The following history includes information provided in the catalog for the Christies Crossroads Guitar Auction – 24 June 2004. It is gratefully reproduced here, courtesy of Christies.
Blackie served as Eric Clapton’s practically sole stage and studio guitar for 15 years of his career from lat 1970 to 1985. Clapton told Dan Forte in his 1985 interview published in Guitar Player that, “I feel that, that guitar has become part of me. I get offered guitars and endorsements com along every now and then. [A guitar maker] tied to get me interested in a fairly revolutionary guitar. I tried it, and like it, and played it on stage - liked it a lot. But while I was doing that, I was thinking “Well, Blackie is back there. If I get into this guitar too deeply, it’s tricky, because then I won’t be able to go back to Blackie. And what will happen to that?” This all happens in my head while I’m actually playing [laughs]. I can be miles away thinking about this stuff, and suddenly I shut down and say “This is enough. No more. Nice new guitar. Sorry. You’re very nice, but…” That’s when I drag the old one back on, and suddenly it’s just like jumping a warm pool of water”.
Clapton first played Blackie on stage at the Rainbow Theatre, Finsbury Park, London on the 13 January 1973 at the concert organized by Pete Townshend and others to encourage Clapton’s recovery from addiction. Clapton was to play two shows on that night; he played Blackie (with a tremolo arm) in the first show, and used George Harrison’s cherry red Les Paul for the second.
When Clapton full resumed his recording and touring activity in 1974 after overcoming heroin addiction, he and Blackie were seemingly inseparable. Starting with a short tour of Scandinavia in June, Clapton extensively toured the US, Japan and Europe in 1974 with Blackie. Years of intensive world tours with Blackie followed throughout the rest of the 1970s, which were only broken up by recording sessions. Blackie shared stage with among others Carlos Santana on the 1975 tour, Freddy King at the Crystal Palace Garden Party and at the Dallas Convention Center in 1976, the Band at the Last Waltz concert in 1976, Bob Dylan at Blackbushe Aerodrome in 1978 and Muddy Waters in 1979. The jubilant “comeback” album 461 Ocean Boulevard the phenomenally successful album Slowhand, the critically acclaimed No Reason to Cry and the historic live album Just One Night from the 1970s, were all recorded with Blackie.
In the early 1980s Blackie was by Clapton’s side as he fought his way back from health and alcoholism and shared a stage with muddy Waters in one of his last performances in 1982. In 1983, newly recovered Clapton, with Blackie in his hand, acted as the musical director for the star studded AMRS benefit tour for Ronnie Lane, featuring members of the Rolling Stoned, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Stevie Winwood and Joe Cocker. This was followed by recording and touring with Roger Waters on his Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking project. The Behind The Sun album and the subsequent triumphant 1985 tour, which included the landmark appearance at the Live Aid at JFK Stadium, Philadelphia in the summer of that year, marked Eric Clapton’s renewed vigor for making music. It also marked the end of an era for Blackie, as the famous guitar was retired to give away to its offspring, the Eric Clapton Signature Stratocaster, the idea for which was conceived after the first night of the 1985 tour.
Blackie’s last stand at the 1985 tour concert in Hartford on 1 May, was filmed and released on video. Blackie also made it to the first promo video by Eric Clapton for the song Forever Man from the Behind The Sun album.
One of the last known occasions when Blackie was seen by the public was for the 1990 television commercial for Honda Japan when, at the specific request of the company, Clapton used Blackie to record a new guitar solo on the song Bad Love in New York and was filmed for the commercial dong so. Blackie was also brought out on stage for one number during the 1991 Royal Albert Hall shows.
On 24th June, 2004, Guitar Center successfully bid $959,500 for Eric’s “Blackie” Stratocaster. In 2006, after the incredible success of the Clapton “Crossroads” 335 reissue and with Eric Clapton’s permission, Guitar Center commissioned Fender to re-create 275 replicas of “Blackie”, complete with its “Duck Bros” guitar case.
On November 24th, 2006 “Blackie” was released and all 185 examples allocated to the US market sold out in less than 7 hours – at $20,000 each. A significant portion of the proceeds was for the benefit of the Crossroads Centre – founded by Eric Clapton