When Eric Clapton was thirteen, his birthday present from his parents was a German-made Hoyer guitar, which ended up being the first guitar he ever owned. But he found the instrument extremely challenging to play, and he stopped being interested for over two years. At age 15, he once more picked up playing the guitar. His playing only got better after that, and he began to make history by playing with bands like Cream, The Yardbirds, and John Mayall & The Blues breakers. He was greatly affected, particularly by American Blues, and over the years he spoke about many of his heroes. He even named the three guitarists that he was “channeling” in the early years of his career in a 2016 interview with Classic Rock. The musician’s remarks on them over the years and his relationship with a few of them were chosen by Rock and Roll Garage.
Freddie King was one of the American blues musicians that Eric Clapton frequently admired. He gave an explanation for his early imitation of musicians like King in the Classic Rock interview. “Music was entering my channel.” I was trying to learn by channeling what I heard from the people I was following on tape. “I was combining all those guys into a new form, so to speak.” And I believe that was well received. Perhaps things were projected onto that. However, Eric Clapton stated, “For me, I was just trying to introduce people to what I loved: classic music.” Clapton has previously stated that his initial admiration for early Rock and Roll musicians. But he was truly “over the moon” when he heard Freddie King perform. “I finally realized that was where I belonged.” That guitar playing was excellent and serious. Since then, I haven’t had any second thoughts. In 1994, he told Music Radar, “I still listen to it and I get the same boost now that I did then.” A few decades later, Clapton got the opportunity to play a few times and meet Freddie. At the age of 42, the American musician departed from this life in 1976.
BB King was another iconic Blues artist whom Eric Clapton claimed he was channeling in his early years. The two had a close bond. In 2000, they even collaborated on an album titled “Riding With The King.” The next year, that album was recognized with the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues album. Over the years, they performed together numerous times and were close friends. Following the announcement of King’s death in 2015, Clapton paid tribute to the 89-year-old. (Scribbled by Rock and Roll Garage) “I would want to convey my gratitude and sorrow to my beloved friend, BB King. “I would like to express my gratitude to him for all of his support and motivation throughout the years as a player. (And) for the companionship we shared. There’s not much else to say about this music now that it’s practically extinct. Few people still play as pure a style as BB King did. “He served as a lighthouse for all of us who enjoyed this genre of music.” With all of my gratitude, I thank him. Thus, if his music is unfamiliar to you, I strongly advise you to track down the album “BB King Live at the Regal.” Eric Clapton stated, “That’s where it all really started for me as a young player.”
Buddy Guy is another musician who Eric Clapton claimed to have been influenced by and was channeling. Out of the entire list, he is the only one who is still living. Over the years, they had numerous opportunities to perform and record together. Strangely enough, in 2005, Buddy Guy was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame by Clapton and BB King. In his address, Clapton lauded Guy’s work and mentioned how much the artist had inspired him. (Rock and Roll Garage transcribed) “To be able to induct this outstanding gentlemen into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is a wonderful honor and a privilege. A man who has really impacted me personally and all of us as musicians. It also gives me the ideal chance to express my gratitude for all the inspiration he has given me over the years. “He began to play and sing; to me, he set a wonderful example with his love and devotion for the Blues. Innumerable other people who were fortunate enough to travel this route as well. I first became aware of Buddy’s influence when I purchased the record “Folk Festival of the Blues.” “A little album, a live album recorded in Chicago in the 1960s,” continued Eric Clapton. Buddy did far more than merely hold his own when performing with such legendary musicians as Otis Spann, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and Sonny Boy Williamson. As much as I admire all those amazing masters, he, in my humble view, stole the show. Through that brilliant group, he emerges from the back of the field like a thoroughbred racehorse. Eric Clapton remarked, “Taking no prisoners and letting everyone know that he was the new dangerous kid on the block.”