There are many artists who ventured out and moved on to new bands and solo projects—Damon Albarn, Stevie Nicks, Don Henley, Phil Collins, and just about every member of The Beatles. Another great musician who found lots of success after leaving a successful band is Eric Clapton, co-founder of Cream, one of the most influential rock bands of the ’60s.
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While the group was only around for a few years, Clapton, Jack Bruce, and Ginger Baker gave us albums that include Fresh Cream, Disraeli Gears, Wheels of Fire, and Goodbye with hits, “White Room,” “Sunshine of Your Love,” “I Feel Free,” and “Badge.” After departing Cream, Claption released great solo albums and hits including “Cocaine,” “Tears in Heaven,” and “Layla.”
Many of our favorite guitarists and singer-songwriters are inspired by Eric Clapton. If you’re a beginner or even an advanced guitarist, you likely have been influenced by him or fancy a musician who has used Clapton for inspiration.
Here we will look at the guitars Clapton has used throughout his career. These are only a few of what Eric has used over his long career, but we made sure to mix it up with some vintage finds and more affordable guitars.
Some of these guitars are available at some of our favorite retailers, such as Sweetwater and Guitar Center, so grab one or head on over to a showroom to play these same guitars. You can find the other guitars from Reverb. Reverb. is a great place to source vintage guitars, along with new and old music gear as well. Make offers if you’d like, and start collecting your dream guitars today.
1. Gibson ’70s Explorer Electric Guitar Classic White
This iconic guitar has been in the hands of many guitar legends, including Clapton, Dave Grohl, Slash, and Tom Morello. Equipboard reports Eric Clapton said that he bought this guitar via his manager Roger Forrester, from a fan in Austin, Texas. This guitar has been around for a long time, and it isn’t going anywhere. You can find one brand new at Guitar Center.
The body is made of mahogany. It has a slim taper neck, which guitarists love for its easy playability. It also has a rosewood fingerboard and a pair of ’70s tribute burstbacker pickups. it has a classic white finish with black speed knobs and chrome hardware. This guitar is pretty. Plain and simple, but it’s loud, fun, and a favorite of many generations.
2. Martin D-28 Acoustic Guitar – Natural
Many discerning guitarists instantly name the D-28 as their all-time favorite Martin; it is the standard to which all acoustic guitars are compared. Affectionately dubbed the “tone cannon,” the D-28 deploys a classic rich tone and powerful projection that’s perfect for stage and studio. Martin has reimagined the D-28, blending the rich legacy of the guitar with their latest innovations. Vintage appointments include open-gear tuners, an aged toner top, antique white accents, and a faux tortoise pickguard. Forward-shifted bracing allows for greater vibration of the top, while a modern neck profile gives you improved comfort and playability. We spend a lot of time with acoustic guitars at Sweetwater, and this D-28 delivers the iconic Martin sound by the boatload.
Many of your favorite musicians across all genres have likely played a concert with a Martin D-28. Those artists include Jimmy Page, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and Neil Young. This Martin is a top-notch acoustic guitar, and no others can really compete with this one. The guitar’s classic rich tone still surprises veteran guitarists to this day. Forward-shifted bracing allows for greater vibration at the top.
The Martin has open-gear tuners, an aged toner top, antique white accents, and a faux tortoise pickguard. The modern neck size is also a plus. Comfort while playing is a big factor when picking out a guitar.
3. Gibson Acoustic 1952 J-185 Acoustic Guitar – Vintage Sunburst VOS
Gibson’s 1952 J-185 is a great vintage-designed guitar with some modern flare. It features a thermally-aged Sitka spruce top and has flame maple back and sides. The flat top has a bunch and it sounds clear. Guitarists say it’s pretty comfy to play (thanks to the V-shaped neck). It’ll feel really good in your hands.
This guitar debuted in 1951. Gibson wanted to offer a J-200-style guitar at an affordable price. It became a popular pick due to its smaller body and price point. Even though it’s much cheaper than the J-200, it still features lots of similar specs, like the maple and spruce tonewood combination. You’ll love this reissue. Get it now while you can. A customer said Gibson hit it out of the park with this one and wrote, “The fit and finish is spot on. It really has that vintage sound and look.”
4. Fender Custom Shop Eric Clapton Signature Stratocaster – Black
Clapton, aka Slowhand, teamed up with Fender for the custom Clapton signature Stratocaster. Sweetwater calls it the cream of the crop. (Good one.) This guitar was built to meet the demands of Slowhand. It was made by expert luthiers in Fender’s custom shop.
Features to note are the V-shape neck for fast and comfortable playability, 3 vintage noiseless pickups, a mid-boost circuit, and a Fender TBX master tone circuit. If you want that beefy tone from. a humbucker, this is it. It’s a pricey Strat for sure, but a great collector’s item for any Cream and Clapton fan.
5. Gibson Custom Shop 60th Anniversary ’61 Les Paul SG Standard 2021 – Cherry Red
Clapton actually played a ’62 Les Paul Standard (for nostalgic reasons). They’re hard to find, so consider this 60th anniversary ’61 Les Paul SG standard. Gibson takes reissues seriously—this 60th-anniversary reissue was made with the finest materials and optimized for playability. Gibson uses top-quality machinery to dress guitar frets for accuracy and perfect intonation and ideal action for no fret buzz, loss of sustain, or fetting out when bending strings.
The made-in-Nashville guitar has a solid mahogany neck and an Indian rosewood fingerboard. It has 2 custombucker pickups, and a 3-way toggle switch (2 volume and 2 tone controls). With aged nickel hardware and a nitrocellulose lacquer finish, there’s no doubt that this is one of the finest Les Paul Standards out there.
6. Vintage Gibson 1956 Byrdland Hollow Body Electric Guitar
If you collect vintage Gibsons, add this ’56 Byrdland Hollowbody electric guitar to your wishlist. Equipboard says Eric toured with this guitar in 1994. He had about 14 guitars and constantly changed them with each song on the setlist. He used this guitar to play “Reconsider Baby.” And yeah, the price will make you reconsider for sure, but it’s a classic. We also recommend checking out a local vintage guitar shop near you.
Features include a maple back and sides with a spruce top and a laminated maple neck with an ebony fingerboard. It also has a natural lacquer finish. Guitar Center says it has finish cracks and a few stress marks around the jack. It doesn’t show repair signs. Overall, it’s in fair condition, not new. There are dings, scrapes, and wear spots sadly.
Why is Eric Clapton Called “Slowhand?”
Eric Clapton told his official biographer, Ray Coleman, that the nickname came from Giorgio Gomelsky. It’s a pun or play on words, referring to Clapton’s fast playing. Eric Clapton’s 5th solo album is titled Slowhand. Yep, the album with “Cocaine.”
Now if you’re an Interpol fan, you’re probably wondering does Interpol’s song “Slow Hands” have any ties to the nickname? We get it, the lyrics You make me want to pick up a guitar, and celebrate the myriad ways that I love you will certainly give the impression that there could be a Clapton reference here. There has never been an official word that it is, though. An Interpol and Clapton collaboration? We’ll keep hoping.
Photo by Frank Hoensch/Redferns