What Guitar Does Eric Clapton Play?

What Guitar Does Eric Clapton Use

Eric Clapton is one of the world’s most famous musicians. Much like other multidecade musicians, Eric Clapton has used numerous guitars. However, a handful of them have been used in multiple live performances and albums that’ll go down in history.

Eric Clapton plays many guitars, including a 1950s Fender Stratocaster nicknamed ‘Blackie’, a 1957 Gibson Les Paul nicknamed ‘Lucy’, and an acoustic Martin 000-28EC. His first electric guitar was a 1960 Kay Jazz II K775 that was gifted to him.

Throughout this article, I will show you all of Eric Clapton’s most famous and notable guitars, as well as the history behind each of them. I will also answer all of the FAQs about his instrument collection.

Eric Clapton: Some Background Information

Eric Clapton began his musical journey playing guitar in his mid-teens. His first major band was called Yardbirds, though he previously played for two other bands that didn’t gain enough popularity for him to stick around. He switched to Bluesbreakers in 1965, which skyrocketed his success even further.

The following year, Clapton went on to form Cream, a band with only three musicians (a drummer, a bassist, and Clapton, who played blues and rock-style electric guitar). He’s gone through several bands, but his solo performances began in 1970, which made him a household name.

According to Britannica, Eric Clapton’s Tears in Heaven song won 1993 awards for song of the year and record of the year for the Unplugged album that it was on.

Eric Clapton also has several accolades, including being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for three of his bands (including his solo career), making a documentary, and writing an autobiography.

His success is undoubtedly impressive, starting from his love for music and guitars. Speaking of which, let’s dive into the list of Eric Clapton’s most famous guitars below.

1. 1950s Fender Stratocaster ‘Blackie’

The electric guitar known as ‘Blackie’ is undeniably Eric Clapton’s most popular instrument. This guitar sold for almost $1 million, not to mention the fact that it was used in numerous songs, live performances, and well-known albums. Additionally, ‘Blackie’ set the tone for Clapton’s favorite Stratocaster style that he carried into his signature Fender product.

This electric guitar is a classic single-cutaway axe that Eric Clapton built after taking pickups and other parts from various Stratocasters. It was primarily used for various song and album recordings, but it was eventually used in the early 70s for live performances. Many believe that ‘Blackie’ replaced his previous Strat, known as ‘Brownie.’

Guitar Lobby explains that ‘Blackie’ was made with a ’56 Stratocaster body and a ’57 Stratocaster neck. It used stock Fender pickups, which might come to you as a surprise. The combination of pickups and classic ’50s Stratocaster parts created a unique sound that perfectly fits Eric Clapton’s blues and rock style.

What It’s Known ForWhat It’s Known For
PickupsSingle-coil pickups

Eric Clapton also used ‘Blackie’ in many covers and well-known albums, including his cover of Bob Marley’s ‘I Shot the Sheriff’ and live performances of ‘Layla.’ Additionally, he used it to record one of his top songs from the era, ‘Cocaine.’

You can see Eric Clapton playing ‘Blackie’ here at Live Aid:

And here in 1977:

Although ‘Blackie’ went through many of Eric Clapton’s most successful years, the guitar was eventually sold at an auction for well over $900,000. He still uses a handful of Fender Stratocasters, but none come close to the fame of ‘Blackie’ and ‘Brownie.’

2. 1960 Gibson Les Paul Standard

Eric Clapton is also known for using a lot of Les Pauls. His 1960 Gibson Les Paul Standard was a top choice for a short while. He got it in London during a tour. Its historical significance lies in the fact that this was Clapton’s very first Les Paul, which encouraged him to get many others (some of which are on the list!).

This instrument is mainly known for Eric Clapton’s time with the Bluesbreakers, one of his most famous bands. While the band has yet to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (like three of his other bands), this guitar helped it rise to fame. Unfortunately, it was stolen in the latter half of the ’60s before using it to perform with Cream.

What’s It Known ForBluesbreakers performances
PickupsHumbucking pickups
ShapeLes Paul

Although it was quickly taken away from him, Eric Clapton used the 1960 Gibson Les Paul Standard to record the debut album with the Bluesbreakers. This made it an iconic instrument for fans of the band.

