In the short years from 1968 to 1970, Eric Clapton’s career underwent enormous change. In that time, Cream disbanded, Blind Faith had its brilliant, if brief, moment, Eric played in the shadows with Delaney and Bonnie, and Derek and the Dominos found the song and sound that would largely define Clapton’s solo trajectory through the 1970s and beyond.
One constant through those years was a very particular 1964 Fender Telecaster and its series of Stratocaster necks — an instrument that evolved along with Clapton’s sound.
Eric Clapton was first seen sporting this Tele with Cream in the 1968 Danish film Det var en lørdag aften, which translates to “It was a Saturday night.” The unusual detail that made this 3-color sunburst, bound-body Telecaster lodge in the minds of Clapton aficionados was the addition of a ’60s Stratocaster neck with chunky CBS headstock and rosewood fretboard.
A little over a year later, in the summer of ‘69, Cream was no more, and the guitar was onstage with Clapton in Blind Faith’s debut concert in London’s Hyde Park, in front of a crowd of more than 100,000. Now it featured a ’50s Strat neck with smaller pre-CBS headstock and a noticeably worn maple fretboard.
This was a very special neck. By 1970 it had made its way onto a certain 1956 Stratocaster that would become known as “Brownie”, the signature guitar (and back cover star) of Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.
The Brownie-necked Tele is the missing link between the famed “woman tone” of Cream and the singing, lush sound of “Layla.” The Blind Faith Hyde Park concert showcases the guitar as Clapton deftly steers it from the cutting Mississippi blues bite of “Sleeping in the Ground” to the bell-like clarity of “Can’t Find My Way Home.” And the studio album highlight must surely be the searing solo Clapton blazes with the Telecaster on standout track “Presence of the Lord.”
Now, celebrating fifty years after the Brownie-necked Tele made its debut in Hyde Park, Guitar Center has teamed with Eric Clapton and Fender to create the Fender Custom Shop Blind Faith Telecaster. This extremely limited guitar (only 50 will be available worldwide) is crafted by Fender master builder Todd Krause to emulate every detail of the original, from the worn maple board to the bound Tele body.
Whether you’re a Clapton purist, a gear completist or simply a lover of gorgeously crafted guitars with impeccable tone, the Blind Faith Telecaster brings everything to the table.
Todd Krause has built guitars for the likes of Eric Clapton, Robbie Robertson, Jeff Beck, Bob Dylan and many others, and he stocked the Blind Faith Telecaster with hand-wound ’63 Tele single coils for power and snap. The maple ’56 Strat custom neck sits on an alder body in 3-color sunburst, and the guitar is finished in nitrocellulose lacquer, so it will continue to age beautifully.
As part of the 2019 Crossroads Collection, each guitar comes with a certificate of authenticity signed by Eric Clapton, and a significant portion of the proceeds from the sale of this guitar will be donated to benefit Clapton’s Crossroads Centre Antigua. The Crossroads Centre is a substance abuse treatment and recovery facility, and the beneficiary of the Crossroads Guitar Festival.
Guitar Center has co-sponsored the Crossroads Guitar Festival since 2004 and offered the first Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar in 2005. The Blind Faith Telecaster will be on display at the Guitar Center Village along with the four other guitars from the 2019 Crossroads Guitar Collection throughout the Crossroads Festival, September 20 and 21.
As an instrument that evolved alongside Eric Clapton’s sound in a crucial period of his career, this guitar is more than a historical oddity or niche collector’s obsession. It’s a sonic linchpin — a tool that adapted as Clapton did, taking the shape needed to make the sound the artist required. And now it’s reborn and ready to make some noise.