BBC 1 Interview with Eric Clapton
Saturday 3rd February 1990

PRESENTER: And now, as part of RADIO 1's exclusive coverage of the Clapton concerts, Richard Skinner talks to the musicians involved and explores the musical roots of rock's most celebrated guitarist.

[First verse + first solo]

RS: Eric Clapton with Cream, playing Crossroads some 22 years ago. Although he was then only in his early twenties he'd already been elevated to god-like status for his exciting mastery of the electric guitar. In the two decades that followed he developed a career embracing a variety of styles which placed more importance on melodic songs and singing. But as he enters the final week of his record breaking 18 nights at the Royal Albert Hall, it's clear that the guitar still beguiles the life and music of Eric Clapton.

EC: When you came knocking on the door this morning I was quite happy playing the guitar, for fun, I mean and not practicing and I'll always be that way. Because of the way I started out, just me and the guitar.

[Crossroads ends ...]

RS: Eric's fascination with the guitar began in the late fifties during the explosive era of American rock and roll and the clumsy beginnings of British beat.

EC: I just managed to convince my grandmother that it was a worth while that was something to do, you know, and when I did finally get the guitar, it didn't seem that difficult to me, to be able to make a good noise out of it. I used to sit on the top of the stairs, so that you got echo, you know, to up, to down and got a good sound out of it. And also I tell you what encouraged me was there was a big skiffle boom happening, and you know there were ads for guitars, very cheap guitars. And you know on all the Sunday papers you know on the back pages. They looked great, you know the drawings of the guys playing looked great and bits of string around their necks. So it didn't seem to be that difficult a thing to do, or that inaccessible.

RS: Do you remember what sort of guitar you did have.

EC: I think it was a 'Hohner'. The first one was quite cheap, but that was expensive for us. For my folks to buy on the Never Never. It was quite, you know, a rare object to have and I gained quite a lot of status by having this. And it actually at that point in my life really detached me from everybody. Because I now had something to do and I'd practice, you know, and keep myself away from everyone else.

RS: So at that stage you were doing the real loners life.

EC: Yeah, and I went straight into a fantasy world. Just stepped straight into the abyss. You know, I was gone and kids used to walk past my front room, cause I lived on the green. And looked through the window and see me in front of the mirror with this guitar, you know. And I was gone just, I was Gene Vincent, you know.

[Be-bop-a-lula by Gene Vincent]

EC: One summer I remember, I got exposed to Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly and Buddy Holly was a very very big, made a very big impression on me. Because of a lot of things, you know, the way he looked and his charisma. There was something lonely about the guy and very ordinary, you know he was, he gave hope to millions of kids with glasses.

RS: He was not exactly a product of Hollywood was he?

EC: No, he wasn't. No he was either extreme, you know, the boy next door.

RS: What sort of kid were you then.

EC: Very much like that, and very much a loner, do you know and I didn't fit really into sport or all kind of group activities as a kid, I couldn't find a niche. And music was not really part of the kind of village curriculum it would, you know. It was the one place that I could feel at home in. In a very kind of detached and lonely life, you know.v When I remember how infused and kind of single minded I was then. It setv me in good stead for all the years later. Because, every time I got into a band, or become successful with a particular project, an album or a tour or the sound of a particular era. It's adding confusion to my life. I don't really know how to deal with that. And I don't know if there is a way for me to deal with it. And what stood me in good stead is the fact that I can walk in and out of situations. Leave bands, go back to obscurity if I choose to, without a great sense of loss of security because it's all been based on the fact that I did it on my own or was doing, enjoying doing it on my own in the first place.v

[Worried Life Blues]

RS: Kingston Art School. You went along there, you couldn't ??????????????? because it's a very vulgarious lifestyle in our culture. The advantage of being at Kingston must have been being able to be exposed to different musics.

EC: Well it was more the social life that I got involved in, in the town itself. The commuting up from Ripley to Kingston, I probably, I bumped into more people of a like mind around that social scene than I would ever in Gilford or, you know in my local area. So I spend more time in the pubs and in the coffee bars around Kingston than I did in actual art school, you know, he was playing hooky a lot.

RS: So who introduced you to the sounds of the acoustic folk, or acoustic blues, country blues.