There aren’t many videos that can be found of Clapton playing this particular Les Paul since it was stolen. However, you can see him playing a direct replacement of it in this video:

This Gibson Les Paul was a completely different tone than what Eric Clapton fans were used to at the time. Tplenty of E.C. fans still argue between the iconic styles of his Stratocaster performances and how he sounds when he goes with a Gibson Les Paul. Either way, the Beano sunburst pattern on the ’60 Les Paul Standard was incredible.

3. Cherry Red Fender Telecaster

Eric Clapton’s cherry red Fender Telecaster was one of the most visually stunning instruments in his collection. His playstyle requires constant hammer-ons, pull-offs, and other techniques that let the Fender Telecaster shine. Furthermore, it prevented his strings from warping or pulling the bridge pins out of their slots.

He mainly used this Telecaster during his time with the Yardbirds, one of his bands that made it to the Hall of Fame. The story of how he received this guitar is shrouded in mystery. Some say he got it from the band, while others say it was gifted to him by a friend. The important thing is that Clapton used this top-notch Telecaster for the better half of the 1960s.

Note: Fender Telecasters can be expensive. If you want to play like Clapton without spending too much money, I suggest checking out my list of the best telecaster-style copy guitars.

What It’s Known ForYardbirds performances
PickupsSingle-coil pickups

Eric Clapton used this Telecaster for most of his time with the Yardbirds, including one of their favorite songs, For Your Love. It was also used in many live performances, which is why it ranks so high on the list.

It can be seen here in a 1964 Yardbirds live performance:

You can also listen to his work on this guitar here in a live performance at the London Marquee Club during the same year:

There aren’t many other video recordings of this guitar since it was only used in some of his earliest performances. However, you can listen to it on almost any Yardbirds song in the mid-60s.

4. 1960 Kay Jazz II K775

The 1960 Kay Jazz II K755 is one of Eric Clapton’s most notable instruments because it was his first electric guitar. He started with an acoustic guitar, but the 1960 Kay Jazz guitar was gifted to him by his grandmother. Incidentally, the guitar got him into his first band called The Roosters.

Ground Guitar reports that Eric Clapton gave the guitar to Roger Pearce when he joined the Yardbirds. He replaced it with a Fender Telecaster, which continued to be a go-to guitar model for the musician. However, there is no denying that Kay paved the way for Clapton’s musical success. Although it was a low-cost copy of a Gibson guitar, it got the job done.

What It’s Known ForWhat It’s Known For
PickupsP35 pickups

This bulky electric guitar wasn’t filmed since it was long before Clapton became famous. There were still two bands in the way of him becoming a household name with the Yardbirds. However, it holds more significance than most of the instruments in his collection. After all, if he didn’t get Kay, he might not have found his original tone and playstyle.

That being said, you can listen to The Roosters with Eric Clapton playing this beautiful instrument here:

Roger Pearce swapped the Kay Jazz II K775 for a Fender Telecaster a couple of years after receiving it from Eric Clapton. After that, nobody knows what happened to the once-iconic instrument.

5. 1957 Gibson Les Paul ‘Lucy’

‘Lucy’ is another of Eric Clapton’s nicknames for electric guitars that quickly became one of his favorites. It was used in multiple live performances, covers, and studio albums and had the classic Les Paul appearance that Clapton became tied to. He went back and forth with this guitar, eventually giving it to George Harrison.

According to Guitars Exchange, Eric Clapton used ‘Lucy’ in a cover of While My Guitar Gently Weeps with the Beatles. He also played this guitar quite a bit when he was with Cream. The only reason he got rid of the instrument was that he was collecting all sorts of Les Pauls at the time, so it was one of many (not to mention that George Harrison is a musical legend).

What It’s Known ForCream and Eric Clapton playing with the Beatles
PickupsHumbucking pickups
ShapeLes Paul

Although ‘Lucy’ was only with Eric Clapton from ’66 to ’68, it’s safe to say it was used for several notable experiences. He used it at the beginning of Cream, one of his most famous bands. Even after getting rid of the guitar, Clapton gave it to one of the most famous guitarists on the planet.

You can see him play a remodel of ‘Lucy’ here:

Its unique history is also broken down in this exciting video:

The 1957 Gibson Les Paul was only with Clapton for a short period. It was an excellent instrument mentioned in several musical stories from the 60s, having bounced between two of the most prominent artists of the time.

