How Eric Clapton has influenced guitarists for the past 50 years
One of the most influential guitarists of all time, Eric Clapton got into music in his early teens. In the over 50 years of his music career since, he hasn’t put down the guitar. Out of a long list of famous guitarists, music greats such as Eddie Van Halen, Brian May, Lenny Kravitz and Mark Knopfler have all named him as one of their key influences.
Clapton himself was heavily influenced by 1930s guitarist Robert Johnson, whom he described as “the most important blues musician who ever lived … I have never found anything more soulful than Robert Johnson”. His other influences include BB King, Muddy Waters and Hubert Sumlin as well as Chuck Berry.
Eric Clapton’s career
In the 1960s, Eric Clapton was a member of several groups. These included the above mentioned Yardbirds and Cream, but also John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers and Blind Faith and in 1970 he formed Derek and the Dominoes.
His solo career took off in 1974 and is still ongoing to this day (time of writing - February 2018). He has indicated that he has no intention of stopping any time soon.
How Eric Clapton changed the sound of the rock guitar
Apart from being named Rock God on the guitar in the 1960s due to his incredible guitar skills, he has created a whole new way of using the modern rock guitar. Before Eric Clapton, the rock guitar was used for the rockabilly sound or the Chuck Berry method, which was later modernised by Keith Richards. Eric studied both methods and infused them with BB King’s electric blues. This new sound formed the fundamentals of how the lead guitar is used in Rock and Roll today.
Eddie Van Halen in an interview about his main influence, Eric Clapton:” There was a basic simplicity to his playing, his style, his vibe and his sound. He took a Gibson guitar and plugged it into a Marshall, and that was it. The basics. The blues. His solos were melodic and memorable – and that's what guitar solos should be, part of the song.”
Other fun facts
Eric Clapton has had over 200 performances at the prestigious Royal Albert Hall in London. Not many other performers come close to that number.
He was named number 2 in Rolling Stones Magazine’s greatest guitarists list in 2015. He’s also the only person ever to be inducted three times into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, once as a solo artist, the others as member of The Yardbirds and Cream.
Mr Clapton is also known by his nickname “Slow hand” which came about during his concerts. Whenever a string on his guitar broke, he simply stayed on stage to replace it during which the British audiences “slow hand-clapped” to cover the break in the performance.
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Image attribution: By Alex G from Puteaux, France (Eric Clapton) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons