Guitar Aficionado

Guitar Center’s Mike Doyle Discusses the Making of the Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Collection

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Photo: (from left) Fender’s Justin “Your Jazzmaster Trem Is in the Mail” Norvell and Mike Eldred, Dustin Hinz of Guitar Center, Martin’s Craig Yamek, and Michael Doyle of Guitar Center

In the May/June issue of Guitar Aficionado, we wrote about the Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Collection featuring limited-edition guitars from Fender, Gibson, and Martin. The Clapton Collection was coordinated and exclusively sold in the U.S. by Guitar Center, under the direction of its SVP of Guitars, Michael Doyle. After the Crossroads Festival, we spoke to Doyle about Guitar Center’s role in recreating these landmark instruments.

How did the Eric Clapton Crossroads Collection come about?

Last year, Guitar Center was invited to be the exclusive retailer at the 2013 Crossroads Guitar Festival. To help raise additional funds for the Crossroads Centre while honoring Eric’s legacy, we agreed to offer a collection of limited-edition Clapton guitars.

Guitar Center has recreated famous Clapton guitars in the past, most notably the “Blackie” Stratocaster and red Gibson ES-335. How did you decide which guitars to make this time?

We wanted to do Brownie, the “Layla” Stratocaster, because it was the most famous Fender Eric had played aside from Blackie. The Les Paul that Eric gave to George Harrison in 1968, named Lucy and with which Eric recorded the solo on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” was another natural choice. As Eric has his own line of signature Martins, we suggested three different specifications with unique “Crossroads” appointments.

What were the highlights of the project?

The Guitar Center marketing team and I flew to London to film an interview with Eric about the Collection. It was an incredible honor to meet and talk to him, and to learn what motivated him to play and what makes a guitar special to him. I don’t think he had ever spoken in such depth about guitars on film before, so in that regard I think these interviews are more like historical documents.

Did Eric have much input with the creation of the guitars?

Yes. For example, with the Martins he was very involved with the design of the “compass” inlay, which was originally inspired by the Crossroads Centre artwork.

What was the response from your customers?

Amazing! We sold out of all the guitars that we originally ordered, and actually requested more of the 000-45 Martins, as customer demand was so great. We may have one or two more available, but as they are limited editions, we won’t make more once they are all sold.