Watch Eric Clapton Playing a ’Burst in Some of Cream’s Earliest Footage from 1966

Eric Clapton of British rock group Cream performs on the TV show 'Ready Steady Go!' in London in 1966.
(Image credit: Mark and Colleen Hayward/Redferns)

On this day, in 1966, the psychedelic supergroup known as Cream – comprising Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, and Ginger Baker – released their debut album, Fresh Cream.

Bolstered by the pioneering pop-rock single I Feel Free the album hit the U.K. top ten in January 1967 – the same month it was launched in the U.S.

Although many people associate Cream-era Clapton with an SG Standard, in this 1966 promotional TV clip of the band miming to “Wrapping Paper and “Sweet Wine” the young guitarist can be seen playing a Gibson Les Paul Standard.

Famously using a ‘Burst paired with a Marshall in the 1966 Bluesbreakers sessions, a 21-year-old Clapton established a touchstone of blues-rock guitar tone.

However, by the time the Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton album was released in July ’66, Clapton was already rehearsing with Cream – during which time his beloved ‘Beano’ ‘Burst was stolen.

John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers'Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton' album artwork aka 'The Beano Album'

John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers' Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton aka the 'Beano Album' (Image credit: Decca)

While Clapton never got a chance to record or perform in public with Cream using the Beano ‘Burst he did manage to borrow a few guitars in the meantime, notably Keith Richards’ Bigsby-fitted 'Burst (as used on the Rolling Stones 1964 The Ed Sullivan Show appearance.)

Eric Clapton performing on stage with Cream during their first live appearance at the Windsor Jazz and Blues Festival in Berkshire, England on July 31 1966.

Eric Clapton with Keith Richards' 'Burst during Cream's first live appearance at the 6th National Jazz and Blues Festival in Windsor, England on July 31, 1966. (Image credit: Michael Putland/Getty Images)

Before the summer was out, Clapton would score another ‘Burst – this time from Andy Summers – using it to record Fresh Cream with. Unfortunately, the precious instrument would suffer a headstock break within months, prompting Clapton’s move towards a Gibson SG Standard.

Though the guitarist acquired a third ‘Burst towards the end of Cream’s short two-year lifespan that guitar did not hang around for long. It’s fair to say Clapton had a run of bad luck with ‘Bursts in the early days. Nonetheless, he did much to popularize the now iconic electric guitar during the ‘60s. Indeed, the single-cutaway Les Paul has since become Gibson’s most successful electric guitar design.

Cream 'Fresh Cream' album artwork

(Image credit: Reaction)

Buy Fresh Cream here (opens in new tab).

Rod Brakes is a music journalist with an expertise in guitars. Having spent many years at the coalface as a guitar dealer and tech, Rod's more recent work as a writer covering artists, industry pros and gear includes contributions for leading publications and websites such as GuitaristTotal Guitar, Guitar World (opens in new tab)Guitar Player (opens in new tab) and MusicRadar (opens in new tab) in addition to specialist music books, blogs and social media. He is also a lifelong musician.