Born to 16-year-old Patricia Clapton on March 30, 1945, Eric “Slowhand” Clapton grew up in the English town of Ripley, Surrey. Too young to look after Eric on her own after his 24-year-old soldier father defected back to Canada, Patricia turned to her mother, Rose, and Rose’s second husband, Jack Clapp, to raise her son.
Did You Know? Until age 9, Eric believed that his mother was actually his sister.960 1280
Intrigued by the blues at an early age after hearing records by B.B. King and Buddy Guy — among others — Eric learned to play guitar as a young teenager, receiving his first instrument at 13. He spent the next couple of years busking around London’s West End and the suburbs of Richmond and Kingston, trying to make a name for himself.
Did You Know? In 2000, Clapton released the certified multiplatinum album Riding With the King with one of his idols, blues legend B.B. King.960 1280
At age 17, after working alongside his grandfather as a bricklayer, Eric turned his full attention to music, earning his reputation by playing with local bands including the Roosters and Casey Jones & the Engineers. However, it wasn’t until October 1963 that Eric cultivated his style and became known as the best R&B guitar player on the English pub circuit, joining Keith Relf, Paul Samwell-Smith, Jim McCarty and Chris Dreja as a member of the Yardbirds.
Did You Know? Eric got the nickname "Slowhand" from the Yardbirds’ manager, because when he would break a string, he would stay on stage to fix it and receive a slow handclap from the crowd.960 1280
Eric left the Yardbirds after 18 months because of the group’s increasingly commercial sound and joined John Mayall’s band, the Bluesbreakers. It was during this time that he received his second nickname, “God,” after a superfan wrote “Clapton is God” in graffiti on the wall of London’s Islington Tube station.
Did You Know? Eric Clapton has been a part of 9 different bands in his career: the Roosters, Casey Jones & the Engineers, the Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Cream, Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, Blind Faith, Derek and the Dominos, and Legends.960 1280
Eric solidified his position as rock’s premier guitarist, elevating himself to superstar status as part of England’s first successful supergroup, Cream, alongside singer/bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker. After touring the US and receiving worldwide acclaim for their albums Fresh Cream, Disraeli Gears and Wheels of Fire, Cream disbanded because of several factors, primarily the members’ egos. Their final show as a band was on Nov. 26, 1968, at Royal Albert Hall in London. To date, Eric has played 198 shows at the world-famous arena, including a reunion show with the members of Cream 37 years after they called it quits.
Did You Know? The blues and psychedelic-rock style performed by Cream exemplified Eric’s distorted yet heavy guitar sound, which would later be dubbed the “woman tone.”960 1280
Shortly after becoming close friends with the Beatles’ George Harrison in the late 1960s, Eric Clapton formed the band Derek and the Dominos, bringing in Jim Gordon, Bobby Whitlock and Carl Radle. It was during this time that Eric fell in love with George’s wife, Pattie Boyd, and created the concept album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. Eric eventually shared the song Layla with Pattie, telling her that she was the inspiration and professing his love for her. It wasn’t until 9 years later, after her divorce from George, that the 2 were married and moved into Clapton’s Hurtwood Edge Estate in Ewhurst, England.
Did You Know? George Harrison was the best man at Eric and Pattie’s wedding.960 1280
Although Eric and Pattie finally married in 1979, his love for her went unrequited for several years beforehand, forcing Eric into seclusion and leading him into a 3-year downward spiral induced by his overuse of heroin. Finally cleaning himself up, Eric returned to the spotlight in 1973, when he played back-to-back concerts, organized by Pete Townshend of the Who, at London’s Rainbow Theatre.
Did You Know? Eric and Pattie’s marriage lasted for just less than 10 years. He married Melia McEnery in 2002, and they have 3 daughters, Julie Rose, Ella Mae and Sophie.960 1280
Known as one of the most iconic shows ever performed by Eric, the short-but-sweet, 4-song Live Aid set — which included White Room, She’s Waiting and Layla — elevated Slowhand’s career to new heights. He took the stage at John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia on July 13, 1985, and found a new audience at the worldwide charity event.
Did You Know? Live Aid was a dual-venue event that took place simultaneously at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia and Wembley Stadium in London.960 1280
In the 1990s, Eric Patrick Clapton was honored twice by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland — in 1992 as a member of the Yardbirds, and then again in 1993 as a member of Cream. On March 6, 2000, Clapton was once again brought into the fold by the foundation’s committee, as he was inducted to the hall as a solo artist as well.
Did You Know? Eric is the only musician in history to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 3 times.960 1280
After several years of well-documented substance and alcohol abuse, as well as his courageous effort to get and remain clean, Eric opened Crossroads Centre, a drug-treatment facility on the Caribbean island of Antigua, in 1998 as a safe haven for those experiencing similar addictions. In a very successful attempt to raise funds for the center, Eric held a benefit concert in 1999 at the world-renowned Madison Square Garden in New York City. That event later developed into the Crossroads Guitar Festival.
Did You Know? There have been 5 Crossroads benefit concerts to date, the last occurring in 2013, again at MSG.960 1280
At Buckingham Palace in late 2004, Eric Clapton, now one of Britain’s most beloved rock stars, was honored with one of the United Kingdom’s most prestigious awards, being made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, or CBE, for his incredible services to the music industry. Among the vast amounts of praise heaped upon Eric throughout his career, he ranks second on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time.
Did You Know? Eric has won or shared 18 Grammy Awards, including the lifetime-achievement award in 2006.960 1280
Eric Clapton's Unplugged Destinations 11 Photos
Visit the British Museum 03:13
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