1962 to 1972: Eric Clapton Band History and Lineups

1962 to 1972: Eric Clapton Band History and Lineups

Eric Clapton first started performing in a duo with fellow blues enthusiast David Brock in the pubs around Surrey, England sometime in 1962. Brock was later one of the founder members of Hawkwind.

In January 1963, Clapton met up with Tom McGuiness at the Prince of Wales Pub in New Malden. McGuinness was seeking a guitarist for his band, THE ROOSTERS. Eric had been recommend by McGuinness’s girlfriend, with whom he had attended art college. In his autobiography, Clapton said “The Roosters rehearsed more than we played. Even though we did a gig every now and then, mostly in upstairs rooms in pubs, it was more about the excitement of meeting like-minded blues people.” The band split up in August 1963.

This was also the time that the “Mersey Sound” and “Beatlemania” was beginning to explode first in the north, then all over England.  After The Roosters broke up, Tom McGuinness was approached by Brian Casser to join his outfit, CASEY JONES AND THE ENGINEERS. Casser was a Liverpool contemporary of The Beatles and had worked previously with Cass And The Casanovas in that city. McGuinness then recruited Clapton for the band as The Engineers needed two guitarists. Eric left after a mere seven performances. The pop orientation of the band ran counter to his blues leanings. But the gigs helped pay the bills and was Clapton was happy go on the road for the first time to gain touring experience.

Eric Clapton’s first taste of international recognition came when he was asked by Keith Relf to replace Anthony “Top” Topham as the lead guitarist for THE YARDBIRDS in October 1963. For the first time, Clapton has a full-time job as a musician.

The Yardbirds developed a loyal following, released several singles and a live debut album, “Five Live Yardbirds” during Clapton’s tenure. While recording of the band’s first single “For Your Love”, he realized his days with the band were numbered as they were headed towards making more commercial music. They wanted to be on television and have a number one single. The flip side of “For Your Love,” was a milestone for Eric, though. The B-side, “Got To Hurry”, was Eric’s first recorded composition (although it was credited to “O. Rasputin” the nom de plume of the band’s flamboyant manager, Giorgio Gomelsky, as it was based on a tune he hummed to Eric in the studio). Discontented, Clapton was purposefully argumentative with his bandmates and was invited to resign due to his apparent unhappiness.

After leaving The Yardbirds, Clapton first returned home to Ripley, then went and spent some time with Ben Palmer, a friend from his Rooster days, at his home in Oxford. While there, Eric received a call to join JOHN MAYALL’S BLUESBREAKERS. Clapton joined the Bluesbreakers in April 1965 and went to live with Mayall and his family in Lee Green. His exposure to Mayall’s massive record collection, hones his blues tastes and as Clapton has said, “Modern Chicago blues became my new Mecca.” Also in the Bluesbreakers at this time was bassist John McVie, who would go on to be a founding member of Fleetwood Mac.

By the summer of 1965, Eric was restless and left John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers to join a group of friends as THE GLANDS. It was a spontaneous decision and the the plan was to travel around the world by gigging enroute. The six members of the Glands squished into a small car, drove Europe and made it as far as Greece, where they performed at the Igloo Club. Things got difficult, and Eric and Ben Palmer did “a runner”, catching a train back to London. Clapton left behind his Gibson Les Paul guitar and a Marshall amplifier.

Upon his return to England in late October 1965, Clapton found his place in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers had been filled by guitarist Peter Green. Green was quickly ousted and Clapton rejoined Mayall’s band. He found they had a new bass player — Jack Bruce, who had replaced John McVie. Bruce left after a few weeks to join Manfred Mann and McVie returned to the lineup. However, in Bruce, Eric had discovered a like-minded musician as both leaned towards improvisation rather than note for note recreations of other’s material. In 1966, The Blues Breakers recorded THE British Blues Album of the 1960s, “Blues Breakers With Eric Clapton” (a.k.a. “the Beano album”). It was the breakthrough album that brought Clapton internatinal intention. To this day, some consider this the single most important album ever recorded by Eric Clapton.

But by March 1966, Eric was bored with imitating his blues heroes, so he jumped at drummer Ginger Baker’s offer to start a new band which would evolve into CREAM. Baker was a successful jazz-oriented drummer who had worked with Acker Bilk and the Graham Bond Organisation. Clapton recommended Jack Bruce, unaware of the animosity that existed between Baker and Bruce from their days with the Graham Bond Organisation. Despite his initial reluctance, Baker eventually agreed to work with Bruce in a trio setting. Over the next few months, they rehearsed secretly until going public when Baker announced the band’s formation in an interview with Chris Welch of Melody Maker magazine in MONTH / YEAR. Cream’s first gig took place on DATE.

