfect tone we can hear in our heads but can't seem to replicate to perfection when we want to.

 

Another thing is that musicians grow, both in technique and in musical taste. Since growth demands adaptation and change, who am I to sit here and pass judgement on Clapton and many others simply because they switched brands or changed a particular sound I used to love? It's his choice, his career move, and I respect that.

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"Strats sound better"Spits coffee all over the PC.........Stan.

 

Thanks Stan I was looking for that reaction. I need a good laugh this morning.

 

I really like the sound of LP's and strats for the different tones - ya know some songs sound better with an LP others with a strat others with other guitars.

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