Born in Ripley, Surrey, England in 1945, the guitarist and singer Eric Clapton started his musical career in 1962 and first achieved fame as a member of The Yardbirds, later on joining John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers where he embraced his love for Blues music. But it was forming the power trio Cream, alongside Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce, that he entered Rock history.
Over the next decades the musician continued with a successful solo career and collaborated with many other incredible artists. He had the chance to watch and play with countless talented guitarists. In an interview for the tribute made to the late Stevie Ray Vaughan in 1991, he listed 3 guitarists that he said were “the players” to him. Rock and Roll Garage selected what he said about those musicians over the years and his connection with them.
The 3 guitarists that Eric Clapton said he liked in the 90s
Stevie Ray Vaughan
Stevie Ray Vaughan was one of the artists that helped to revive the Blues in the 80s, especially with his successful albums “Texas Flood” (1983) and “Couldn’t Stand The Weather” (1984). The first time that Eric Clapton heard him playing was on the radio while he was driving on the road. The musician recalled in an interview for the book Texas Flood: The Inside Story of Stevie Ray Vaughan, that he felt the urge to stop the car and then find who that guitar player was.
“I was driving, and ‘Let’s Dance’ (David Bowie) came on the radio. I stopped my car and said, ‘I have to know who this guitar player is today. Not tomorrow, but today.’ That has only happened to me three or four times ever. Probably not for anyone in between Duane Allman and Stevie,” Eric Clapton said.
Clapton had the chance to meet and play with Stevie many times in the 80s. Even on his last concert that happened at Alpine Valley in 1990. After the show the musician, the 35 year-old musician entered a helicopter that tragically crashed a few minutes later. He was on the peak of his career, sober for the first time in years and being praised by everyone.
In an interview for the film “A Tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan” (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage), Eric Clapton praised the guitarist’s unique style and technique. “I remember being fascinated by the fact that he never ever seemed to be lost in any way. It wasn’t ever that he took a breather or paused to think where he was going to go next. So it just flowed out of him.”
Eric Clapton continued:
“Always seemed to flow out of him. Actually even that doesn’t come just with virtuosity, practice or any of those. It’s not a question of doing it over and over again. Or anything like that. It’s just that he seemed to be an open channel. He just flowed throught him. He never ever seemed to kind of dry up,” Eric Clapton said.
One of the most important Blues guitarists of all time, Buddy Guy started his career more than one decade before Clapton, in 1953. Since then the musician had worked with countless Blues and Rock and Roll artists and have won eight Grammy Awards.
Clapton and Buddy already had the chance to meet each other in the late 60s. The British guitarist helped to revive Buddy’s career even more when he invited him to be part of the “24 nights” in 1990. That project gathered a all-star blues guitar line-up at London’s Royal Albert Hall.
B.B King and Clapton were even the ones who inducted Buddy Guy into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005. In his speech, the musician said (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage): “It’s a great honor and a privilege to induct this distinguish gentleman into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”
“A man that mean so much to me personally and that 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 and 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 stoled the show. Coming from the back of the field like a throughbred racehorse, he’s shown through that genius ensemble. Taking no prisioners, letting everyone know that he was the new dangerous kid on the block,” Eric Clapton said.
Besides sharing the stage many times over the decades, the two musicians also recorded together.
The older brother of the late Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimmie Vaughan started his career a few years before his little brother and became one of the most important Blues artists of his generation. His friendship with Clapton already exists for decades amd Jimmie often is on tour with him as his opening act.
Vaughan revealed in an interview with Goldmine magazine in 2021 that Clapton was a really important person that helped him after his brother’s tragic death. “Eric was very nice and wonderful and supportive through the whole thing. Then he called me up and said, ‘Why don’t you come play with me over here in England and get away from over there? Just come play guitar.”
“Just leave that behind you. Come play.’ I was like, ‘Okay, I can do that.’ So he really helped me come back out. It’s been 31 years. Can you believe that?” Jimmie Vaughan said.
Jimmie Vaughan won four Grammy Awards over the decades. Two for Rock Instrumental Performance (In 1990 and 1996). Also one for Contemporary Blues Recording (1990) and another for Traditional Blues Album (2001).