EC: You know why, I bumped into Long John Baldry very early on in those days and he was a big hero and there was a couple of other guys too that would play, once I started making excursions up to London a guy called Wess Jones and another guy called Buck, who all played country blues and folk. More country blues than anything else. And Long John was one of the leading lights, one of the first people to play twelve string guitar. And used to play in the pubs and play versions of Leadbelly and Big Bill Broonzy songs.

RS: So was this where you heard it first really, before the records?

EC: No, it was a combination. The fact is that I was I saw Big Bill Broonzy on TV and it knocked me out, I mean it's a famous peace of footage now, of him in a French nightclub in black and white you know. A very very interesting peace of film where he performs about four five songs and there's lots of cigarette smoke and like it's very seedy, but the atmosphere was unlike anything I've ever been exposed to before, it really, it turned me on.

[Big Bill Broonzy song] Hey hey, hey hey baby hey, Hey hey, hey hey baby hey, Hey hey, hey hey baby hey, Hey hey, hey hey baby hey, Hey hey, hey hey baby hey,v I love you baby, but I sure ain't gonna be your dog

EC: It was a mystery to me, how the tuning was, or the style seemed to come out of nowhere, it obviously had roots in America going way back, there was nothing like it for me I'd ever seen before. And what it was down to was to buy the records and to learn by ear. So I managed to get hold of a ? Big Bill Broonzy album, which was unbelievably enough the right one. Until this day, I can't find that record, I mean, I don't know what happened, it was on French folk, you know, and it had all the right songs to learn of, and that stood me in good stead for about four five years

Hey hey, lost your good thing now, Hey hey, you lost your good thing now, You had me fooled, but I found it out somehow.

EC: Once I got into Broonzy, I kind of very, and I realized that Chuck Berry was black, I quickly switched off white players. I mean I got very racist for quite a while about white musicians. And for instance when the people around Kingston at some point discovered Bob Dylan and it was a couple of ? before times are a changin' the freewheeling Bob Dylan became very popular. I was really anti it and on principle because I was going backwards in my search for the pure essential blues, you know, and when they were becoming interested in that particular Bob Dylan album, I was discovering Robert Johnson. And the more intense that got, the more dogmatic and purist I became.

RS: This statement you've a long time.

EC: It did, and still is to certain extend, I mean I find, even today that I get more deep stimulation from that music than I do from anything else.

[Robert Johnson's Crossroads] I went to the crossroads, fell down on my knee, I went to the crossroads, fell down on my knee, Asked the lord above for mercy, take poor Bob if you please, Standing at the crossroads, I tried to flag a ride, Standing at the crossroads, I tried to flag a ride Ain't nobody seem to know me, Everybody passed me by.

[Music continues during interview]

EC: It was stumbling on to really the bible of the blues, you know, and a very powerful drug to be introduced to us and I absorbed it totally, and it changed my complete outlook on music.

RS: Where you determined to become eventually as good as these people. I mean was there a fire in your belly that determined that you should become that good that you will master that guitar ...

EC: I wanted what they were experiencing, I don't know if it was ..

RS: You mean, beyond just the music.

EC: Yeah, I wanted to know where they got it from, what it was all about, you know, and it seemed to strike something in me that was you know rearing it's head and I still don't know what that is. But it's a drive, a drive to express something and that seemed to me the most ideal, the most beautiful way of expressing to be on all painting and poetry or any of the other arts. This one guy, Robert Johnson seemed to be ... It's so intense and so one of the minute he started to sing and play that was he end of the story.

[Crossroads ends]

RS: Your first electric guitar, do you remember detail on that one.

EC: Yeah, it was, I think it was a blonde double cutaway Tai, quite expensive for its time, and quite exotic. It was a copy of a Gibson ES335 which was five times the price. I first saw Alexis Korner one of these. And it was one of the first guitars of that style I'd ever seen. And it just, it captured my heart, you know, and I had to have one.

RS: Somebody told me that that first guitar of yours that first electric guitar actually was distorted, that you had a twist in the neck, and it had to be sorted out.

EC: Oh yeah, I mean, it wasn't a very good guitar, most good guitars have got thrust rods in the necks that you can adjust or that'll keep them in shape, you know keep them straight. This one just, well it turned into a bow and arrow after a couple of months. And I don't know I just seemed to, what are you gonna do, you don't have any other guitar. Adapt to it.

