It was Eric Clapton’s Frankenstein moment; buying three discount vintage guitars, he selected the finest vital elements from each and combined them to create the greatest guitar in the world. Since described by Fender as “one of the world’s most coveted guitars”, the Blackie is a DIY hybrid of Telecaster and Stratocaster guitars, created by one of the world’s greatest platers.
The story goes, Clapton was tiring with the guitar collection he’d amassed and began searching for a new ‘muse’. It was in the Sho-Bud music store in Tennessee that he purchased six $100 Fenders; a mix of telecasters and Stratocasters. He gave three away as gifts to George Harrison, Pete Townshend and Steve Winwood. Then, after playing each of the remaining instruments, he began dismantling them.
Taking the hard V shaped maple neck from one, the pick ups from another and the trademark black lacquer body form the ’56 Alder, the ‘Blackie’ was born. It quickly became Clapton’s favourite and a staple of his live performances until 1985. When it began to show its age, Fender designed the Clapton Signature series, bringing the Blackie to the masses.
Since then, the affectionately named Blackie has become an iconic and integral part of music history. It was featured in the 1990 Honda ad where Clapton was filmed recording the Bad Love solo. The last appearance was at the Albert Hall in 1991. In 2004, The Guitar Centre bought the original for a record breaking $959,500; the replicas sold out within seven hours.
Designed to be the ultimate instrument, it has starred on album covers, world tours and sold for record breaking sums. For guitarists, Clapton fans and even the DIY enthusiast, the Blackie represents a seminal moment in the history of the guitar and the ingenuity of one man.
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