Thursday, July 27, 2006

A Pictorial Glimse of Eric Clapton

Recently while doing extensive research in my vast archive library, or, if the real truth be known, while rummanging through my dusty attic using a handheld flashlight, I came accross stacks of old press photos and personal favorites that I'd saved from my days of doing promotion work with Atlantic Records. As I thumbed through the glossy prints I noticed an overwhelming number of photographs of Eric Clapton. That's when I was reminded of Atlantic's long and successful relationship with old Slowhand himself (see PhotoLog Archives; Atlantic is The Cream, June 2005). If my memory serves me well, I can remember as far back as 1966 when I first noticed photographs in music publications displaying graffiti appearing on walls in London saying "Clapton Is God." Although never a big follower of John Mayhall's Blues Breakers, I was however a huge Yardbirds fan. Eric Clapton was on my radar-screen from day one. But it's no secret that Clapton had his share of personal and professional setbacks. First it was drug addition early in his career that sent him retreating into isolation and disappearing from the public eye for an extended period. And later there was the saucy diddy of his love affair with Beatle George Harrison's ex-wife. Plus, in 1991 he lost his son in a tragic accidential death. But E.C. taught us a thing-or-two about rebounding and making comebacks. Few artist have with-stood decades of music trends yet Eric Clapton did it against relentless odds. Let's take a brief tour of his early past. Eric Clapton is seen here on the left at the age of 15 at an early stage performance with Tom McGuinness' (later with Manfred Mann) Rhythm & Blues band called The Roosters. What'dya think? You reckon young Eric was shaving by this time?

Ever hear of a group called Delaney & Bonnie? They were a Blue-Eyed Soul band from the deep South and recorded their first album on Stax Records produced by Duck Dunn and Don Nix. Well, it was Delaney Bramlett who encouraged Eric Clapton to leave his doldrums behind and return to the stage by joining his band as a sideman. Bramlett also taught Clapton to have confidence in his vocals by taking the lead part. Well, shortly afterwards Delaney & Bonnie signed an album deal with Atlantic and thats where I caught their performance at the Palms Springs Arena during a break from an Atlantic Records convention being held in the same city. But here's where the story gets interesting. Clapton soon departed the band and took Delaney & Bonnie's entire rhythm section with him to form his own band, Derek & The Dominos. That's when Atlantic's Jerry Wexler enlisted soulful white-boy Duane Allman from The Allman Brothers Band as a session guitarist to record with Clapton on Derek & The Domino's first and only record. Those results produced the classic "Layla" album that was engineered and produced by Tom Dowd.

Here's another Eric Clapton band that I could sink my teeth into, Blind Faith. Man, I thought this group was the Cat's Meow. It was full of screaming Wah-Wah's and complimented with Steve Winwood's soulful vocals and produced classic songs like "Can't Find My Way Home," "Presence Of The Lord" and "Had To Cry Today." Music reviewers from that era even coined a new term when refering to them as a Supergroup. Inside sources informed me that this album was recorded at break-neck speed as to meet accelarated deadlines set by the label. As the Atlantic promotion rep, when I delivered this album to FM Radio, Disk Jockeys positively raved over this release by playing the entire album over the airwaves from start-to-finish. Retail outlets absoultely despised this practice as consumers would tape the music over the radio and avoid purchasing the product. Strangley enough and similiar to Derek & The Dominos album, Blind Faith only recorded one record. Years later and while talking shop with legendary producer Steve Cropper, he confided to me that "Stevie Winwood was one of the few remaining artist that he always desired to produce." Can you imagine that? Cropper and Winwood in the studio together. Wouldn't that be awesome? Above photo (L-R) Ginger Baker, Rich Grech, Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood.

Here is a picture of Eric Clapton early in his solo career. By now Clapton had cleaned-up his act to produce new press shots. From my viewpoint, Clapton always displayed those innocent good looks and honest face that automatically opened doors. Only true Superstars are born with those gifts. In 1970 his first solo hit record was the J.J. Cale song "After Midnight" whereas in 1974 he delivered his first solo # 1 album titled "461 Ocean Boulevard." If I'm not mistaken, the cover shot of this album was taken at Jerry Wexler's Miami residence where many Atlantic artists stayed while recording at Critertia Recording Studio.

Eric Capton's public appreciation had spread over 5 decades. He is a 3 time Rock & Roll Hall Of Famer and a 16 time Grammy Winner. His current record label is Reprise Records. A recent photo of Eric Clapton reveals a relaxed and down-home style and performing nowadays with eyeglasses displaying comfort with his mellow and timeless ageing. Gone are the days of huge stacks of Marshall Amps and performing songs like "Spoonful" and "Cocaine" and now replaced with accoustic versions of "River of Tears" from his Pilgrim album and "So Tired" from the latest Backhome CD. Currently, Eric Clapton's music gets across-the-board radio and TV coverage while he even gets Adult Contemporary airplay and VH1 coverage, without the Fuzz Tones ofcourse.