EC: “[Cream] was a very arrogant kind of — we actually saw ourselves as this, as the cream of the crop, you know? We were the main musicians on the English rock scene. And said it and used it.” (From Clapton’s 1998 CNN Larry King Live interview)

During this time, Eric also sat in on a one-shot studio session as part of THE POWERHOUSE. The lineup included future Cream member Jack Bruce, future Blind Faith member Steve Winwood and Eric’s friend from his Roosters days, pianist Ben Palmer. This studio band contributed several tracks to the Elektra sampler, What’s Shaking.

Cream had a two-year life span. The band released four albums: Fresh Cream (1966), Disraeli Gears (1967), Wheels of Fire (1968), and Goodbye (1968). The ensemble sunk under the weight of the members’ personality conflicts and was crippled by the pressure of massive U.S. Tours. Because of the acrimonious break up, the three men did not play together again until their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in January 1993. In 2005, the trio came together for four shows in May at London’s Royal Albert Hall and in October for three further concerts at New York City’s Madison Square Garden.

In December 1968, just weeks after Cream’s final performances at London’s Royal Albert Hall, Eric Claptontook part in the filming of the Rolling Stone’s film “Rock And Roll Circus”. He joined the one-off group, WINSTON LEGTHIGH AND THE DIRTY MAC, along with John Lennon, Keith Richards, and Mitch Mitchell (Jimi Hendrix Experience). The performance resulted in two tracks: a cover of The Beatles’ “Yer Blues” and an instrumental jam. The album and film remained unreleased until 1995. It is now available on DVD and CD.

Clapton’s next band was BLIND FAITH, one of rock music’s first “supergroups.” The band evolved out of informal jamming at Eric’s home with Steve Winwood in February 1969. Winwood suggested adding Ginger Baker to the line-up. In March 1969, the lineup was complete when Rick Grech joined on bass. Blind Faith’s debut was at a free concert in London’s Hyde Park on 7 June 1969. Before the band jelled into a cohesive unit, a self-titled album was released and they set out on an extensive U.S. Tour.

To get away from the hype surrounding Blind Faith during their only U.S. Tour, Clapton started hanging out with the support act, DELANEY & BONNIE & FRIENDS. Husband and wife team, Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett, fronted the band. Other “friends” included Rita Coolidge, Bobby Whitlock, Carl Radle and Jim Gordon. Blind Faith faded away after less than a year together.

When the Blind Faith tour was over, Eric Clapton headed to California with the Friends to work on their next album. Before returning home, he asked his manager to arrange a European Tour for Delaney and Bonnie and Friends.

Immediately upon his return to England, Clapton was invited by John Lennon to become part of the Plastic Ono Band for a one-off charity concert in Toronto, Canada on 15 September 1969. Meeting at the airport, the “band” rehearsed on the plane. The performance resulted in a live album, “Live Peace In Toronto”. Back in England, the Plastic Ono Band went into the studio to record Lennon’s song “Cold Turkey”.

Eric then toured Europe with Delaney and Bonnie, which resulted in a live album, “Delaney And Bonnie And Friends On Tour With Eric Clapton”. Their first gig was at London’s Royal Albert Hall. Impressed by what he had seen that evening, George Harrison (The Beatles)asked Delaney Bramlett if he could sign on as “a friend”. Harrison played on all the remaining dates of the tour. After the tour, Clapton used the Friends and others, including Steven Stills, to record his first solo album, “Eric Clapton” (released in 1970). But, when the Bramletts started counting on his long-term participation in their band, Clapton left the lineup.

A few months later, three former members of the Friends contacted Eric in hope of forming a band. Clapton was amenable, so Carl Radle, Bobby Whitlock, and Jim Gordon went to England and DEREK AND THE DOMINOS was born. At this time, Eric was also much in demand as a session player. Along with his new bandmates, they backed George Harrison on his classic three-album set “All Things Must Pass”.

In the ensuing years, Eric told two different stories on how The Dominos got their name. The most widely known story is that Eric assumed the identity of “Derek” in an attempt at anonymity. However, in an interview which appeared in the book, “Conversations With Eric Clapton” (1976), he told this story:

EC: “Tony Ashton (of Ashton Gardner & Dyke) suggested it because he always used to call me Del and he wanted to call it Del and The Dominos … so it became Derek and The Dominos. It was last minute, in the dressing room before we went on stage at The Lyceum. We didn’t have a name up to that point. You don’t think of that when you’re forming a group. In fact, when someone suggests to you that you get a band title, that’s when you really start to worry about whether you should have a band at all, because you realize so much hinges on the name of the group … that all you need to do is give it a bad name and you’ve blown the whole gig no matter what the music’s like.” Clapton continued that it wasn’t a conscious attempt at anonymity. “…We presumed that everyone would know what it was all about. That it would be an open joke.”

