hough his fans were scrawling "Clapton Is God" across London walls as early as 1965, it took nearly a decade for the chart to echo the sentiment. Eric Patrick Clapp did it, not with the blues guitar that had defied him, but with a laid-back version of Jamaican Bob Marley's reggae confession, "I Shot the Sheriff." The hit single sprouted from 461 Ocean Boulevard, an album that welcomed Clapton back from a successful two-year battle with heroin, cured through acupuncture. Named for the address of his white, tile-roofed Miami home while recording at Criteria Studios, the LP heralded a country-influenced, restrained direction that would typify Clapton's future solo works.
Though that job lasted just 14 months, with three months off for a Greek vacation, it established Clapton as Britain's top guitarist, created a hit album and inspired the graffiti. "Very funny. Very strange. Nothing else was happening in England except me," was Eric's typical low key reaction.
After accomplishing all he could with the blues, Clapton found himself attracted to rock, and jammed occasionally with a bassist from Alexis Korner's Blues, Incorporated named Jack Bruce and the Graham Bond Organization's drummer, Ginger Baker. In July, 1966, they elected to put together a "blues trio, like Buddy Guy with a rhythm section," its guitarist told Rolling Stone. They called this first of the supergroups Cream, and in its two-year incarnation they released four albums and placed two singles in the Billboard Top 10: "Sunshine of My Love" (number five in August, 1968) and "White Room" (number six in November, 1968).
Blind Faith, with Steve Winwood, Rick Grech and Ginger Baker, was Clapton's next aggregation. Their debut concert in Hyde Park drew almost 100,000 fans. Without a hit single, their first and only LP topped the album charts in Britain and America. During their sole United States tour, Clapton began playing along with the opening band, Delaney and Bonnie (Bramlett) and Friends, resulting in a Top 40 album in the U.S., On Tour with Eric Clapton.
With three of Delaney and Bonnie's "Friends," he formed Derek and the Dominos. "Layla," their number 10 hit from August, 1972, off the 1970 Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs double-LP album, is an acknowledged rock classic and airplay staple of Album Oriented Rock radio stations. The song was named for Patti Boyd Harrison, formerly married to George, whom Clapton wed in 1979.
- Fred Bronson, The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, Billboard, 1988.
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