RS: You know one thing, I mean, one minute you were telling me about that your solitary days and you're in a room and you're very shy and everything, now you're up on stage. What happened to give you that confidence.

EC: The music. The music alone. I mean, the sound of an amplified guitar in a room full of people was so hypnotic and addictive to me, that I could cross any kind of border to get on there. I mean, it didn't matter to me that there were people, it didn't matter that I was shy Just the sound was so captivating that it helped me to get rid of those inhibitions.

[Spoonful by Howlin' Wolf]

PRESENTER: In Britain, records by the likes of Howlin' Wolf were not to be found on the racks with Adam Faith or Helen Chevero. Access to electric blues was through expensive imports or membership of a hip clique of enthusiasts. One Honourable exception was a sampler album of artists of the Chicago label Chess, called simply The Blues Volume One.

EC: We're looking at this ? international R&B series.

RS: That's a rarity, isn't it, this is an actual British pressing.

EC: A British pressing with a compilation of the best stuff really, I mean actually not only that but, these were all kind of semi hits for the people on it in America. Like Smokestack Lightnin' was a hit for Howlin' Wolf and Duke was a hit for Little Walter, and Spoonful probably for Howlin' Wolf too. Don't start me talking by Sonny Boy Williams but, I don't know who was responsible for this. It may have been Lexis(?), you know, someone like that. There were some very hip guys around obviously. I don't know how many of these albums sold. But I mean this was a jewel to pick up, you know, to have in your collection. This was available in like you know boots. You could do it by anyone who got by this(?). And the great thing was that once you'd heard a track by Sonny Boy Williams, you could then find out that he had albums. You know, he had his own albums on Chess, that you could get through ? or ? stand you know so it was exciting to know that there was a whole world there to be discovered.

[Crying (the song Ten Years After covered)]

PRESENTER: With his musical foundation firmly imbedded in the rich heritage of the blues, Eric Clapton has played with the Yardbirds, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Cream, Derek & the Dominos and since 1974 as a solo artist. In the second half of the eighties his personal and musical life underwent a remarkable renaissance and also during these years he struck up his relationship with the Royal Albert Hall.

EC: It's a very very comfortable homey place for me. I tend to think of it as mine [laughs]. I will go and see people plan(?), you know, I get a bit disgruntled. I went to see a boxing match there last year. I was very annoyed by the whole thing.

RS: People having a fight in you front room.

EC: In your front room, yeah. It was terrible. Really wrong thing to do at the Albert Hall is to have a boxing match. It's got a very genteel, sophisticated and yet comfortable atmosphere. Like it is like a club. It reminds me of what the Marquee was like in the early days, you know. And everybody is very very comfortable at home and you feel welcome. I don't have half the nerves there that I have anywhere else.

RS: It is incredibly intimate, I mean, you can virtually see the whites of their eyes.

EC: Yeah.

RS: Can't you.

EC: Yeah, all the way back.

RS: Isn't that a bit ???

EC: No, I don't know why, but it can be, it can be it's almost like the house lights are always on, you know. But for some reason that place Because it's in a round, all people are very close to you. That it feels like you're amongst friends.

PRESENTER: The drummer in Eric's Band is Steve Ferrone.

SF: Eric's a little hung(?), you know. He's that sort of person. He tends to go to the same restaurant all the time, stay in the same hotels. Goes to the same clothes designer. Ones he finds something that he really likes he stays with it. And that's why he stays at the Royal Albert Hall. By the table(?), there was a funny story happening one, I mean we were playing there one night. In the Royal Albert Hall I'm sort of sitting right on top of this row of stools. And I'm sitting there one night and we came out and Eric started Crossroads [chats begin of Crossroads]. I started . And there was this woman that was sitting like a couple of seats along. And I just sort of glanced over there and she's looking at me and say like 'be quiet, you know, I wanna hear Eric' [laughs]. And I said you know, 'he's gotta hear me, If he doesn't hear me I'm fired' [more laughs]. Yeah, she's really had an attitude, you know.

RS: Is the audience an important part of a gig?

