Eric Clapton visits CNN's 'Larry King Live'

February 13, 1998

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Following is the full transcript of Larry King's interview with music legend Eric Clapton, which aired February 12, 1998, on "CNN Larry King Live."

LARRY KING: Tonight, his nickname is "Slowhand", but he's lived a fast-paced life of musical stardom marred by personal tragedy. The legendary guitarist, multi-Grammy award winner Eric Clapton talks about his amazing career. He's here for the full hour, next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Great honor to have as our special guest tonight, for the full hour, the very difficult to get, Eric Clapton.

I might ask -- start by asking why are you here? I have never seen you interviewed. You've always been on our wish list. Why?

ERIC CLAPTON: I had to do it sooner or later. I have a reason to be here, which is I have a record coming out.

KING: But you have had other records in the past.

CLAPTON: This one I think I kind of believe in a bit more, and also there's another thing, too. And I want to talk about a treatment center that I'm building in the Caribbean.

KING: So you're coming out of the Clapton shell?

CLAPTON: Yeah, gradually, gradually.

KING: Was it easy for you to not be public a lot, except for concerts?

CLAPTON: I prefer it still. I like to have a fairly anonymous life by choice. I prefer to be able to go out and about like anybody else, you know?

KING: You do have an every-day kind of look.

CLAPTON: Do I really? 

KING: You don't think you could sort of disappear in a crowd?

CLAPTON: Well I seem to be able to, yeah. I don't know how it's done but I have seem to have found a way to do it.


KING: So many areas to cover. Let's start with "Pilgrim," the newest title. Explain.

CLAPTON: Well, it's kind of -- I suppose -- there's a track on the album called "Pilgrim," which came first. And when I came to title the album, I used that track as a key point to go from, because I thought it was a good way of actually following the thread from "Journeyman" which was the same kind of meaning, really. Just looking at my life as a musician and a lot of other respects ...

KING: This is an autobiographical?

CLAPTON: It is autobiographical. And I see myself as kind of being like a lone guy on a quest.

KING: Is that, Eric, more difficult to write when it's about you directly?

CLAPTON: Yeah. Yes, it is. It's very tough to write, because I'm my own worst critic and it's difficult to express myself and try and get it right and remember the responsibilities I have in that area.

KING: Did you write all the numbers?

CLAPTON: Co-wrote. Co-wrote and some I wrote completely on my own, yeah.

KING: Is it pretty much all career you have done that?

CLAPTON: No, this is -- this is the first time it's almost been completely like that. Up until now, I have used other people's songs or I have covered things. Like the last studio album I did was a blues album which was all covers, like a labor of love.

KING: Blues is your kind of home base, isn't it?

CLAPTON: Yeah, it's the root, it's the root of what I do, yeah.

KING: People would be surprised to learn that on this album is a daughter of Eric Clapton, Ruth Kelly Clapton.


KING: We're told that people in the United States don't know much about this.

CLAPTON: Oh, really?

KING: Tell us about ...

CLAPTON: My daughter? Yeah, she's a lovely girl. She's 13. She was -- she was actually born on Montserrat, the island of Montserrat. She's probably watching this now, or no she'll probably be seeing this later anyway, over there. She's a cute girl. This was all a time when my life was spinning out of control.

KING: When she was born?

CLAPTON: When she was born. And I was getting involved in one liaison after another without really knowing what I was doing.

KING: Not married the mother?

CLAPTON: I was not married to the mother, but I was married to someone else. It was a mid-life crisis.

KING: Of major proportions.

CLAPTON: Of major proportions. Turning 40 and watching it all just spin off into ...

KING: How did she turn out?

CLAPTON: She's turned out very, very well.

KING: You would have bet against it, though, probably.

CLAPTON: The chances were, because it was pretty similar to my circumstances, you know. There was a father -- an absent father, a lot of confusion. And I think the difference is that there's been a lot more talking in her circumstance.

KING: You talk to her?

CLAPTON: We talk. We kind of unturned every stone, you know?

KING: Can she sing?

CLAPTON: Yes, she can, actually, come to figure. She's got all those gifts going strong. She can dance, she's a very good artist.

KING: Does she want a -- I mean it's a little bit early -- show business?

CLAPTON: She's seen something on TV now, and I don't know what it is, she wants to be a lawyer. "L.A. Law" probably. I don't know.

KING: Or any show in the afternoon.

CLAPTON: Any show in the afternoon, yeah. Yeah.

KING: Well, you -- let's go back. What was -- you grew up in London?

CLAPTON: I sort of spent a lot of time in London. I grew up in the country south of London and started going to London when I was about 16.

