In Pictures: Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Collection

6th Feb 2013 | 02:35

In Pictures: Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Collection
The Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Collection in pictures
(from left) Fender Eric Clapton "Brownie" Tribute Stratocaster, Martin 000-45EC "Crossroads" Madagascar Rosewood, 000-45EC "Crossroads" Brazilian Rosewood, 000-28EC "Crossroads" Madagascar Rosewood, Gibson Harrison-Clapton "Lucy" Les Paul

“The entire collection came about because of Eric Clapton," says Michael Doyle, VP of Guitars Merchandise for the Guitar Center. "He approached us and said that he wanted to do the Crossroads Festival again. This time, he wanted to raise the profile of the Crossroads Centre through products that would be reflective of his legacy. At the same time, it would raise funds for the Crossroads Centre.”

Unveiled yesterday (4 February) in New York City, the Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Collection is comprised of the replica Fender Eric Clapton “Brownie” Tribute Stratocaster guitar, a Gibson Harrison-Clapton “Lucy” Les Paul, and Eric Clapton Signature Martin 000-28 and 000-45 models, as well as Eric Clapton “Crossroads” guitar straps from Ernie Ball.

Proceeds from the sale of every “Brownie” Tribute Stratocaster will benefit Crossroads Centre Antigua, the Caribbean drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility Clapton founded in 1997, as well as the EMP Museum. The release of the “Brownie” Tribute also coincides with Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival 2013, which also benefits Crossroads Centre Antigua.

In Pictures: Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Collection
Fender Eric Clapton "Brownie" Tribute Stratocaster

While on tour with Cream in May 1967, Eric Clapton purchased his first Stratocaster, a 1956 model with two-color sunburst finish and a well-worn maple neck and fingerboard, at Sound City in London. Eventually, "Brownie, as it was affectionately named, became one of Clapton's most-relied-upon axes. It is was featured on the cover of Clapton's 1970 solo debut album, as well as the back cover of Derek And The Dominos' Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs (The guitar is often referred to as the “Layla Stratocaster” in recognition of Clapton's noteworthy usage on that disc.)

In Pictures: Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Collection
Fender Eric Clapton "Brownie" Tribute Stratocaster -close

The Fender Custom Shop Eric Clapton “Brownie” Tribute Stratocaster has a three-piece alder body with an off-center seam and a worn nitrocellulose lacquer finish in two-color sunburst, a one-piece plain-grain maple neck with a custom large “soft V” neck shape, and a 7.25”-radius fingerboard with vintage-style frets.

Additionally, it features custom-shielded ’56 Stratocaster pickups with five-way switching, a vintage-style synchronized tremolo, nickel hardware and a single-ply parchment pickguard. Each instrument also includes a numbered certificate of authenticity hand-signed by Clapton, the 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition box set of Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs, a black textured-vinyl Derek and the Dominos “Fragile” guitar case, a Fender Custom Shop story and photo album booklet, and a Crossroads Antigua brochure.

In Pictures: Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Collection
Fender Eric Clapton "Brownie" Tribute Stratocaster - neck pickup

“Paul Allen owns the original 'Brownie,' says Mike Eldred, Director of the Fender Custom Shop. "We went to EMP [Experience Music Project]. where he gave us unlimited access to the original.

"We worked very closely them them. Basically, we reverse-engineered it – took it completely apart, measured and weighed everything, all of the pickups and components, and then we took the information to Fender and go to work on prototypes."

In Pictures: Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Collection
Fender Eric Clapton "Brownie" Tribute Stratocaster - back

“We actually brought the original to the Custom Shop again and tightened up the Custom Shop and tightened up the little details," says Eldred. "This is the first of the 100 that we’re going to do."

In Pictures: Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Collection
Fender Eric Clapton "Brownie" Tribute Stratocaster - neck plate

"It's amazing how all of the wear and tear has been re-created," says Justin Norvell, VP of Product Development for Fender. "The dings and scratches, they're all there."

In Pictures: Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Collection
Fender Eric Clapton "Brownie" Tribute Stratocaster - neck and headstock

"The forensic work that goes into building a guitar such as this is pretty impressive," says Norvell. "No corner was cut in order that we could distill everything from it to make the replica as exact as possible."

The Fender Eric Clapton "Brownie" Tribute Stratocaster will be limited to 100 guitars worldwide.

In Pictures: Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Collection
C.F. Martin & Eric Clapton "Crossroads" Guitar Collection, 2013
(from left) 000-45EC "Crossroads" Madagascar Rosewood, 000-45EC "Crossroads" Brazilian Rosewood, 000-28EC "Crossroads" Madagascar Rosewood

Guitar Center, in partnership with Eric Clapton and C.F. Martin Guitars, has commissioned a limited edition of two of the finest and most desirable Martin instruments ever made - hand crafted to Eric Clapton’s personal specification by the C.F. Martin Custom Shop.

Based on the legendary 14 fret 000-45 body style first introduced in 1934, the guitars are uniquely appointed with “Crossroads” pearl inlays and bear the personal, hand-written signatures of Eric Clapton and Chris Martin on both the Certificate Of Authenticity and sound hole label. The guitars are available in two versions – either Brazilian or Madagascar Rosewood.

"We’ve taken Eric Clapton’s favorite body size, which is the Triple O, the Auditorium size, and we’ve used the feel that he enjoys, the modified V-neck and the short-scale length," says,Craig Yamek, Martin Guitar National Accounts Manager. "What we have now are very playable guitar.

