EC’s Crossroads Guitar Festival 2004: A Look Back

Fifteen years ago – on June 4, 5, and 6, 2004 – Eric Clapton hosted the Crossroads Guitar Festival in Dallas, Texas to raise funds for Crossroads Centre Antigua. When it ended late on hot and stormy Sunday night, little did Eric and music fans know it would only be the first. Eric went on to host three more festivals in 2007, 2010 and 2013. This September, he brings the event back to Dallas for a two-night guitar extravaganza.

Eric announced the first festival and a second guitar auction on February 26, 2004. The press release said the “festival will be the first of its kind to create a unique bridge between fans and musicians through leading guitar manufacturer exhibits and guitar clinics. Attendees will be offered once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to be in an intimate setting as artists give fans the ultimate look into their craft.” It would be a home-run on all fronts.

The three day event kicked off Friday, June 4 with the opening of the Guitar Center Village in Fair Park – the site of the Texas State Fair – at 4pm. Musicians and fans wandered around a vintage guitar exhibition, trawled around the manufacturers’ stalls collecting an array of promotional items, played on all manner of equipment, attended guitar clinics, bought more than a few guitars and accessories and viewed a selection of the best Christie’s EC auction guitars. Key instruments, which would go under the hammer in New York on June 24, included Blackie, the Cherry Red ES 335, the gold-leaf “Monserrat” Strat, the Zemaitis “Ivan The Terrible” (which George Harrison borrowed to record “My Sweet Lord”), the 1939 Martin 000-42 which EC played on MTV Unplugged, Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Lenny” Stratocaster, Jimmie Vaughan’s custom double-neck Stratocaster and more. Even Eric made an early appearance at the festival, mingling with the crowd for the Honey Boy Edwards, Robert Lockwood Jr, Duke Robillard blues jam.

After the village closed Friday night, there was an invitation-only party in one of Fair Park’s pavillions to celebreate the opening of the festival. Tommy Shaw of Styx performed an acoustic set for the assembled guests.

Eric was very high profile on Saturday, June 5. He sound-checked at lunch time in the empty Cotton Bowl stadium as temperatures soared into the 90s running through a few Robert Johnson songs plus “Badge”. Then, he headed over to the Guitar Center Village in Fair Park.

The Village was again the center of activities with live music performances on three stages from 1pm along with clinics and Q&A forums. The day’s events includes performances on the fairgrounds by Neal Schon, Tommy Shaw and James Young of Styx, Del Castillo, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, Jonny Lang, Doyle Bramhall II, Eric Johnson, Dan Tyminski, J.J. Cale, John Mayer, Robert Randolph and an All-Star Blues Jam that started at 9:00pm.

Seated on the side of the main outside stage for most of the afternoon and early evening, Eric took in the music like the fans gathered in front of the stage before getting up and joining J.J. Cale for his entire set. Back to his seat, Eric enjoyed the performances by John Mayer and Robert Randolph before grabbing his Strat for the all star blues jam alongside Jimmie Vaughan, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, Robert Randolph and Hubert Sumlin.

On Sunday, June 6, the Village opened at 10am, but the center of the guitar universe was Cotton Bowl Stadium. At noon, the “All-Star special benefit concert” kicked off with “The Star Spangled Banner” by Neal Schon and wrapped up almost 11 hours later.  From the first note to the last, it was guitar hero after guitar hero. Joe Walsh was the first to get the crowd wound up with his hits “Walk Away,” “Funk #49” and “Rocky Mountain Way.” Late in the afternoon as temperatures topped 100 degrees, Eric came on for a loose blues jam with BB King, Buddy Guy, Jimmie Vaughan and John Mayer. He later jammed on “Jingo” with Santana, “‘Cause We Ended As Lovers” with Jeff Beck and blew the crowd away with his solo set of rock and blues classics before Texas trio ZZ Top brought it to a close as powerful thunderstorms blew in.

Eric’s Strat of choice during the festival was an instrument known as Crash 3. The guitar was specially executed by American graffiti artist, John ‘Crash’ Matos and was to be sold at the auction to benefit Crossroads Centre on June 24. Eric debuted the guitar in March at a benefit gig at the Royal Albert Hall and played it throughout his European and UK tour, at the festival and the beginning dates of his US Tour. It sold for $321,100.

On November 9, highlights of the festival were released in two DVD set. For those who may have forgotten, Disc Two has “Layla” in an “easter egg”. To access the hidden track, use the ‘Extras’ option. Once there, press the LEFT button so that nothing becomes highlighted with the menu. Press ENTER.

CLICK HERE for 2004 Crossroads Guitar Festival Photo Gallery

CLICK HERE for 2004 Crossroads Guitar Festival Set Lists and Fan Reviews for June 6

The Crossroads Centre, Antigua
Founded in 1998, Crossroads Centre, Antigua was created to provide treatment and education to chemically and alcohol dependent persons, their families and their significant others. Treatment is provided through residential care, family and aftercare programs. The pathway to recovery is founded on the 12 steps and a change in lifestyle. Crossroads Centre, Antigua also operates a 16 bed halfway house in Antigua called the Bevon House and facilitates various ongoing recovery initiatives on the island of Antigua and the Caribbean.

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