KING: Were you a musically inclined kid?


KING: Were you in the school band?

CLAPTON: Yes, I was. I played recorder at school. And I learned to read music actually at that point and forgot it later on. But I had -- I had some kind of ability to listen very, very acutely when I was -- when I was young.

KING: And you forgot it later on?

CLAPTON: I haven't forgotten how to listen, but I have forgotten how to read music.

KING: That's what I mean. Why? How could that be?

CLAPTON: I don't know. I just -- well, I could play "Greensleeves" by reading it, and now I wouldn't know what one note meant from another.

KING: You mean that just went away?

CLAPTON: It went away.

KING: Were you a prodigy? If I had heard you at age 11 would I have said, this kid's got a future?

CLAPTON: You might have heard a tone or something perhaps. You might have said, oh, this kid's got some tone.

KING: A sound?

CLAYTON: Yeah, maybe.

KING: When did you decide you want music as a life?

CLAPTON: I think I knew that when I was about 17 and I was starting to play in bands around the clubs, you know? I knew -- I knew that I had some kind of power in the area, that I could affect people with what I did.

KING: And that was the big era of, what, Beatles were going on?

CLAPTON: Yeah, exactly. They had a radio show called "Pop Go the Beatles" once a week.

KING: "Pop Go the Beatles?"


KING: And you listened and every young musician listened?


KING: And did you want to be them?

CLAPTON: No, not at all. Actually, even from my earliest recollections of that was too poppy for me. By the time they came around I was already deeply ensconced in hard-core blues and becoming a purist very fast.

KING: That's basically American in its origin, right?

CLAPTON: Yes, it is, yeah.

KING: We'll ask about that in a moment.

The new CD is "Pilgrim." We're also going to be talking about a major concept that Eric is involved in in Antigua.

This is LARRY KING LIVE with Eric Clapton. Later on, your phone calls. Don't go away.


CLAPTON (singing): Would you know my name if I saw you in heaven? Would it be the same if I saw you in heaven? I must be strong and carry on because I know I don't belong here in heaven.



KING: Much tragedy, much happiness in the Eric Clapton life.

Do you ever look around and say, I'm on a roller coaster?

CLAPTON: I have felt like that. Right now it feels like I've been coasting for quite a while in a very kind of pleasant way.

KING: Is coasting nice?

CLAPTON: Yeah, being in the middle lane -- in the middle lane of the highway. People go -- you know, I'm overtaken some and some people are flying by but I'm not really.

KING: It's not as much fun as the top of the hill, though, is it?

CLAPTON: Oh, yeah, I think so. I think I like a fairly even state. I have got -- what I have always wanted, I think, was continuity in my life, and I seem to have that now.

KING: You ever wonder why you didn't get it earlier?

CLAPTON: I think I could have had it, but no doubt I was screwing around a lot with that, you know. I really want -- I used to get a buzz out of uncertainty, you know?

KING: In other words you liked danger?

CLAPTON: With cause, yeah. With cause and sabotage and blow-up situations just for the sheer heck of it, really.

KING: See one woman at 2 o'clock, another one at 5 o'clock and wonder if the 6 o'clock finds out about the 2 o'clock.


CLAPTON: That's one way of doing it, yeah.

KING: What was your break? When did they start to notice you?

CLAPTON: Hmmm, I think when we talked about that thing, I think it must have been around 1964, '65 when I was in a band called The Yardbirds. And we did a weekly gig on Sunday night at a place called the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond. And the crowd --- it was like a party. Everyone would get together and just go mad. And I developed a little following amongst these people and there were certain -- and I knew that there were certain ways I could get them going just by playing the guitar.

KING: And that spread?

CLAPTON: It spread and it became like a fan base, really, around London. And I watched it and I knew that that was -- that's what kind of made me believe I had something more than just anybody else, you know?

KING: And you liked it?


KING: You liked having a crowd like it?

CLAPTON: Yeah, I did.

KING: So that was a spin turn on.

CLAPTON: It was an affirmation. The weird thing was I had chosen to play a kind of music that was really unique and obscure amongst -- in England, anyway. I still haven't figured out the explanation for why I tuned into the Mississippi Delta. Maybe there's a geographical similarity, but no ...

KING: No geological.

CLAPTON: Not really no.

KING: Why do you -- all right, you were affected by the blues. Was it a radio station you heard?

CLAPTON: Every now and then I would hear, maybe once a month, maybe less, in fact, something come through like Brownie McGee and Sonny Terry or Big Bill Bruisey (ph). And then, obviously, a little bit later the R&B giants like Bo Diddly or Chuck Berry would get air play, but it would be brief or rare. And the rest of the time it was like Guy Mitchell, Patty Page, Doris Day, that stuff. Which was great too.