"Also, what Eric does with our Auditorium sizes is, he braces them differently. Typically, our smaller bodies will be scalloped with a thinner brace. Eric scallops it and gets it a bit thicker, so there’s a real sparkle to the mids and highs. Plus with the scalloping you get a real rich bottom end, very balanced – it’s not bass-y."

The Martin 000-45EC "Crossroads" Madagascar Rosewood will be limited to 30 guitars maximum in US, 25 guitars maximum for rest of the world. The Martin 000-45EC "Crossroads" Brazilian Rosewood will be limited to 12 guitars maximum in US, six guitars maximum for rest of the world. The Martin 000-28EC "Crossroads" Madagascar Rosewood will be limited to 75 guitars maximum in US, 75 guitars maximum for rest of the world.

In Pictures: Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Collection
Martin 000-28EC "Crossroads" Madagascar Rosewood

“With the 28 Madagascar version, it has a Madagascar rosewood back and sides, hand selected by the Guitar Center, very rich and beautiful," says Yamek. "The black lines are similar to Brazilian wood."

In Pictures: Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Collection
Martin 000-28EC "Crossroads" Madagascar Rosewood

"The headplate is Madagascar, as well," says Yamek. "There’s the Crossroads logo. Eric was very involved with the design. He thought the logo was too blue at first; he wanted more of an earth tone."

In Pictures: Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Collection
Martin 000-28EC "Crossroads" Madagascar Rosewood
Eric Clapton signature

On all of the CF Martin & Eric Clapton "Crossroads" acoustics, Eric's signature is inlaid between the 19th and 20th frets.

In Pictures: Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Collection
Martin 000-45EC "Crossroads" Madagascar Rosewood

"Next we have the 45s," says Yamek. "There’s a lot more pearl around the parameter of the top. The sides and back all have pearl. And then there’s the Crossroads logo on the sides of the bridge.”

In Pictures: Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Collection
Martin 000-45EC "Crossroads" Brazilian Rosewood

“Then we have a Brazilian version," says Yamek. "All of the wood has been hand selected. It’s a 45 appointment level. It has a Brazilian headplate, a Brazilian rosewood back and sides."

In Pictures: Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Collection
Gibson Harrison-Clapton "Lucy" Les Paul

“Several years ago, Eric did the ‘Beano’ guitar, which is the Holy Grail of Les Pauls," says Michael Doyle. "I thought that the Lucy Les Paul was something that the Eric Clapton/George Harrison aficiandos certainly knew about because it’s such a cool guitar with a great story."

In Pictures: Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Collection
Gibson Harrison-Clapton "Lucy" Les Paul

Although it now sports a red finish, the '57 "Lucy" Les Paul was originally a Goldtop. Its second owner, Rick Derringer (the first was John Sebastian), had it stripped and refinished. Unhappy with its sound, he sold it to Dan Armstrong's guitar shop in York, where it was purchased by Eric Clapton in 1966.

In Pictures: Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Collection
Gibson Harrison-Clapton "Lucy" Les Paul - back

Clapton didn't play the Les Paul that much, and in August 1968 he gave it to his good friend George Harrison, who promptly named the guitar "Lucy," in honor of redheaded TV star Lucille Ball.

Harrison and The Beatles were at the time recording what would become "The White Album." Unable to track a lead solo he was happy with for his song While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Harrison called Clapton up and invited him to play on the cut, telling him "you don't need to bring a guitar; you know I've got a good Les Paul you can use." Clapton laid down his searing solo in one take.

Harrison became enamored of Lucy, and used the guitar for several years. In 1973, he loaned it back to Clapton for Eric's Rainbow Concert.

In Pictures: Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Collection
Gibson Harrison-Clapton "Lucy" Les Paul - bottom tail

“The original is still owned by the Harrison estate," says Doyle. "When we suggested the idea to Eric, he said that he was very supportive. Through him, we contacted the Harrison estate. In September of 2012, Gibson went to England to inspect the guitar, photograph it and measure it. At the Custom Shop in Nashville, they built a really stunning replica, very accurate. We took it to Eric in November to play and approve, and he was thrilled.

"The original had a Bigsby on it at one point. You can tell buy the holes in the guitar. We actually put a Bigsby on it and took it off again, just to be completely accurate."

In Pictures: Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Collection
Gibson Harrison-Clapton "Lucy" Les Paul - prototype ID

“It’s got Grover tuners on the back, which weren’t standard on a ’57 Goldtop," says Doyle. "Like he did with the Cream 335, Eric put Grovers on the guitar."

In Pictures: Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Collection
Gibson Harrison-Clapton "Lucy" Les Paul - neck

“The neck is not as a ’57," says Doyle. "It's not a ‘60s, either. It's chunkier than most guitar necks – I'd say it's sort of halfway. That’s consistent with a refinished guitar."

In Pictures: Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Collection
Gibson Harrison-Clapton "Lucy" Les Paul - headstock top

“There was no sign of gold paint on the Harrison original, so they really did take it all off," says Doyle. "This one has no gold, either. It’s a brilliant guitar. Eric played, plugged it into one of his tweed amps, and he ripped it up. He loved it.”

This Gibson Harrison-Clapton "Lucy" Les Paul will be a limited edition of 100 worldwide, available in the US through Guitar Center in March/April, coinciding with the 2013 Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Festival. The retail price $14,999 MSRP.

For more information on The Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar collection, visit the Guitar Center website.

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