6. 1939 Martin 000-42

The 1939 Martin 000-42 is Eric Clapton’s most famous acoustic guitar. This beautiful instrument is costly, valued at around $1 million. It is a massive dreadnought acoustic guitar that’s made of Brazilian Rosewood. It was one of the few acoustic guitars in the lineup, having only been produced for half of a decade.

Eric Clapton used this guitar for 12 years, making it one of the instruments he’s owned for the longest time. However, it was sold at an auction just north of $790,000 in the early 2000s. Not only was it one of the most expensive guitars ever sold, but it’s also one of the oldest acoustic guitars still in playable condition.

What It’s Known ForWhat It’s Known For

The Martin 000-42 is known for Eric Clapton’s MTV Unplugged performance, including Layla. It was also used in some of his studio songs, which include a version of Tears in Heaven. Martin made a version of this instrument based on Eric Clapton’s model called the Martin 000-42 E.C.

Clapton also used the Martin 000-42 to cover some of his songs. After leaving the bands, he also covered a handful of songs from Yardbirds and Cream with his Martin 000-42. None of his other acoustic guitars were used for such long periods.

This instrument can be seen here:


And it can also be heard during a recording of Layla:

He’s used a couple of other acoustic guitars, most of which are made by Martin. Below, I will explain some details of a lesser-known Martin that Eric Clapton used in the 90s for some of his recordings and performances.

7. Martin 000-28EC

Eric Clapton is mainly known for his work on the electric guitar, but the Martin 000-28EC is one of his exceptions. This acoustic guitar features a dreadnought body. Fuel Rocks reports that this instrument is made of rosewood and spruce, providing elegant resonance that’s required for most blues musicians.

This instrument was also played in his Unplugged performance on MTV. Although it’s not as well known as his Martin 000-42, this guitar undoubtedly deserves recognition. It’s available with and without pickups, though Clapton used it without them. Most notably, it was used in My Father’s Eyes on the aforementioned Unplugged performance.

What It’s Known ForMTV Unplugged performance
PickupsWhat It’s Known For

This acoustic isn’t nearly as popular as the previously mentioned 1939 Martin 000-42, but it’s worth noting due to the unforgettable Unplugged album and MTV Unplugged performance. It will undoubtedly go down as one of his top acoustic guitars, especially since he didn’t use very many of them.

Here’s a clip of Eric Clapton using the Martin 000-28 during the first part of his MTV unplugged performance:

Unfortunately, videos of the Martin 000-28 are pretty rare. He preferred the 000-42, so it’s seen in action much more often than this model.

8. Gibson Firebird

The Gibson Firebird was a prevalent model during the 60s and 70s, so it’s no surprise that Eric Clapton got his hands on one. The Firebird was a completely different look than the traditional Les Paul and Stratocaster-style guitars Clapton is known for. However, the funky shape and style fit his unique blues tone well.

This instrument was one of the first guitars that Clapton spent a lot of money on. It cost nearly double the price tag of his collection, especially since he was gifted many of his earlier guitars. He used it more than any other electric guitar in 1968. Many fans say it goes toe-to-toe with Clapton’s Gibson Standard electric guitar.

What It’s Known For1968 live performances
ShapeFirebird (it was unlike any other electric guitar shape at the time)

Eric Clapton used the Gibson Firebird again in the 90s, performing Reconsider Baby in front of a live audience. You can view this impressive performance and see how it’s different from his traditional style in this video from Philadelphia:

You can also check out Eric Clapton playing on stage with Buddy Guy in 1969 in this video:

Clapton has had many backup Firebirds, so some of his live performances might not have been with the original Gibson Firebird. However, he’s admired and appreciated this instrument’s blend of simplicity and unique style.

9. Gibson Explorer ‘Korina’

Gibson Explorers are usually attributed to hard rock bands, but Eric Clapton grew fond of one that he nicknamed ‘Korina.’ The wooden finish makes it one of the most interesting-looking Explorers available. While it’s currently owned by a Japanese music collector who bought it at an auction, it was with Clapton for a few years during the ’70s.

‘Korina’ was never one of Eric Clapton’s main electric guitars, but it was used in a handful of famous performances. For instance, it was used in his record, E.C. Was Here, released in the mid-70s. However, it was quickly sold a couple of years later since it wasn’t used as more than a backup.

