Our first post in a series on inspiring guitars played by some of our favorite musicians. What makes a guitar so special is in its story, written on the wood itself, with belt buckles and pick marks. This is a short feature on Eric Clapton's Blackie with some commentary on why it inspires us.
Although Eric Clapton is not much of a tinkerer himself since he has luthiers to help him, his Blackie Stratocaster is a great example of a parts guitar that has a ton of mojo!
Walking into that Nashville guitar store back in 1970, Clapton had no idea he was about to purchase three guitars that would later be combined to create Blackie, "the most famous guitar in the world". Although he initially bought six guitars that day, he gave three of them away to his friends George Harrison, Steve Winwood, and Pete Townsend. With the remaining guitars he chose the best parts from each and had his luthier Ted Newman Jones assemble them into "Blackie".
Driven by the same thing that drives most musicians towards certain instruments, Clapton was influenced to start playing a Stratocaster by other players who were using them and inspiring him at the time. But why did Clapton choose to make a partscaster? He had six perfectly good guitars to choose from, and as his current guitar tech Lee Dickson has said, "he’s generally happy with what Fender provides", and that "Eric sounds like Eric pretty much when he’s using any guitar or any amp that has volume on it."
In a 2004 interview with Christie's Auction House where the guitar was eventually sold, Eric spoke about Blackie and said:
"It is such a personal thing - I almost made this guitar myself - from different components and I've never done that before or since."
Clapton says he chose from the three guitars; the best neck, the best pickups, and the best body, which are very practical reasons. But in this interview where Clapton talks about his guitar being "such a personal thing," we can see the emotional effect that assembling his guitar in this way created.
Blackie was used everywhere as Clapton's number one guitar on live performances and in the studio between the years of 1970 and 1985. In 2004 it was sold for $959,500 to raise funds for Clapton's addiction treatment center.
It is crazy to think that each guitar can be like a person. Clapton has said that Blackie almost became a part of him. And when you think of it that way, for Clapton to give up a piece of himself with so much history in it in order to help other people, as Dickson said:
"It shows you the size of the guy’s heart."
The takeaway for us is that personalizing your guitar can make it special. Whether it is a new set of pickups to chase after that certain tone, or a different neck that feels better under your fingers, it is the process and experience of trying things out, and making your guitar into the perfect instrument for YOU, that is so awesome.
Let us know what you think about Blackie and please share your stories about the guitars that have inspired you!