Its a 1956 Fender Stratocaster in sunburst finish, maple neck with skunk-stripe routing, 21-fret fingerboard with dot inlays, three pickups, three rotary controls, five-way selector switch, tremolo/bridge tailblock and white pickguard.
This was arguably Eric Clapton's most important guitar, even more so than 'Blackie'. It was also arguably his best sounding guitar. It had both emotional and historic importance to Eric, as it was the first Strat he ever bought. He had seen one of his heroes, Buddy Guy, playing one at the Marquee Club and decided he wanted one as well.(Another quote about Eric on acquiring a strat: Around the time of Hendrix's death(late 1970) Eric switched from playing Les Pauls to Strats. Was that a conscious tribute to him? "Yes, I think it was," recalls Clapton."Once he wasn't there anymore I felt like there was this room to pick up. But then I also saw Steve Winwood playing one, and something about that did it for me. I went to see him at the Marquee and he was playing a white-necked strat and there was something about it...")
He purchased it from Sound City, one of the best suppliers of musical instruments at the time, which was located at 124 Charing Cross Road in London. He bought it on May 7 1967 for the princely sum of E150 quid, but interestingly didn't use it during his time in Cream or even Blind Faith. He started using it for session work in lat 1969 and 1970 with Delaney & Bonnie, Doris Troy, George Harrison and Leon Russell, as he felt the sound was more appropriate for the style of music he wanted to play. He would still occasionally play a Gibson of some sort, but his principle electric guitar of choice from late 1969 to the present day became the Fender Stratocaster.
'Brownie', as it was affectionately referred to much later on in its life, was his main guitar for the recording of his first solo album, Eric Clapton-he was pictured on the front cover with it, and by late 1970 it had become synonymous with the sound of Eric Clapton. Perhaps the best example of its unique tone, can be found on the Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs double album, where it is set against Duane Allman's more throaty Gibson Les Paul. Brownie is again pictured on the sleeve, this time on the rear of the Layla Album, seemingly discarded on the studio floor with a pair of headphones among a pile of dominoes, cigarette butts and a pair of shoes. The inside cover features Eric playing Brownie in a variety of poses taken during sessions at Criteria Studios in Miami. Other examples of Brownie's sound can be found on the Live Derek & The Dominoes Fillmore album, and their aborted second album sessions(some of these are featured on the Crossroads box set). In fact, countless photos from this period show him playing Brownie; with Delaney & Bonnie And Friends on their early 1970 US tour, the first Derek And The Dominoes Lyceum gig in London and a variety of shots from their tour later in the year. When Eric came back into the public eye in 1974, he had started using a different Strat, one which was made up of various other Strats he had bought in the US whilst on tour with the Dominoes in 1970. The new guitar became known as 'Blackie' and that's a whole different story...
He didn't abandon his old favourite, and would still occasionally use it on recording sessions for 461 Ocean Boulevard, as well as taking it on tour with him right up to the end of 1985. In fact, on the US tour that year, he would often use Brownie for the performance of Double Trouble.
At the auction, the biding started at $200.00 while the track Layla riffed away in the background. Initially, it went up in increments of $20,000.00, pausing for a time at $420,000.00. The auctioneer then jokingly offered to throw in a free guitar stand, before a final bid of $497,500.00 was accepted with the fall of a hammer. History was both bought and made in those few moments.
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