He was born Eric Patrick Clapton in Ripley, Surrey, in 1945, the illegitimate son of Canadian soldier Edward Walter Fryer and 16-year-old Patricia Molly Clapton. Fryer returned to his wife in Canada before his son was born, and Clapton was brought up by his maternal grandparents, Rose and Jack Clapp, believing that his mother was his sister. His lack of identity is one reason he always related to The Blues.
Clapton has been a member of The Yardbirds, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Cream, Blind Faith, and Derek and the Dominos.
His nickname is "Slowhand," although he plays very fast. His manager started calling him that while he was touring with The Yardbirds in 1964. Clapton was famous for breaking strings because of his ridiculous bends. When he would go backstage to change strings the audience would start a slow hand clap until he returned. (thanks, Earl - NJ)
He lived in a house in Miami on 461 Ocean Boulevard. The address became the name of one of his albums. The Bee Gees later lived in that house.
In 1991 his 4-year-old son Conor died when he fell out of a window at his mother's house in New York.
Clapton is the only person inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame 3 times. He is in as a solo artist and as a member of Cream and The Yardbirds.
Clapton did a lot of drugs and went into a depression in the early '70s. He was deeply affected by the deaths of Duane Allman, Jimi Hendrix, and the grandfather who raised him. According to his autobiography Clapton, his heroin addition at one point was costing him about $16,000 a week, and when he finally kicked that habit he turned to cocaine and alcohol.
During his time with The Bluesbreakers and Cream, graffiti showed up around England saying: "Clapton Is God." This added to his legend.
In 1979, he married Pattie Harrison. She was previously married to George Harrison, who remained good friends with Clapton. Clapton declared his love for her on the Derek and the Dominos album Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs in 1970, while she was still married to Harrison. Eric and Pattie divorced in 1988.
In 1998, he opened a drug and alcohol rehab center in Antigua called Crossroads. Clapton always loved the island, and thought its serenity and isolation were a perfect place for a treatment program.
He dated Sheryl Crow. He was inspiration for her song "My Favorite Mistake."
Clapton has always had a very laid-back style when performing live. He did not want to look foolish jumping around the stage when he got older.
In 1962, he went to Kingston Art College and studied stained-glass design. This is where he taught himself to play guitar.
Along with Robert Cray, Clapton played with Stevie Ray Vaughan the night he died. Eric's Tour Manager, Peter Jackson, had traded flights with Vaughan because Stevie was in a big hurry to get back to their hotel. Peter offered his seat to Stevie and took the next helicopter out. It was originally reported that Peter was killed because he was scheduled for that flight.
For his North America 1995 Tour, Eric Clapton requested a special room be set up for his table football.
Clapton idolized his uncle Adrian. The album Reptile is a sort of tribute to Adrian, who died in spring 2000.
Clapton got his first guitar at age 15.
Harvard University named an asteroid after him.
His favorite guitar is a 1956 Stratocaster that he made from 3 other guitars.
He convinced Jimmy Vaughn to continue his musical career after his brother Stevie Ray Vaughn died.
Clapton married graphic designer Melia McEnery at a secret ceremony on New Year's Day, 2002. At the christening for their 6-month-old daughter, they had the minister marry them.
Clapton has cited Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, and Bo Diddley as influences. (thanks, Jonathan - Nahant, MA)
Clapton was one of the first major musicians to use the wah wah pedal, especially on the album Disraeli Gears. He inspired Jimi Hendrix to incorporate the wah wah pedal into his music. Hendrix was a huge Cream fan. (thanks, Jason - St. Louis, MO)
He has ties to both of the Allman brothers. He wrote the score to the film Rush (1991), which featured Gregg Allman; with the help of Gregg's brother Duane, Clapton recorded the album Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs (1970). (thanks, James - Tracy, CA)