SF: Yeah, it is a very important part of a gig. I mean, I've got some great audience stories. We did a gig in Holland, last summer. It was really hot in this place. It was a hundred and ten degrees, you know, really humid you know, in this big .....? this big place {the gig was in 'De Statenhal in Den Haag, it was soo great!} about ten thousand people. And we started Wonderful Tonight. It's got this nice little introduction and everything. And then Eric walks up to the microphone and sing the first line. And it was like a football supporters thing, it was like [sings -quite out of tune in a low voice- 'It's late in the evening']. You know [laughs]. So we think well that's it and Eric turns around and smiles you know. [sings -again out of tune- 'She's wondering what clothes to wear']. The whole .?. you know. All singing along, they did the whole song, from beginning to end. And then like after he finished the verse they all cheered, you know, this big cheer went up. It was hilarious at least Eric tries to sing [tries to sing mellow 'It's late in the evening'] nice and quiet [RS: no chance] no, it didn't win no chance at all.

[Wonderful tonight] We go to a party, and everyone turns to see, this beautiful lady, that's walking around with me. And then she asks me, do you feel all right. And I say yes, I feel wonderful tonight.

I feel wonderful, because I see the love light in your eyes. And the wonder of it all, is that you just don't realize how much I love you.

It's time to go home now, and I've got an aching head. So I give her the car keys, and she helps me to bed. And then I tell her, as I turn out the light. I say my darling, you were wonderful tonight.

Oh my darling, you were wonderful tonight.

PRESENTER: Although Eric's main nucleus of musicians are all in demand studio session players, when they perform together on stage, they're an unnervingly cohesive unit. And the American half of the band, Nathan East and Greg Philliganes enjoy springing surprises on their leader. Bass player Nathan East.

NE: Well, first of all we're gonna start by detuning his guitar, but don't tell anybody that [laughs]. You know, his first notes gonna .. It would be a real big surprise. But no, I mean, there are certain things Greg and I we like to get him going by substituting chords for the ones that are originally in the song. I quite enjoy that because, you know, your ear is expecting to hear one thing, and you hear another thing. Sometimes the change is just a nice surprise. And you can sometimes tell the way he moves, you know, you can well throw another change in the thing. It sends him into another direction and just, his left side goes to this and you know, the head moves back. And it's great, because you know, it's a new kind of inspiration, cause we have to keep the songs interesting night after night. It's an exercise for us.

PRESENTER: Keyboard player Greg Philliganes.

GP: We just tend to change the chords around, and expand them. I mean not play wrong chords, but just expand them. So it kind of opens the door creatively for Eric, and the first time we did that back in '86 I remember him looking at us like WOOAH. And you know, he build on from that. So now he's used to it, but we still try that.

RS: Catch him out?

GP: Well it's good to catch him out every once and a while. So that's were the challenge comes in, you know, and he responds to that challenge by playing his ..... behind of.

EC: They went into a bit last night, in Cocaine, when I gave Greg the last solo of the song. And he went into these standard progressions, which I can't, you know, a better guitar player than me, with an ear, a jazz player maybe, may have been able to pick up the chords straight away. But I just stopped. I don't know where they are, and I'm not gonna, you know, hit the wrong ones can ruin the whole thing. Although they can do it all the time, you know, they're far better than me, on a musically, on a theoretical music level. You know, they're out of my league.

[Cocaine] If you wanna hang out you gotta, take her out cocaine. If you wanna get down, down on the ground, cocaine.

She don't lie, she's all right, she's all mine, cocaine.

If your duty is done, and you wanna run hot, cocaine. If you got bad news, you ought to kick them blues cocaine.

She don't lie, she's all right, she's all mine, cocaine.

RS: What do you think fires Eric Clapton, what is it that keeps him going, when you work so damn hard the way he does?

NE: I would think, the fact that his love is just playing, standing on stage and that's just fuel for you know, it's inspiration not to be sitting at home on your own. Or I would think that when he's away from that, he just can't wait to get back to that. And I just can't imagine him going too long without doing that, you know, without playing. I mean, how much fly fishing can you do before you get fed up with it.

When you're feeling is gone, and you wanna ride on cocaine. Don't forget this fact, you can get it back, cocaine.

She don't lie, she don't lie, she don't lie, cocaine. She don't lie, she don't lie, she don't lie, cocaine.

EC: This moment in time, on this tour, you know, I'm discovering a lot of new things. And to be 45 and doing that, it's a mixture of pleasure and pain, I can assure you.

RS: I reckon that that life performance is something awfully special to you.

