Eric Clapton purchased his Cherry Red Gibson ES-335 in 1964 and used it throughout his career until it was sold by him at auction in 2004. It became known as the “Cream Guitar” as during his tenure with the band, a roadie painted the word “CREAM” in large letters on one side of its case.
The ES-335 was first put into production by Gibson Guitars in 1958.
While with The Yardbirds (October 1963 – March 1965), Eric Clapton’s bandmate, Chris Dreja, was often photographed playing it. Eric Clapton began using the Cherry Red ES-335 more frequently in the latter part of the decade. Eric posed with it for publicity photos for Cream’s farewell concerts at London’s Royal Albert Hall on 26 November 1968 and played it during the second show (he used his Gibson Reverse Firebird during the early show). Clapton also used this guitar when Cream recorded “Badge” and other tracks on the band’s Goodbye album and during the filming of the Rolling Stone’s Rock And Roll Circus in December 1968. Eric used the guitar extensively while in Blind Faith (1969).
From 1970 on, Eric Clapton used this guitar on stage from time to time and it was taken to all post-1979 recording sessions. For example, Clapton played the Cream Guitar on “Hard Times” on his Journeyman album in 1989. The Cherry Red ES-335 was also used extensively during the his 1994 – 1995 Blues Tour. Clapton played the guitar for the final time in public on 29 June 1996 at the Prince’s Trust Concert in London’s Hyde Park.
Eric Clapton sold his beloved Cherry Red Gibson ES-335 at auction on 24 June 2004 to help raise funds for the alcohol and drug rehabilitation facility, Crossroads Centre at Antigua, which he founded in 1997. It sold for a staggering $847,500 and was purchased by the U.S. music retailer, Guitar Center.
On 1 August 2005, Gibson Custom in conjunction with Eric Clapton and the Guitar Center, released a worldwide limited edition of 250 replica guitars. The “Eric Clapton Crossroads ES-335” is a detailed reproduction of the Cherry Red ES-335 once owned by Eric. It was issued with a replica of the famous “CREAM” guitar case, a label signed by Eric Clapton inside the body and a certificate of authenticity. A portion of the proceeds from each sale went to Crossroads Centre at Antigua.