Happy Birthday, Eric Patrick Clapton. It’s hard to believe that today you turn 70. Clapton was born in Ripley, Surrey, March 30, 1945. It’s amazing that “Slowhand” is still with us. He’s survived being abandoned by his mother, heroin addiction, alcoholism, a failed marriage, car crashes, being arrested, and the death of his young son. But he’s still wailing on his Strat, and I hope he’s playing for many more years.
70 Things You Might Not Know About Eric Clapton
He’s a bastard. By that I mean illegitimate. His mother got pregnant by a Canadian soldier training in England in 1945. The family kept it a secret and Clapton was raised by his grandparents, and he was told his mother was his older sister. But at some point in his childhood he figured it out. He never met his father.
He was kicked out of art school and worked with his grandfather in construction as a plasterer, bricklayer and carpenter, until he began making enough money as a musician to sustain himself. He later bought his grandparents a cottage and gave them enough money so that his grandfather could retire from construction.
His first hit was “All Your Love” with the Yardbirds, but he quit the band just after because he was only interested in playing the blues, and didn’t like the pop sound and direction the band was taking.
One of his best friends was George Harrison and he and George would get together and jam and do acid. George wrote “Here Comes The Sun” in the garden at Clapton’s house. The friendship was compromised when Clapton fell in love with George’s wife Pattie and she and Clapton were married in 1979 and divorced in 1984.
In 1969 Clapton almost became a Beatle. During the recording of “Let It Be”, tensions were high, and George quit the band for a few days. John Lennon was enthusiastic about inviting Clapton to join the Beatles and was quoted as saying that “if George doesn’t come back by Monday or Tuesday we ask Eric Clapton to play.” Harrison did return.
He was also friends with Jimi Hendrix and they used to go around to clubs in London and sit in with the bands. One day he saw a left-handed Fender Stratocaster at a music store and bought it to give to Hendrix. He took the guitar out to the clubs that night hoping to meet up with Hendrix, but couldn’t find him. The next day, he heard that Hendrix was dead of an overdose.
Clapton became deeply addicted to heroin in the 1970s, spending at the height of his habit about 1,000 pounds a week on the drug.
His first guitar was a German-made Hoyer, which he received as a birthday present when he turned thirteen. But it was so cheap and hard to play, he almost gave up.
Eric’s second guitar was a Washburn, which he bought at a flea market with money he stole from his grandmother’s purse. The Washburn was destroyed when his half-brother Brian sat on it.
In grammar school, he received a few whacks for asking a girl, “Fancy a shag?”
The house he grew up in had no electricity and the toilet was outside.
The first record album Clapton bought was Buddy Holly and the Crickets.
Clapton’s first band was The Roosters, formed in 1963.
His second band, Casey Jones and the Engineers played only seven gigs.
Clapton’s nickname “Slowhand” came from the fact that he used light gauge strings on his guitar and they would often break and the audience would have to wait while he put on a new string.
His first time to meet the Beatles was in 1964, and Paul played him a version of a song he was writing call Scrambled Eggs, which was an early version of Yesterday.
Clapton’s first Gibson guitar was a cherry red ES-335 he bought with money he made with the Yardbirds.
When Clapton quit the Yardbirds, he was replaced by Jeff Beck.
When Clapton joined John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers in 1965, the bass player was John McVie, who later formed Fleetwood Mac.
In 1965, Clapton sat in on some London recording sessions with Bob Dylan, but was unimpressed and labeled Dylan a “folkie.”
While playing with the Bluesbreakers the famous graffiti “Clapton Is God” was spray painted on the wall at the Islington underground station.
Clapton and some friends ran off to Europe in 1965 and ended up playing at the Igloo Club in Athens. When Clapton told the manager he was thinking about going home, the manager told him if he tried to leave he’d cut off his hands. Clapton escaped by saying he was going to the toilet and then rushing off to catch a train, leaving all of his equipment behind.
In March 1966, Clapton celebrated his twenty-first birthday with a costume party. He wore two costumes at the party, a gorilla and a penguin.
Clapton loved comic books growing up and on the cover of a Bluesbreakers album, he is seen reading a Beano comic.
Drummer Ginger Baker talked Clapton into forming Cream with bassist Jack Bruce. Clapton wanted to add Steve Winwood on keyboards, but Baker and Bruce opposed the idea.
Clapton’s first trip to America was in 1967 with Cream, where they played a TV show in New York City and joined a “be-in” in Central Park.
In San Francisco in 1967, Clapton played the Fillmore, and met people like Owsley, the famous maker of acid, and he and David Crosby smoked pot and dropped acid together.
While in Los Angeles, Clapton was staying with Stephen Stills in Topanga Canyon, and the police raided the house and he was arrested and hauled off to the L. A. County jail. After some strings were pulled and he swore he didn’t use pot, he was released.
After returning to England, Clapton was asked to play on the new Beatles album, The White Album, and he performed the guitar solo on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
After Cream broke up in November 1968, Clapton was asked by MIck Jagger to join the Rolling Stones for a TV show they were taping. Clapton joined the performers, but the show was never released.
Ginger Baker warned Clapton that the police were planning to bust him for drugs and he left his London residence where he was living with a host of friends and went into hiding. The police arrested everyone at the house the next day.
Using the money from the success of Cream, Clapton bough an Italian style villa near Ripley for 30,000 pounds. It was called Hurtwood and Clapton would live there off and on for many years.
