PHOTO: Michael Putland | Getty Images: Eric Clapton in 1967
playing a Les Paul (not the Beano).
Joe Bonamassa says he knows the location of the 1960 Les Paul Standard that Eric Clapton used on the classic Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton album.
The guitar, which was stolen in 1966, is reportedly in the U.S.
“It’s in a collection on the East Coast of America,” Bonamassa tells Guitarist. “That’s all I can tell you and that’s all I will say.”
Bonamassa is himself a guitar collector with an extensive collection that features several of the highly valued Gibson Les Paul Standard models produced from 1958 to 1960.
“It still exists,” he says of Clapton’s Les Paul. “I haven’t seen it, but I have it on good authority from people who have.”
Clapton used the guitar—shown in the video included at bottom—to record the 1966 Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton album while he was a member of John Mayall’s group. The disc is frequently referred to as the Beano album because the cover photo shows Clapton reading The Beano, a British children’s comic book.
His use of the Les Paul Standard in combination with a Marshall 1962 2x12 combo was significant in establishing both his signature tone, at that time, and a template for classic blues-rock electric guitar tone. Clapton, Peter Green (who replaced him in Mayall’s group) and Mike Bloomfield were Les Paul Standard players and helped to elevate the model as one of the ultimate blues-rock guitars. Original vintage Les Paul Standards featured a cherry-red sunburst finish. Examples trade on the vintage market for anywhere from $150,000 to $500,000, depending on condition. Models owned by famous guitarists can fetch considerably more.
Clapton continued to use the guitar when he departed Mayall’s group and formed Cream later that year. The Les Paul was stolen from the band’s rehearsal studio in 1966 and never seen again.
“I don’t know if Clapton would even want it back at this point,” Bonamassa tells Guitarist. “Would he even recognize it 50 years on? I guess so.
“Maybe it would be different if he’d scratched his name on the back of the headstock or recorded the serial number. But then, Jimmy Page has got back his custom three-pickup that he played in the Albert Hall in 1969.”
Page’s 1960 Gibson Les Paul “Black Beauty” was located earlier this year. It was stolen in 1970.
One has to wonder if Bonamassa is bluffing about Clapton’s guitar, or if he’s trying to negotiate its return. Bonamassa and Clapton have performed together before, and as a collector he’s certain to appreciate the guitar’s personal value to Clapton.
Clapton, now 71, released the album I Still Do this past May 20. It features several new compositions, two of which Clapton composed, plus covers of tunes by Bob Dylan, JJ Cale, Robert Johnson, Leroy Carr, Skip James and others.
The guitarist recently revealed that he is suffering from incurable damage to his nervous system that has left him struggling to play guitar.
“I’ve had quite a lot of pain over the last year,” he told Classic Guitar magazine. “It started with lower back pain and turned into what they call peripheral neuropathy, which is where you feel like you have electric shocks going down your leg. And I’ve had to figure out how to deal with some other things from getting old. Because I’m in recovery from alcoholism and addiction to substances, I consider it a great thing to be alive at all. By rights I should have kicked the bucket a long time ago. For some reason, I was plucked from the jaws of hell and given another chance.”
Below is a clip of “Steppin’ Out” from the Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton album, featuring numerous photos of Clapton with the Beano Les Paul.