The first guitar that Eric Clapton ever had was a Hoyer guitar made in Germany that he received as a birthday present when he was 13. However, the instrument was really difficult to play and he lost interest for almost two years. He started playing again the guitar for good at the age of 15. After that his playing only improved and history started being made with him being part of groups like The Yardbirds, John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers and Cream.
He was deeply influenced especially by the Blues that came from the United States and over the years talked about many of his heroes. He even mentioned in an interview with Classic Rock in 2016 which were the 3 guitarists that he was “channeling” in the early days of his career. Rock and Roll Garage selected what the musician said about them over the years and his connection with some of them.
The 3 guitarists Eric Clapton said he was channeling in the early days
Eric Clapton always praised the American Blues artists and one of them was Freddie King. In the interview with Classic Rock he explained why he was channeling artists like King in the early days. “I was channeling music. I was channeling what I heard on record by people that I was following, trying to learn from”.
“(So) I was melding all those guys into some new shape. And I think people liked that. Maybe people projected stuff onto that. But for me I was purely trying to turn people on to what I loved: old music” Eric Clapton said.
Clapton already said that he was first a fan of early Rock and Roll artists. But it was when he heard Freddie King playing that he was “over the moon”. “I knew that was where I belonged – finally. That was serious, proper guitar playing. I haven’t changed my mind ever since. I still listen to it and I get the same boost now that I did then,” he told Music Radar in 1994.
A few decades later Clapton had the chance to meet Freddie and to play with him on a couple occasions. The American musician passed away in 1976 at the age of 42.
Another legendary Blues musician that Eric Clapton said he was channeling in the early days was BB King, with whom he had a great friendship. They even released a collaborative album in 2000 called “Riding With The King”. That record won the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues album in the following year.
They were good friends and played together multiple times over the decades. King passed away in 2015 at the age of 89 and Clapton praised him right after the news of his death was shared. (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage) “I just want to express my sadness and to thank you to my dear friend BB King.”
“I want to thank him for all the inspiration and encouragement he gave me as a player over the years. (Also) for the friendship that we enjoyed. There’s not a lot left to say because this music it’s almost a thing of the past now. There are not many left to play in the pure way that BB King did.”
“He was a beacon for all of us who loved this kind of music. I thank him from the bottom of my heart. So if you’re not familiar with his work I would encourage you to go out and find an album called ‘BB King Live at the Regal’. (It) is where it all really started for me as a young player,’ Eric Clapton said.
Another artist that Eric Clapton was influenced by and said that he was channeling is Buddy Guy. He is the only one who is still alive from the list. They had the opportunity to play together and record many times over the decades.
Curiously, it was Clapton and BB King who inducted Buddy Guy into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame back in 2005. During his speech, Clapton said how much Guy inspired him and praised the musician’s career. (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage) “It’s a great honor and a privilege to be able to induct this distinguished gentleman into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. A man who means so much to me personally and as a musician has given so much to us all. It also provides me with the perfect opportunity to say ‘thank you’ for all the inspiration he’s given me over the years.”
“He started playing and singing, his love and concern for the welfare of the Blues has been a great example for me. (Also) countless others who had the good fortune to share this road. My first experience of Buddy’s power was when I bought a record called ‘Folk Festival of The Blues’.”
Eric Clapton continued:
“A little album, a live album recorded in Chicago in the 60s. In the company of such great artists such as Otis Spann, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Sonny Boy Williamson, Buddy did far more than to just hold his own.”
“With the greatest respect to all those fabulous masters, in my humble opinion he stole the show. Coming from the back of the field like a thoroughbred racehorse, he’s shown through that genius ensemble. Taking no prisoners, letting everyone know that he was the new dangerous kid on the block,” Eric Clapton said.