Without question, even a brief look at our Eric Clapton biography reveals him as one of the most influential guitarists to ever pick up a six string. Originally inspired to play the blues (he admits that many of solos contain note-for-note lines from his heroes such as B. B. King, Buddy Guy, and Albert King) with Robert Johnson being his main influence, Clapton helped define the genres of blues-rock and rock guitar. In the 60s, he made a name for himself playing with such groups as the Yardbirds, John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, and Cream. In the 1970s, he began his long and celebrated solo career, penning such tunes as "Layla" and "Wonderful Tonight" during this time. Unfortunately, the 1970s also saw Clapton's long struggle with alcoholism and substance abuse.
In addition to his influence musically (as an example, Eddie Van Halen said he learned to play by slowing Cream records down and learning the solos), Clapton has helped define the world of guitar gear. In the 1960s, when Les Pauls didn’t have the status they do today (at least amongst budding rock guitarists), Clapton’s use of them during his time with John Mayall and Cream demonstrated that they were capable rock instruments. In fact, for many players, the sound of a Les Paul through a Marshall (Clapton's signature sound in the 1960s) is still THE sound of rock and roll, and for many of Clapton's critics, it was the pinnacle of his own guitar sound.
Similiarly, when Clapton switched from playing Les Pauls to Stratocasters in the late 60s (which is still his favored instrument), the Stratocaster instantly became the rock guitar of choice for many aspiring guitarists. Indeed, his prized electric guitar “Blackie” is still the stuff of legend. On a trip to Nashville in 1970, Clapton purchased six Stratocasters, gifting three of them to his friends George Harrison, Pete Townsend, and Steve Winwood, and taking the best parts from the remaining three to assemble "Blackie." This was Clapton's main guitar until its "retirement" in the mid 1980s.
Still a Stratocaster devotee, Clapton was the first guitarist to have an "Artist" model developed by Fender, one that is still in production today, though it has undergone some revisions since its original incarnation.
Still active into his late 60s and early 70s, Clapton continues to record and perform, despite his increasing health problems, as well as supporting his charitable endeavors.