After a short UK Tour in August 1970, The Dominos flew to Criteria Studios in Miami, Florida to record their first album. Duane Allman, of the Allman Brothers Band, joined them in the studio. The sessions resulted in the seminal album, “Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs”. The band toured Europe and America and a live album was released from their 23 October 1970 performances at the Fillmore East in New York City. The Dominos disintegrated in April 1971 during attempts to record a second studio album. The commercial failure of “Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs”, plus mounting personal issues and drug addiction, led to Eric Clapton’s self-imposed seclusion from the spring of 1971 until mid-1973. Rarely venturing out, Clapton’s only live performance of note was on 1 August 1971 at rock’s first large-scale charity concert — George Harrison’s Concert For Bangladesh. The concert was filmed and recorded for release.

The band lineups and the dates of Eric’s participation are as follows:

THE ROOSTERS (March – October 1963)
Tom McGuinness (guitar), Eric Clapton (guitar), Terry Brennan (vocals), Ben Palmer (piano), and Robin Mason (drums)

Eric Clapton (guitar), Brian Casser (vocals), Ray Stock (drums), Dave McCumisky (bass), and Tom McGuinness (guitar)

THE YARDBIRDS (October 1963 – March 1965)
Keith Relf (vocals/harmonica), Eric Clapton (guitar), Chris Dreja (rhythm guitar), Paul Samwell-Smith (bass), and Jim McCarty (drums)

JOHN MAYALL’S BLUESBREAKERS (April – August 1965 and November 1965 – July 1966)
John Mayall (piano/vocals/organ), Eric Clapton (guitar), John McVie (bass), and Hughie Flint (drums). Jack Bruce (bass) was a member from November to December 1965, before being replaced by the returning John McVie.

THE GLANDS (August – October 1965)
Eric Clapton (guitar), Ben Palmer (piano), Jake Milton (drums), Bernie Greenwood (sax), Bob Ray (bass), and John Bailey (vocals). This band is occasionally referred to as “The Greek Loon Band”.

Eric Clapton (guitar), Pete York (drums), Jack Bruce (bass), Steve Winwood (vocals/organ), Paul Jones (harmonica), and Ben Palmer (piano)

CREAM (July 1966-November 1968)
Eric Clapton (guitar / vocals), Jack Bruce (bass / piano / vocals), and Ginger Baker (drums / vocals). Producer Felix Pappalardi would occasionally join the band in the studio playing viola, mellotron, or piano. For more information, see the Cream web site: Those Were The Days

John Lennon (vocals / guitar), Mitch Mitchell (drums), Keith Richards (bass), Eric Clapton (guitar), Ivry Gitlis (violin), and Yoko Ono (vocals)

BLIND FAITH (February 1969 – January 1970)
Eric Clapton (guitar / vocals), Steve Winwood (vocals / keyboards), Ginger Baker (drums), and Rick Grech (bass)

DELANEY AND BONNIE AND FRIENDS (December 1969 – March 1970)
Delaney Bramlett (vocals / guitar), Bonnie Bramlett (vocals), Eric Clapton (lead guitar), Dave Mason (guitar), Bobby Whitlock (keyboards), Carl Radle (bass), Jim Gordon (drums), Jim Price (trumpet), Bobby Keys (sax), Tex Johnson (percussion), and Rita Coolidge (backing vocals). Note that Tex Johnson missed the second session for Clapton’s first solo album and that Dave Mason missed both sessions. The second session also featured Leon Russell (piano), Sonny Curtis (vocals), and Jerry Allison (vocals).

PLASTIC ONO BAND (13 September 1969 and studio session)
John Lennon (vocals / guitar), Eric Clapton (guitar), Klaus Voorman (bass), Alan White (drums), and Yoko Ono (vocals)

DEREK AND THE DOMINOS (May 1970 – April 1971)
Eric Clapton (guitar / vocals), Duane Allman (slide guitar), Carl Radle (bass), Jim Gordon (drums), and Bobby Whitlock (piano / vocals). Dave Mason (guitar) joined the band for their 14 June 1970 concert at the Lyceum in London.

George Harrison (guitar / vocals), Eric Clapton (guitar), Ringo Starr (drums), Bob Dylan (guitar / vocals), Klaus Voorman (bass), Leon Russell (piano), Jim Keltner (drums), Billy Preston (organ), Jesse Ed Davis (guitar), Carl Radle (bass), The Memphis Horns (Jim Price, Jim Horn, Chuck Findley), Claudia Linnear (backing vocals), Jackie Kelso (backing vocals), Dolores Hall (backing vocals), and Badfinger (backing vocals)

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