What It’s Known ForE.C. Was Here
ShapeExplorer (much like the firebird, this style was unique and unlike any other)

There aren’t many clips of Eric Clapton performing with the Gibson Explorer. However, you can view a clip of Kunio Kushida playing it (he’s the collector who got the Explorer after Clapton sold it) here:

You can also watch a quick video of Eric Clapton playing on one of the backup Gibson Explorers that he used with the same pattern in 1983 at a London concert here:

The Gibson Explorer might not be one of his main guitars, but it’s worth mentioning because it was a break from his original style. He used the original humbucker pickups that came with the Explorer, too.

10. 1964 Gibson SG

The 1964 Gibson SG had one of the wildest paint wraps ever seen. It had an angel sitting on a cloud in space. The pickguard was a painting of a valley with a sunrise. The unique appearance was mirrored by the fact that Eric Clapton was a massive fan of Gibson electric guitars, so it was a great fit.

The paint job was based on George Harrison’s paint wrap on his vehicle. It’s known as ‘The Fool’ by many musicians and fans. It was used during many performances when Eric Clapton was with Cream, but he eventually switched to the Gibson Firebird. The mahogany and rosewood guitar remains one of music history’s most memorable instruments.

What It’s Known ForWhat It’s Known For
ShapeSG (thinner, lighter than the Les Paul)

Although its appearance was iconic, the 1964 Gibson SG was eventually given to George Harrison. It was then sold to a music collector, which doesn’t strip it from its historical background.

The Gibson SG continues to be the company’s most popular model. It’s thinner and easier to handle than a Gibson Les Paul. However, Eric Clapton tends to lean towards Les Pauls for their classic appearance and tone.

You can watch Eric Clapton talk about the guitar’s history and unique appearance in a 1968 interview here:

Another clip of Eric Clapton playing Sunshine of Your Love with Cream in 1968 can be watched here:


Eric Clapton’s guitars have generated a following of their own. He’s used different guitars for various performances and albums, including the Unplugged album. Below, I’ll answer the most common questions people have about Eric Clapton’s guitar collection.

What Is Eric Clapton’s Favorite Guitar?

According to Guitar Player, Eric Clapton’s favorite guitars include the following:

  • 1964 Gibson ES-335TDC
  • 1956 Fender Stratocaster ‘Brownie’
  • 1969 Zemaitis Custom 12-String ‘Ivan the Terrible
  • 1980 Santa Cruz F
  • 1995 Gibson Les Paul Custom Florentine

While it’s impossible to know which one he loves the most throughout history, there’s no doubt that he has a tendency to choose Gibson and Fender guitars. He also goes with Martin-brand guitars if he’s creating or performing an acoustic album.

What Guitar Did Eric Clapton Play on Layla?

Eric Clapton used his 1956 Fender Stratocaster,’ Brownie’ to play Layla. While he’s used a few other guitars during live performances of Layla, the album was recorded with the 1956 Stratocaster. He purchased the guitar at Sound City in London.

What Is Eric Clapton’s Signature Guitar?

Eric Clapton’s Signature Guitar is the Fender Eric Clapton Stratocaster (available on Amazon.com). It is made with Alder wood and maple wood, two of the best materials in terms of resonance and tone. The six-string electric guitar comes in black, white, pewter, and red. It has three Vintage Noiseless Pickups, a staple for Fender fans.

What Is Eric Clapton’s Most Expensive Guitar?

Loudwire reports that Eric Clapton’s most expensive guitar was his Stratocaster’ Blackie’, which sold for $959,500. ‘Blackie’ was one of Clapton’s most famous guitars, so it’s no surprise that it’s listed as one of the most expensive guitars of all time. However, he’s also sold a couple of other guitars for six figures.

What Guitar Did Eric Clapton Play on Unplugged?

American Songwriter claims that Eric Clapton played his Martin 000-42 on the Unplugged album (and the MTV Unplugged performance). This set instantly made it one of his most popular guitars due to the acclaimed Tears in Heaven song that won numerous awards. He used a Martin 000-28 during part of the set, but it was quickly swapped out for the aforementioned 000-42.

Final Thoughts

Eric Clapton has used numerous guitars from several companies. He’s well-known for mixing up his guitar style, swapping between guitar body designs as well as acoustic and electric guitars. Some of his instruments have sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars, while others stay in his collection.

Similar Posts