There are guitars — and then there are GUITARS! — and while I haven’t written about it much yet, I share with you today that my current favorite guitar for playing the Blues is my Eric Clapton “Blackie” Signature Stratocaster made by the Fender Custom Shop. I don’t have the $24,000.00USD Guitar Center Blackie tribute guitar — I just have a regular black “Blackie.” Oh, and yes, I too, made the switch from Ernie Ball Slinkys to D’Addario EXL110’s… just like Eric did.
Rolling Stone named Eric Clapton the fourth best guitarist in the world out of 100. Eric is influential and he knows and respects The Blues. Eric Clapton also plays chords.
The reason I like my Custom Shop Clapton for playing The Blues is because the string action is set very low — so bends are super easy to voice and control — and the soft “V” neck is just a delight to effortlessly play. I also love that bone-white, white-hot, smooth maple neck and fingerboard.
I wasn’t wild about the TBX Mid-Boost tone control on the guitar at first — I know Clapton doesn’t use it on his main guitar any longer — but now that I’m into The Blues, I can see why that extra creamy middle boost can really make the notes sing unlike any other guitar on the market.
Fender Clapton Stratocasters come in three flavors. There’s the generic Clapton model that will run you around $2,500.00USD. Then there’s the “Custom Shop” model that I have and that will run you around $3,500.00USD. Finally, there’s the “Masterbuilt Custom Shop Model” that starts around $5,000.00USD. I was able to get a great deal on my Clapton Custom Shop guitar because Musician’s Friend/Private Reserve Guitar messed up my order and sent me a “Blackie” instead of a Midnight Blue.
What’s the difference between the three flavors? The first Clapton Strat is made anonymously by people on a Fender production line. The Custom Shop model is “Team Built” in the Custom Shop and the care and feeding of the guitar is closely monitored by everyone and better wood and fits and finishes are used than the standard model. A “Masterbuilt” Clapton Custom is built by a single Fender Guitar God who signs his name to the Certificate of Authenticity and places his special maker’s mark on the guitar.
Some people only buy Fender Masterbuilt guitars. I wish I could afford that luxury of playing the best guitars in the world. Perhaps one day I’ll have a Clapton Masterbuilt to add to my small collection.
Here’s Eric playing a “Blackie” Clapton Custom NOS remake — in concert with Sheryl Crow and David Sanborn — performing Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing.” Notice the riff contest between Clapton and Sanborn at 2:50 that eventually cracks up Ms. Crow.
Does a guitar make The Blues or does the body create The Blues?
Eric Clapton said his Blues-influenced sound isn’t in the guitar, it’s “in your pants” — and while many of us may not be able to fit into Eric Clapton’s dungarees — we can at least have a go at playing a guitar inspired by his craftsmanship style, and the Eric Clapton Signature Custom Shop Stratocaster from Fender is one big ball of a time when it comes to birthing The Blues.