Eric Clapton often auctions off his music gear to help fund the Crossroads Centre in Antigua, and it’s from the first in mid-1999 that Lot 103 was sold. That 1954 Fender Stratocaster dubbed Slowhand is now available again, with bidding kicking off at a million bucks.
The guitar’s moniker comes from a nickname given to Clapton in 1964, not because of his playing but due to the fact that he would remain on stage if he broke a string and change it out himself – which would often result in the audience accompanying his efforts with a slow handclap while they waited for play to resume, inspiring The Yardbirds manager Giorgio Gomelsky to call him Slowhand Clapton.
He later used the name for his 1977 solo album, which is one of his most successful and includes classics like Wonderful Tonight, Mean Old Frisco and a memorable reworking of J.J. Cale’s Cocaine. A short while after, he acquired a “non-tremolo” 1954 Fender Stratocaster and is reported to have first been used for slide guitar in Open G tuning on stage around 1979-80 for show openers Tulsa Time and Early in the Morning. He named this sunburst guitar Slowhand.
The serial number is 7431, and there are markings in pencil on the neck-butt which name the Fender employee responsible for shaping the neck – Tadeo Gomez – and the month and year it was finished – 9-54, for September 1954.
Slowhand rocks a 21-fret fingerboard on a maple neck, three single-coil pickups, three control knobs for volume and tone, a five-way pickup switch and a white pickguard. It comes in a rectangular tweed hard case with bright red lining, and a label written by Clapton’s long-time guitar tech Lee Dickson which reads “54 S/Burst Fender Strat #7431; case containing strap.”
That it’s a hardtail Strat makes it quite rare in itself, but being owned and played by Clapton for a number of years gives it a star quality that adds a few zeros to any asking price. It comes with a letter signed by Dickson which confirms that it was used exclusively for slide, it was the only non-tremolo guitar that Clapton owned, and that it was well-liked by the famed player.
A certificate from the June 24, 1999, Christie’s auction in aid of the Crossroads Centre that’s signed by Clapton is also part of the package, together with the original Lot card, auction catalog and a signed gold album and cassette award for the Slowhand album release.
Lot 1 at the Rock & Roll Pop Culture Auction from Gotta Have Rock and Roll carries a minimum bid of US$1 million, with sale estimates of $1.5-2 million anticipated. The auction goes live on November 25.
Other Lots up for grabs include a signed 1967 Gibson ES-345 owned and used by Chuck Berry, a boa worn by Jimi Hendrix at the Monterey Pop Festival, a pair of John Lennon’s eyeglasses, a signed copy of Pink Floyd’s epic Dark Side of the Moon on vinyl, a black Ferrari 550 with 28,000 miles on the clock that was owned by the late great Eddie Van Halen, and a Swarovski crystal glove worn by Michael Jackson on the Victory Tour.
Source: Gotta Have Rock and Roll