KING: Can you now looking back in retrospect, can you say what it was about Bo Diddly that turned you?

CLAPTON: You know what it was? It was primitive. I think it was primitive, and it sounded like it was unattached to any kind of corporative thinking, you know what I mean? It was like a guy, one guy who was on his own real in a kind of madness. I mean Bo Diddly's stuff was pretty much about crazy stuff.

KING: And that appealed to the risk taker in Eric Clapton.

CLAPTON: Yeah, yeah.

KING: So you liked that?


KING: What was your first recording break? Did you have an instant hit?

CLAPTON: No, I kind of worked up gradually. I think the first recording break was signing with ATCO Atlantic Records here in New York.

KING: Are you still with them? You're with Time Warner, aren't you?

CLAPTON: I'm with Warner -- the Preis (ph), in fact.

KING: It's all the same. They own the world.

CLAPTON: Yeah, right.


KING: Did you have a hit? You didn't have a hit right away.

CLAPTON: No, it was like a developed thing. Even in those days I think it was album sales. I was much more concerned about making good albums. I think I might -- in fact, I left one band, The Yardbirds, because they were determined to have a hit and I was determined not to be involved with that.

KING: Why?

CLAPTON: I don't know, intuitively I knew it was dangerous to play around with that stuff or to be lured in the spotlight on that level.

KING: So you came at another level and got lured anyway.

CLAPTON: Eventually.

KING: But it came ...


In other words, you weren't saying, let's have this $2 million disk
seller of a 45.

CLAPTON: Yeah, yeah. I don't know how I knew that, but I knew it was dangerous.

KING: Did you form another group?

CLAPTON: I actually thought I was going to retire. I mean that was like when I was 18 years old I thought, it's over. It's over. Because they all want the same thing. I mean every band I looked at all had the same agenda: Let's get a hit record and recording contract. And I kind of went, and then what? That was it. It seemed to be that was the end of the road. And for me the road was about a different thing altogether.

So I went off on my own and was approached by a guy called John Mayall who wanted me to play in the clubs, in his blues band, no mention of any TV or records or none of that.

KING: Just play?

CLAPTON: Just play.

KING: Did that band have a name?

CLAPTON: It was called John Mayo and the Blues Breakers.

KING: And you played with them?

CLAPTON: For about a year and a half, yeah.

KING: And was that important in your career?

CLAPTON: Very important, very important. Maybe the first real turning point because I met someone who encouraged me, who nurtured the gift I had and taught me a lot of stuff about how to maintain and run a good band.

KING: And that was?

CLAPTON: Well, just like being a father figure.

KING: Was that John?

CLAPTON: Yeah, that was John, John Mayo.

KING: So he's played an important part of your career?


KING: We'll talk about Cream and the rest of the saga and lots to talk about with Eric Clapton. Don't go away.


CLAPTON (singing): What will you do when you get lonely? No one waiting by your side. You have been around, hiding much too long.

You know it's just your foolish pride. Layla, you got me on my knees, Layla. Begging darling, please, Layla. Darling won't you ease my worried mind.



KING: Eric Clapton in March, on March 30, in fact, for the first time will tour with the 20-piece orchestra. We'll be asking about that. How did -- Cream was your step to stardom, right for want of a better term?

CLAPTON: "Cream" became global, yeah. That was the first band I traveled with, really. In fact, it was. With John Mayo we just toured the clubs in England and it was great, but when Cream formed, it -- we came over here and that --

KING: Did you form it?

CLAPTON: Actually, the truth is Ginger (ph) started it. He came to me and he went to see Jack and put it to both of us that he thought it was a good idea.

KING: Did you like the name?


KING: Why?

CLAPTON: Well, it was a very arrogant kind of -- we actually saw ourselves as this, as the cream of the crop, you know? We were the main musicians on the English rock scene.

KING: And said it.

CLAPTON: And said it and used it.

KING: And you had a couple of enormous hits.

CLAPTON: Did we have hits? I don't remember any. I'm not sure we had any hits. We had great-selling albums. Oh, yeah we had one called "Sunshine of Your Love" which was a big hit.

KING: That wasn't a big hit? You don't care it was a big hit, you liked the album?

CLAPTON: Yeah, I never really was -- I didn't see it. It was the same thing again, I didn't think we could make singles and we almost deliberately wrote songs that were kind of complicated and obscure. It was a quirky group, you know.

KING: Paul is a rebel?

CLAPTON: Well, it wasn't just me. But yes, I've been yeah yeah.


KING: People.