EC: Yeah, it is, because it's a real discovery of your inner resources, you know. That's what my character is all about and what my playing is all about. But to get up there and just go inside and draw out something that makes you feel good first and foremost. It's not something that you know happens every night. And I got a consciously become unconscious. If you know what I mean.

[Same old blues] Here I am back home baby, I'm back home to stay. I love you babe, Never more will I go away. I won't hurt you no more baby. Ain't gonna tell you no more lies. No more running 'round, No more phony alibis.

Same thing every morning, What's it all about. I get those same old blues every night. Same thing every morning, tell me what it's all about. I get those same old blues every night. Same thing every morning, tell me what it's all about, I get those same old blues every night.

Every night. Hey.

NE: He has this way of phrasing with the guitar. Sometimes it just is like a furious sort of burst out you know. If you speak with him, if you ask him to do something he doesn't want to do it's like "No, ain't gonna do it". And that's how he plays guitar. You know, yesterday we were playing same old blues. And he did the whole introduction and everything. And going so down into the song. And he played this blinding guitar. You know, it was just like "PAM DADADADdada WAP BAF" done. And I thought Christ what was that, and I had to stop playing 'cause I wanted to see what he was gonna play next [laughs]. Wanting to hear it I just stopped for a second ? what he's gonna do next, you know, and it was great. So exciting.

[Same Old Blues]

EC: It's very dependent on your state of mind. And your emotional state as well. And a lot of it comes pouring out, you don't really have that much control with it. If you decide to let the woo down (?), it can take over.

RS: One of that lads in the band said, that if you're in a bad mood that you can almost attack the guitar. EC: Yeah, that's true sometimes you know. I know who said that [laughs].

RS: Don't sack him [laughs].

EC: But that's true, a lot of aggression will come out. And I'm not particularly proud of having you know, in my person do you believe. I've got the god given talent or the god given opportunity better put, to let that out in a harmless way you know, and I don't know what it does to you, I don't really know. About those down, or how that affects them, but it's a way for me expressing indignation from what ever it made, but aggression definitely in a overall way.

[Same Old Blues ends ....]

[Edge of Darkness ....]

PRESENTER: The theme to BBC 2's nuclear thriller, Edge of Darkness, was Eric Clapton's first foray into film score writing. His collaborator on the project was composer Michael Kamen, with whom he subsequently written the Lethal Weapon soundtracks. In spite by the orchestral performance of Edge of Darkness last year. Clapton has commissioned a concerto for guitar and orchestra, to be played on the last three nights at the Albert Hall. And to be broadcast life on RADIO 1 next Saturday. Michael Kamen.

MK: He called me one day and said he knows that I've been writing a saxophone concerto for Dave Sanborn. A ? concerto for orchestra. And he knew about that, and he asked me if I write him one. And I said hang on, let me think about that. YES, ? like that. And then it developed into this group of evening at the Albert Hall. At first I didn't realize what it was about. It was just like a hypothetical concerto. Seemed like a good idea.

RS: How do you approach the writing of this, do you actually get together sometimes. Well, does he provide you with a few ideas, that you incorporate in it or what.

MK: Basically, because he and I have collaborated on several things, it comes out of a social meeting, when I'll play him something, or he will play me something. And we'll say well that's good, we can turn that into something for orchestra and guitar maybe. And so we have spent time on that basics just working out the piece.

RS: Which is based on his well known works?

MK: No, no, the concerto for guitar is just based on my unknown works. I'm writing it as we go and he say, yeah, I like that, or how about this. Or that's to fidly ? I can't play that. You know, I keep writing notes that are not on the guitar. Bending notes that and he says, you know, I can't bend everything. I'm not made out of rubber.

[Edge of Darkness ends ....]

RS: Eric, you're not classically trained.

EC: No.

RS: You haven't really apart from one occasion, formed anything with a major orchestra like this ...

EC: What are you trying to tell me [laughs].

RS: What could do ask you ....

EC: ..... that disastrous right?


EC: I already read there was a great little thing in the Times about it. I got there to the preview article, quite small, saying: "Beside from his towering ego" you know, that was talking about it "the most ominous thing was this upcoming you know, orchestral thing. It was very funnily written, you should check that up. It is very daunting prospects for me. Because, to a 35 minutes ?, you know, the music itself isn't gonna lend itself to any johnderies, like it's slightly classical because of the orchestra. But Michael has been doing his best to write the music for the way I play. So it will be a kind of hybrid. And the problem is gonna be literally a mental practical thing of how much I can remember of it, before I have to resort to hide living (?). Which you can't do really, That much of with an orchestra.