Clapton started jamming with Steve Winwood and after a period of time, drummer Ginger Baker started showing up, and Blind Faith was formed.
On June 7, 1969, Blind Faith played the first rock concert ever in Hyde Park, London. It was a free concert to an audience of 100,000.
Blind Faith kicked off an American tour with a performance at Madison Square Garden on July 12, 1969.
Clapton’s choice to hang out and travel with their opening band, Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett, alienated him from Winwood and Baker and Blind Faith was finished by the end of the American tour.
In September of 1969, Clapton played a concert in Toronto with John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band.
It was Delaney who introduced Clapton to the music of J.J. Cale who would become an important influence. Clapton would later collaborate with Cale on an album, The Road to Escondito, and following Cale’s death, Clapton organized a tribute album.
Clapton wrote “Layla” and “Bell Bottom Blues” about Pattie Harrison, and went off to Miami and lived in a house at 461 Ocean Boulevard while he recorded the album, with Tulsa musicians Carl Radle, Dick Sims and Jamie Oldaker.
While in Miami, Clapton went to hear the Allman Brothers, and he was blown away by Duane Allman and invited him to play on the album titled Derek and the Dominoes.
Part of Clapton’s treatment for recovery from heroin was working on a farm, doing menial labor, shoveling cow manure, baling hay and chopping logs.
Clapton has often been involved in practical jokes and pranks, one of his favorites being food fights. At his wedding to Pattie, the five-tier wedding cake was not eaten, but thrown at everyone there.
Although Clapton, escaped his addiction to heroin, he quickly replaced it with excessive consumption of alcohol and lived and played drunk for years, much of which he does not remember.
For a time in the 1970s, Clapton and Pattie lived at Paradise Island, Bahamas, and he often went out to local bars and challenged men to arm wrestle. He often lost with his right arm, but never found anyone who could beat him with him powerful left arm.
Clapton agreed to join his Tulsa friends for a concert in their hometown. While on the plane there, he became drunk and argumentative, and when the plane landed in Tulsa, the police were waiting for him and arrested him and put him in jail. The cops wouldn’t believe him when he told them he was the renowned guitar player, until he talked them into bringing in a guitar and having him play it. After his jailhouse audition, he was released.
Clapton was recruited by a movie producer to perform in a live comedy show in Ireland with other celebrities like Sean Connery, Shirley McClaine and John Huston. Clapton played a clown and pranked McClaine by hitting her in the face with a pie during the bit.
In 1976, Clapton traveled to San Francisco to be a part of The Band’s final performance, the movie of which was titled “The Last Waltz.”
Clapton wrote “Wonderful Tonight” at Hurtwood while he was waiting for Pattie to get dressed to go out to a party.
Clapton and Pattie were married in Tucson, Arizona, on March 27, 1979, three days before his thirty-fourth birthday. Clapton wore a white tux, a $200 cowboy hat, and cowboy boots. Pattie wore an Ozzie Clark cream satin dress.
In March 1981, Clapton collapsed in Madison, Wisconsin while on tour and was rushed to the hospital. Huge consumption of booze and codeine had created five bleeding ulcers. He was in the hospital for six weeks. He was advised to stop drinking.
In January 1982, Clapton entered a clinic in Minnesota for treatment for alcoholism. Following treatment, he was advised not to work for a year, but he was back on stage in Cedar Rapids, Iowa only four months after leaving the facility.
In 1984, Clapton recorded a collaboration album with Phil Collins. The recording took place at Montserrat in the Caribbean.
53.In 1985, Clapton’s daughter Ruth was born to Yvonne Kelly, a studio manager in Montserrat with whom he had an affair. The birth was initially kept secret because the mother was married.
In 1985, Clapton played the “Live Aid” concert in Philadelphia.
In August 1987, Clapton’s son Conor was born. The mother was Lori del Santo, an Italian woman he had lived with for a while in Milan.
56.In 1986, Clapton played a concert at a ski resort in Wisconsin. His opening band was Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble. After the show Clapton got on one of the four helicopters waiting to take them to Chicago. Vaughan got on another of the helicopters with two of Clapton’s crew and his agent. That helicopter crashed, killing everyone on board.
In March 1991, Clapton’s son Conor fell from a hotel window in New York and was killed. Clapton later wrote the song “Tears In Heaven” about his son.
Clapton’s grandmother, Rose, died just before Christmas in 1994.
In 1995, Clapton established the Crossroads Center in Antigua for the treatment of addiction in the Caribbean.
In the mid-1990s, Clapton had a brief fling with Cheryl Crow.
In March, 1999, Clapton’s mother died in Toronto.
62.To fund the Crossroads Center, Clapton auctioned off about 100 of his guitars, which sold for a total of $4.52 million.
In the autumn of 2000, Clapton’s assistant and lover Melia McEnery announced she was pregnant. His daughter Julie was born June 15, 2001.
In the spring of 2002, Clapton helped organized a memorial concert for George Harrison, who had died in November 2001.
Clapton and Melia were married January 1, 2002. A second daugher, Ella Mae, was born on January 14, 2003.
In 2004, Clapton organized and staged the first Crossroads Guitar Festival in Dallas.
A second auction of 88 of Clapton’s guitars raised $7.43 million for the Crossroads Center.
Another daughter, Sophie, was born February 1, 2005.
In 2014, Clapton announced he was finished touring. In 2015, he announced a new tour.
In 2009, Clapton’s wealth was estimated at 120 million pounds.