The British guitarist Eric Clapton, who was born in Ripley, Surrey, England in 1945, is one of those musicians who really had a unique career. He started his musical career at a young age and first achieved fame as the guitarist of The Yardbirds, a band he was part of for only two years.
He left the group fronted by Keith Relf because he wasn’t happy with the path they chose to go musically. Then he was recruited by John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, a group that had a more Blues oriented songwriting which pleased Clapton. In the following years he still helped to form other famous groups like Cream and Blind Faith.
Although all those groups he was part of could be considered really “powerful”, it was a band from the 70s that Clapton said once that was “one of the most powerful ones” he was ever close to.
The band Eric Clapton called one of the most powerful ones
In 1970 Clapton already was one of the most influential guitarists in the world and was really treated as a “God” by many fans. In the last six years he had been part of four groups and wanted to try something different what led him to create a English-American Blues band in the spring of 1970 called Derek & The Dominos, which recorded and released the album “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs” and everybody believed it was a new group which had nothing to do with the guitarist.
Talking with Classic Rock in 2016 he talked about that group and said it was “one of the most powerful ones” he ever got close to. “The stuff that was going on. I was a bachelor when I made that album, really. I had various optimisms about becoming embroiled with Pattie – Pattie Harrison. But we weren’t at that moment in a relationship. It was just something I was trying to write on the wall. And so Layla was that – a proclamation. But it was as anonymous as can be, so she was Layla, I was Derek.”
“What I really loved about that album was (that) nobody knew who we were. We even did a tour of England playing little clubs and there would be nobody there. Because nobody knew who we were so they didn’t come! And yet there was this quartet that was one of the most powerful bands I’ve ever been anywhere near. And I was in it!”
“The rhythm section on its own I would have watched all night. And it was a funny time, cos it worked by word of mouth. As we began touring, bit by bit people were talking about us. (They were) saying: “Who is this?” “What is this band?” They kind of figured it out. It was the most pure experience I’ve ever had in terms of making an album and then promoting it anonymously. It’s almost unheard of,” Eric Clapton said.
Clapton revealed in an interview back in the 80s (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage) why he decided not to use his name at the time. He wanted to see if the music was good enough to be successful without his name. “That was, I just wanted to see if the music was good enough to make it on its own. I really wanted to put it to a very severe test.”
“I made an album called ‘Layla and Assorted Love Songs’. So I thought, well, if it sells well, without any name attached to it, then it’s good music. Because I probably wasn’t sure,” Eric Clapton said.
That record had many famous tracks like “Layla”, “I Looked Away”, “Bell Bottom Blues”, “Keep On Growing” and “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out”. It also had “Little Wing”, originally written and recorded by Jimi Hendrix. He had died in that same year at the age of 27, only two months before the album was released.
The album passed the test and sold really well. It was more than half-million copies sold in the United States and more than 300.000 in the United Kingdom.
The tragic future of some of the members of the band
Besides Clapton, the group also had Bobby Whitlock (Keyboards and acoustic guitar), Carl Radle (Bass) and Jim Gordon (Drums, piano). Albhy Galuten played the piano on “Nobody Knows You…” and probably the most special guest on that album was the late legendary guitarist Duane Allman.
The Allman Brothers Band guitarist played the guitar and slide guitar on almost all the tracks from the album. He tragically died in a motorcycle accident in the following year at the age of 24. He wasn’t the only musician who had a tragic future.
The drummer Jim Gordon was a respected session drummer in the 60s and 70s, but he had undiagnosed schizophrenia. During a psychotic episode associated with the disease he murdered his own mother in 1983. He was sentenced to 16 years to life in prison, remaining in jail in Vacaville, California until his death in 2023 at the age of 77.
During his career, he had worked with many other famous artists like The Beach Boys, Joan Baez, Bread, Jackson Browne, Jack Bruce, The Byrds, The Carpenters and Alice Cooper.