RS: So is it a bonus, or something that knocks it down, the fact that he hasn't got formal training?

MK: That's great. I mean when you're writing a formal piece of music, your objectives all the time is to make it sound if it's being invented on the spot. I love formal music, but I love it only when it sounds like it's being composed in front of me. And that's essentially what you get on tonight, it will be being composed in front of people.

RS: This orchestral night then, you're working with a man who has been a pop star, who plays country music well, he loves jazz music as well. But basically what do you think is the real inspiration behind the guitar work with Eric Clapton.

MK: Well, it would be easy enough to just say 'the blues'. But, in fact he's a conversationalist, he plays as if he were speaking to people. And that is very much a quality of the blues, of the best blues. It's somebody conducting a conversation. And if there's anything singular about his playing it's that he has something to say. He's able to do that. He speaks the language of blues and I in a way although I have a lot of classical training a lot of background, I also grew up with a home full of Leadbelly and Josh White and Big Bill Broonzy and Howlin' Wolf. So we share that.

[Blues Power ...]

PRESENTER: Clapton's apparently addiction to the blues, possesses by him in the three nights ... . And a special band of friends and heroes is getting free way. Playing in the band is singer and guitarist Buddy Guy.

EC: I first heard him, I think on one of these, It could have been on this <?>international. No I tell you what it was. I know it was a <?>international record. It was called folk festival of the blues. It was like recorded somehow in a nightclub gathering of Sonny Boy Williams, Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Willie Dixon as well and Otis Span (?). And the first song on side one was called 'Wee wee baby'. And all of them singing it. They just give this guitar solo to someone and it's Buddy Guy just blazes and it's still to this day one of the most monumental guitar solos ever recorded. I mean, he takes off. And from that point of hearing that record, years ago, he was my hero. I mean, this guy could do no wrong. And then I heard he was coming to London. And they had him play in the Marquee one night with a pickup band. And he did, this is long before Jimi Hendrix ever came to England, he played it behind his head, he threw it on the floor, he played it with his feet. I mean, he did everything. He did everything that Jimi later did. Except that Buddy was dressed in this like sharkskin suit, you know like a Rock and roll suit. He was immaculate. So he not only played it, but he was the embodiment of what it was all about. You know, and he was a beautiful man too. He just had this gentlemanly manner. The whole thing was right you know. A quiet soft spoken guy who just was a maniac on stage. I mean that was it, it was love at first sight.

[Wee wee baby ...]

RS: Buddy Guy, how good a blues man is Eric Clapton.

BG: Well, to be honest with you. I think he one of the best beddy of that hour .. . You know, what can you say when a guy like Eric picks up a guitar, and the sound he gets out of it and the records he sell. I mean what more can you can ask for, you have the name of the game in this business just to be good. I don't even have words to express how good that guy is.

RS: But can an Englishman really feel and play the blues.

BG: [BG laughs] Most people ask me that, I don't think that has anything to do with the <?>of playing the blues what nationality he is. I think Eric has five fingers and sing and we are humans you know and that guy is just doing a thing like it's supposed to be done.

RS: What do you expecting of the shows at the Albert Hall. BG: When I .. with Eric man I just hope I'll be at my best that night because when you're on stage around that guy you have to be on your pees and queues and try to play some of the best stuff that you know I won't have any time to try to learn that night. I gotta play what I already know.

RS: I .. he wants it to be a totally spontaneous evening.

BG: Whatever he decide I hope we just have a good ... I'm looking forward to it and I'm all hiked up about it. I feel goosebumps about it now and I just can't wait to get this thing going. I feel like Eric is a brother of mine. As a matter of fact, the last time we were together that's what he said we're gonna adopt each other.

[The first time I met the blues]

RS: Alongside Buddy Guy on the special blues night are a veteran of Chuck Berry's band pianist Johnny Johnson, drummer Jamie Oldaker. From the Robert Cray band Richard Cousins on bass and Robert Cray.

