Artist and Musician Biographies


Here is Eric Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight"

Here is Eric Clapton demonsstrating his electric guitar, followed by a clip of some some great playing, on Guitar Love.

Eric Clapton is an artist whose talent has continued to broaden making the success of his music span from the late 1960's through today. He has achieved success with a variety of bands as well as on his own.

Eric was brought into this world in 1945 as the illegitimate son of his mother, Patricia Molly Clapton and a Canadian soldier, Edward Fryer. Living in Ripley and Surrey, England, young Eric, who was called Ricky, was raised by his grandparents, Rose and Jack Clap. Until he was nine years old, he thought that his mother was his sister, a defense taken so that Eric would not have to wear the metaphorical scarlet letter of illegitimacy.

Clapton was inspired as an adolescent by a particular rock musician; Jerry Lee Lewis. Although Eric did not take to the piano such as Lewis, he was moved to begin studying guitar. What truly intrigued Eric about Lewis was the artist's use of the Blues and Rhythm and Blues. Not only did he listen to Lewis, but also to many blues musicians including Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson.

Clapton, henceforth, placed a huge emphasis on the Blues in his own music. Despite his promising musical endeavors, his interest in music was preceded by an interest in art. Rather than going to a music school, he chose to attend the Kingston College of Art and study stained-glass making. Music kept interfering, though, and Clapton soon found himself expelled for playing guitar during a class. After having been booted from the school, he spent some time as a manual laborer and practiced guitar in his free time.

In the mid 1960's, Clapton joined a menagerie of British blues bands, among them, Casey Jones and The Roosters. The first band Eric would join that would become extremely important to the music of the era was the Yardbirds. This band included not only Eric Clapton, but also the talent of Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck. The Yardbirds offered up a menu of bluesy-rock sounds and went on to produce two albums, "Five Live Yardbirds" and "For Your Love". By 1965, Clapton was growing restless with the band's heightened interest in mainstream pop and subsequently departed. Briefly, from 1965-1966, Clapton played with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers where he really began defining his style and gained much popularity.

Clapton left the Bluesbreakers to form his own band: Cream. This band, started in 1966, was a trio made up of Clapton, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce. Cream was perhaps even more successful than the Yardbirds with albums such as "Fresh Cream", "Wheels of Fire" and "Disraeli Gears". As the band's fame manifested itself throughout the world, Clapton's fame began to eclipse that of the other members causing a brutal battle of egos. By 1968, a farewell tour was underway and one last album, "Goodbye", was released in 1969.

The band Blind Faith was next on the agenda for Clapton and he formed it with Rick Grech, Steve Winwood, and Ginger Baker in 1969. Constructed with important members from other bands, Blind Faith was the first band to take already prominent members from other groups to form one singular band. Unfortunately, the stress of extensive touring after the release of their lone, self-titled album caused the band's breakup after less than a year.

In the aftermath of the Blind Faith dissolution, Clapton played for a time with the husband and wife team, Delaney and Bonnie, the former band's opening act. Clapton also went on to produce his first solo album in 1970 that included his cover of J.J.Cale's "After Midnight."

With the musicians who had collaborated on Eric's solo album, Bobby Whitlock, Jim Gordon and Carl Radle, Clapton went on the form Derek and the Dominoes. Guitarist Duane Allman later joined the mix and the band released its double album, "Layla and Other Love Songs". The pivotal "Layla" was the musical product of Clapton's love for Patti Boyd, the wife of his best friend, George Harrison. Clapton later married Patti in 1979, but the marriage lasted only through 1988.

Troubled by Clapton's increasing addiction to heroin, Derek and the Dominoes was dissolved. The early 1970's marked a dark time in Eric's life until he finally kicked his addiction and went on to play a part in the Who's rock opera "Tommy". Collecting himself again after the addiction, he managed to produce the reggae-flavored album, "461 Ocean Boulevard" with a notable cover of Bob Marley's "I Shot the Sheriff."

Devoted fans of Clapton were concerned that the post-addiction musician has lost his edge and was floating toward the more sentimental. 1980 brought reassurance to them with his live album, "Just One Night". However, by 1981, struggles with alcoholism put him in the hospital. During the 1980's Clapton had gotten his alcoholism under control and managed to produce several more successful albums, among them, "Money and Cigarettes" (1983) and "Behind the Sun" (1985).

Musical success does not protect one from tragedy, however, and great sadness filled Clapton's life twice in 1990. A number of Clapton's close friends, guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan and Clapton's crew members, Nigel Browne, and Colin Smythe were all killed in a helicopter accident. And as if those deaths were not enough, Clapton's young son, Conor, plummeted to his death from the 49th floor of his mother's apartment just months later.

But Clapton went on, using his grief to inspire the 1992 Grammy Award winning hit, "Tears In Heaven", a tribute to Conor. This song appears on the album "Unplugged", which was also a hit. Since then, Clapton has found solace in the blues and recorded "From the Cradle" in 1994. Clapton has also produced songs for the soundtrack to the 1997 John Travolta film, "Phenomenon". A double member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the Yardbirds and Cream, Clapton continues to gather followers today.

Page author: N.G.