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Fender Custom Shop Eric Clapton Brownie Stratocaster
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Best known as the "Layla Stratocaster" and famously featured on the back cover of the Derek and the Dominos album, Layla and Other Assorted Love Song...Click To Read More About This Product
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An amazing guitar signed by a blues legend.
Best known as the "Layla Stratocaster" and famously featured on the back cover of the Derek and the Dominos album, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, "Brownie" was the first Strat ever owned by Eric Clapton.
"I wonder how much I paid for it," says Clapton, struggling to recall the London shop where he first purchased the iconic guitar in May of 1967. "They were going for a song. Nobody wanted these things anymore. They were archaic," he jokes, referring to maple-fretboard Strats in the mid-'60s. "It had been played-it didn't look much different from the way it looks now. What I would always look for on a Strat was a maple neck that had been worn out. It's like a restaurant," he laughs. "If there's lots of people in there, it's gotta be good food. So I just thought if it had all those kind of worn out patches, it meant that it had been well favored. This is what it was like when I bought it."
When Clapton originally purchased Brownie, which he named after its brown sunburst finish, Strats with an original '50s maple fretboard were hard to come by. "The problem was trying to find maple necks," he says. "All the models that were current at that time had rosewood fingerboards, so [maple] had kind of gone out of circulation. It wasn't until I went through the States on tour and started picking them up at pawnshops and record shops for a song. And I'd buy four or five at a time."
Clapton explains the allure of a maple fretboard. "I think I'd played rosewood on a Jazzmaster in The Yardbirds, and it felt like the grain was quite prominent on the rosewood, where you felt like you were going across the grain if you tried to bend the strings. And I never got that with [maple]-this was almost like marble or something, it was so smooth. And of course, it was an image thing. All my heroes played [them]."
One of Clapton's favorite and most inspirational Strat players was none other than Buddy Holly. "I saw Buddy Holly holding one-Buddy Holly played one, and all those records that he made, it sounded like it was really, really quiet," he says. "The tone-I don't know what kind of amp he would've used, maybe a Fender amp or a Gibson amp, Bassman perhaps...but quietly. He played it like an acoustic guitar a lot of the time. So it had that initial appeal to me when I was a kid. But then somewhere down the road, I went to The Marquee and saw Buddy Guy. And he was bouncing [his Strat] off the floor! Playing it behind his head-but taking it off, and throwing it on the floor, and bouncing it and catching it-and it went out [of tune] a little bit ... and he didn't use a wang bar. And I thought, 'This is the sound.'
Examining Fender's recreation of this legendary guitar, Clapton recalls the history of his very first Stratocaster. "Brownie takes me back to a state of mind," he says. "These guitars are a little bit harder to play [than modern guitars], and they're not as loud, so if I was gonna use this on stage, the whole band thing would have to be addressed, the dynamics-it's a whole other mind set. There's a lot involved, let alone the journey of the guitar. It all comes back to me...doing the Johnny Cash show with Carl Perkins, man...touring in a quartet that was quieter, funky, very, very strong-all of it hinged on the toughness of this guitar."
Clapton recalls, "I think Brownie was the sort of prototype for Blackie, in terms of what I was looking for in the ideal working guitar. That was the criteria-could I go on the road hard with this guitar, every night of the week playing flat out...doing little bits of repair on it as I was going, refining it. Brownie was the template...Blackie was the synthesis of all of it." Playing the "Brownie" Tribute Strat in London he says, "Well, it sounds dead right. Between middle and bridge-that was the sound, you know?" Finishing up a blues lick in E, Clapton smiles proudly and adds, "Yeah, that'll do."
- Certificate of Authenticity signed by Eric Clapton
- A DVD featuring an interview with Eric Clapton discussing his 45-year history with the Stratocaster and inspecting the first "Brownie" prototype
- A unique "Layla Box Set"
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