Rig Report

Clapton’s Tone > More Than Just Strats

Slowhand's tone was more than the sum of his Strats.

  • By Sarah FitzGerald @tonereport
  • December 20, 2013

It’s almost impossible to picture him in your mind’s eye holding anything other than a Fender Stratocaster--and you’d be right to do so: the guy wears a Strat like nobody’s business. Clapton’s tone is one that has been chased for decades—but he wasn’t always serving up those tasty bends on a Strat. Today in Andy’s Corner we thought we’d look back at some of the other guitars that helped Clapton develop his signature tone and influence generations of guitarists. Somewhat sadly, many of these guitars have been auctioned off by Clapton to raise money for his Crossroads Rehabilitation Centre in Antigua—but they’ve made many a collector happy and raised funds for an important cause that is close to Clapton’s heart.

After favoring Gibsons predominantly during his years in the Yardbirds, John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, and Cream Clapton switched over to Strats after Cream broke up. Clapton has claimed that the Strat cannot be “bettered” and has used them faithfully since making the switch. However, Clapton had several iconic guitars in hand before he found the Strat—here’s a look at a few of them.

This cherry red ’64 Gibson ES-335 had a long career in the hands of Clapton—he used as early on as his stint in the Yardbirds and subsequently throughout his career until it was sold at auction in 2004 for almost $850,000! 

And then there’s Lucy. This infamous guitar has an incredible lineage, having belonged to both Clapton and George Harrison. A ’57 Goldtop that was refinished in red, it was the guitar that Clapton used to record the legendary solo on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”

Clapton’s most famous guitar of his 60s era career is certainly this psychedelic ‘64 Gibson SG, nicknamed The Fool. During the height of psychedelia in the sixties, Cream had all their instruments painted by the art collective The Fool. Jack Bruce's bass, Ginger Baker's bass drum head, and Clapton's SG all received unforgettable paint jobs of the era. This guitar also has an interesting history, having been sold to Todd Rungren, who eventually also sold it at auction for $150,000.


Though these guitars have all moved on to new owners, they are an important part of Clapton's past and an important part of the "woman" tone that we've all been chasing for decades. A good reminder that even when you think you know what makes a man's tone (in this case, a Strat!)- the answer is usually a lot more complicated than you think.

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