The record that made Clapton God

By Sergio Ariza

The most important record in British blues history comes signed by one of the fathers of the genre in the U.K., John Mayall, but has another leading man as well, a young Eric Clapton who was going to have to give credit to the wall graffiti that flooded London with the phrase ‘Clapton is God’. The guitarist had quit the Yardbirds after recording For Your Love because he thought the group was drifting towards pop. Clapton wanted to play the blues with the zealotry that 20-year-olds have which led him under the wing of Mayall, after their first go together in the summer of 1965, coming up with the single I'm Your Witchdoctor and Telephone Blues (produced by one Jimmy Page). Clapton would decide to leave and go play in Greece with a band of unknown players, under the name of The Glands

Clapton returned in November of ‘65, and Mayall didn’t hesitate a second in accepting him back. Five months later, they would be in the recording studio to cut the only record they would ever make together, a record good enough to turn Clapton into the torchbearer of rock guitarists. His sound, with a 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard, and a Marshall amp, would be copied by a horde of new guitarists but none would come close to him. Among the songs on the album, the cover of All Your Love by Otis Rush sticks out, the Ramblin on my Mind by Robert Johnson (which is also the first time Clapton is lead singer), Mayall’s original Key to Love (with some magnificent winds) or the version of What I’d Say by Ray Charles where Clapton would show that he wasn’t just good at the blues and he would intersperse his version of Day Tripper's riff (Beatles). Then, a couple of years later he would collaborate on the mythic While My Guitar Gently Weeps . But his best solo is on one of the 3 original Mayall tunes for the record, a Have You Heard, that once you hear it, you will see why B.B. King wanted to record with him.

The record was released under the title Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton, taking full advantage of the young guitarist among the public but hardly anyone  remembers it with that name. The record goes down in history as ‘Beano’ because of the comic book Clapton was holding on the cover. It was the very same name given to the 1959 Les Paul Standard he used on the album: a guitar that was stolen shortly after, never to be found (although last year Joe Bonamassa said he had found it). As for Clapton, he would continue writing great rock guitar pieces with Cream, Blind Faith, or Derek & The Dominos, while Mayall would fill his spot with Peter Green, owner of another legendary Les Paul Standard ‘Greenie’, and after his departure, another young prodigy with a deft touch on Les Paul took his place: Mick Taylor