EC: When I first was aware of him, a little longer than that, I was into him, well into him. I was talking to Mark Knopfler about him. Mark said he'd been offered the job of producing Robert Cray and he wasn't that interested. And I said 'why not?'. He said 'because he doesn't excite me that much, it seems very normal', you know. Coming from Mark that really shocked me, but when I looked at it from his point of view, in a way he can be like that. It's kind of very level, you know. And he doesn't pander in any way to sensationalism, you know. He makes good solid R&B and blues records. And even on stage, you know, he's a gentleman. He just presents the way it is and what is required for you is to go inside that and discover what it is that makes him tick and then you know, you're bond. You know, that's it, there's no turning back because what it's made of is so fine. It's like crystal, you know, it's like the purest crystal.

RC: Robert Cray. When did you first realize there was an English guy who played a bit of blues as well, called Eric Clapton.

RC: Well I found out about Eric Clapton at a younger age, when I was about twelve years old. My guitar teacher was listening to John Mayall records and Eric Clapton was part of the John Mayall band back in those days and unbeknownst to me, I was already playing some Eric Clapton before I knew who the guy was. I found out later on.

RS: It's strange isn't it, that this guy from the south of England became such an accomplished and acknowledged master of the blues.

RC: Yeah, you would think that, but you know, it's just a matter what you like and he was one of those kinda guys who happened to like the blues and went ahead with it.

RS: Tell me just how successful the blues were at the time that you were getting into it. In America.

RC: At a particular time, I started listening to what nobody was listening to, but there were people out there like Albert King ad you had people like Eric Clapton playing. A lot of my favourites such as Buddy Guy, Freddie King, those people were still around, but the music wasn't very popular on the radio. It just so happened that after years of playing guitar myself and finding out a lot more about the blues records that my parents had and I also had a lot of friends who played guitar. We would get together and collect records by people like Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf and we got pretty heavily into the music. Buying books and studying about the people. So at that particular time nothing was going on with blues. Except for ourselves and what we made.

RS: Eric would say that he's a blues purist, you know, that he, deep down, he just loves the real blues. Would you describe yourself the same way?

RC: Well, I can't say that I'm a purist, but I do like serious low down blues as well as a lot of different kinds of music. There was one point in my earlier days that nobody could tell me anything existed but blues. And since then I've changed quite a bit.

RS: What's Eric Clapton like to work with.

RC: He's a really easy going guy. There's no pressure really when you're on stage with him. The only pressure is that he's the big name. And when you're in a working situation with the guy, you just do what you do and try to make a nice bond and create something that sounds good. It's nice to be put on your toes, you know.

[Old Love]

RS: Old Love with Robert Cray, from the latest Clapton album Journeyman. Having listened to Eric and the musicians involved in the Clapton concerts. It seems the essence of his musical genius, is that he's never straight far from the pure source of the blues. And as always, he remains it's champion.

EC: When you got the blues<..> being introduced the English blues<..>, going back to America was that people, a lot of people thought that we'd probably written or, you know, attached importance to our performance of these songs. Were in actual fact we were just playing undiscovered songs, by famous artists to the people that already should have known.

MK (??): You know, the funny thing is, is that if you take the fact that Eric listened to black music from Chicago, whatever and he got real influenced by it and then he took it and almost, you know, made acknowledge what otherwise, you know, a lot of these guys people never would have heard.

RS: It's still pretty strange, that these <....> from London who <....> Manchester ended up exporting, re-exporting America's music back to America.

BASSPLAYER: Right, I think it's great that the music would come across that way and then all of a sudden we listen and we get a different thing from the music that comes from over here. And <...> copying each other. It's like a story that is told and changed along the way.

RS: They used to say, to play the blues, you got to feel.

EC: Yeah.

RS: This seems to be ingrained you.

EC: Yeah.

RS: Somewhere.

EC: But it has to be incorporated with a lot of other facets too. It's got to be presented with a certain amount of pride, you know, with a certain amount of dignity and a certain amount of finesse. Otherwise you only just get -blblblblbl- you know and just make a lot of noise and so that's the blues. It's not that simple. And it has a lot to do, instinct <..>, you know, craddled instinct.

PRESENTER: The journeyman was presented by Richard Skinner, researched by Pete Frame and written and produced by Kevin Howlard.

OTHER PRESENTER: And you'll have another chance to hear that program on Tuesday evening at 7:30. <..> Eric Clapton's blues night, will be live and direct from the Royal Albert hall in London on radio one tonight at 8:30.