Eric Clapton’s Blackie

During a career that has spanned five decades, Eric Clapton has played with nearly every other notable guitarist in the realm of rock and roll. He has also owned more than a thousand different guitars and has used dozens of them to create unique sounds on his many albums. But no guitar has been nearer or dearer to Clapton’s heart than his celebrated Fender Stratocaster that he named Blackie.

Clapton first used Blackie on stage in London at the Rainbow Concert in 1973. The guitar was a compilation of several Stratocasters he had purchased. At the time, most musicians were playing Gibson Les Pauls and 335s. But, when Clapton visited a guitar shop in Nashville called Sho-Bud, he was intrigued by several vintage Stratocasters they had for sale. He liked their bluesy sound, and bought the store’s entire inventory of 50’s Strats for prices between $200 and $300. Eric gave three of the best Stratocasters to his three friends, George Harrison, Pete Townshend and Steve Winwood. He then set to work on the remaining four guitars and took the best parts of all of them to make the one known as Blackie.

He liked the look of the black body, so he used a ’56 alder body with a nitrocellulose black lacquer finish for his base. Then he added components from all the other instruments until he was pleased with the sound and action he had achieved. He used a hard maple neck from a ’57 and pickups and hardware from some of the other models. Clapton often affectionately refers to Blackie as a mongrel or a hybrid, but it was his favorite guitar for more than 12 years. Eric used Blackie almost exclusively on stage between ’73 and ’85. She was used at famous events like Live Aid and the ARMS benefit tour. When Clapton made his first music video “Forever Man,” Blackie was the guitar he played. The hybrid was also featured on at least three album covers: Slowhand, Just One Night and The Cream of Eric Clapton.

In 2004, Eric Clapton decided to part with his much-loved companion. In an effort to raise money for the Crossroads Centre, a substance abuse rehabilitation facility that Clapton founded, he put Blackie up for bids at the Christie Auction House. Guitar Center paid more than $950,000 for the instrument, a world record price. Now Blackie is part of Guitar Center’s Legends Collection, and regularly goes on tours around the country.

In 1998, Fender honored Clapton by producing the very first signature model Stratocaster, which still sells briskly today. In 2006, Guitar Center entered into an agreement with Clapton that allowed them to produce a limited number of exact facsimiles of Blackie and donate part of the proceeds to Crossroads Centre. Two-hundred seventy five Blackie replicas went on sale on November 24, 2006 and sold out within one day.

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