KING: When a rock star, for want of a better term is at his height, what is that life like?

CLAPTON: Well, it differs for the individual.

KING: For you?

CLAPTON: For me, it's -- at the height of what, popularity or fame?

KING: Yeah, you know, when that -- there's signs in London -- Clapton is God. People walked around carrying signs saying "Clapton is God."

CLAPTON: Actually, it was only written on a wall once. A lot of fuss was made about it.

KING: Word spread?

CLAPTON: Word spread.

KING: But OK when you're placed on a pedestal?

CLAPTON: It's scary. It depends on -- if I talked from my own experience I did my best to kind of ignore it, and I think that was my way of dealing with it to underplay it, to not pay it too much mind, basically, because I see when it happens to people, especially when they're young -- when they get that kind of accolade too soon and they haven't developed an identity for themselves, they kind of -- they throw all their power away. They give up their gift. It's too overwhelming.

KING: What did do you with the temptations, though, of it? Of having more money than you ever dreamed of having.

CLAPTON: Oh, I did everything anyone else would. I bought cars, I spent it on anything that my fancy took, you know?

KING: And is that when you started experimenting with drugs?

CLAPTON: I started experimenting with drugs I think at a much earlier age, when I was about 15. I took a form of speed, and I started drinking back in those days, too. It was -- it kind of grew out of the supposition that in order to be a man you had to drink, or you had to do something. A lot of peer pressure. And it kind of went on quite harmlessly for a long time like that.

KING: Never affecting performance?

CLAPTON: Not really, no. There was a time, for instance, when I, we're talking about the John Mayo period, when I became such a scholar of what I was doing I wouldn't allow anything like that to get into the way.

KING: You knew what you wanted to take when you wanted to take and it didn't affect you 8 o'clock at night?

CLAPTON: It would be kind of a discipline.

KING: Well, I guess people are like that if you could live all your life with it then, right?

CLAPTON: People can and people do. Do I know a lot of people that drink and take drugs on a recreational basis.

KING: You couldn't after a while? What happened?

CLAPTON: Well, I thought I could, you see. That's the trap with this stuff is that maybe for everybody at some point we cross a line. I know I did. I crossed the line and it was probably when I was around 30, and I've been doing it for 15 years in a much kind of controlled way ,or just what they call, you know, a leisurely way I suppose.

KING: Was there an incident?

CLAPTON: No, it's just that one day I found I was doing it like a routine. I started doing everything in the morning.

KING: Was it scary?

CLAPTON: It was only scary when I wanted -- when I thought -- for instance, when I was married. When my wife said to me, do you think could you try this weekend not to have a drink? I said don't be so stupid. I could stop any time I like. That was a real belief I had. I was in control. I knew -- I mean, I would say that all the time to people that would question my drinking and say I know what I'm doing, I can control it. And she said that, and I tried and you know what happened? I had a grand mal seizure -- scared the living daylights out of me, woke up in the hospital.

KING: We'll be back with Eric Clapton. We'll talk about some more tragedy and what he's done to overcome it, and a concept in Antigua, and more about his music and your phone calls. And the new CD is "Pilgrim." We'll be right back.


CLAPTON (singing): If I could be king, even for a day I'd take you as my queen. I'd have it no other way And our love will rule.

Yes, kingdom we have made Until then I'd be a fool. Wishing for the day That I can change the world.

I would be the sunlight in your universe. You would think my love was really something good, Baby, if I could change the world.



KING: We're back with Eric Clapton. At its worst, how bad was it, Eric?

CLAPTON: Oh, I think for me, just that kind of dreadful loneliness that I would experience, and the difficult thing for other people to understand was that they'd look at my circumstances and think that here's a guy that has everything.

Run down the list of things any man would want: a dream come true. I had a beautiful wife. I had the cars. I had a solid gold career. I was young, healthy. I mean, there was everything a man could want, and yet every night I would want to kill myself and I wanted to die. Internally I was falling to pieces.

KING: How did you lick it?

CLAPTON: I got help. I got help.

KING: You went to a place?

CLAPTON: Yeah, I went to a treatment center, and I went twice. I went once and came out for a while, stayed sober for about a year and a half and then kind of just thought well, you know,

KING: You licked it?

CLAPTON: Maybe I have licked it. Maybe I'm -- maybe I'm just sort of special and different, you know? And I didn't go back to drinking. I went back to drugs first, and I found that I didn't like the drugs without the drink. So I thought well, that was clever.

KING: And went back to the same place as before?

CLAPTON: Almost, except that I knew there was a solution, which I hadn't had any grasp of before and that was one of the worst things about the earlier state of mind I had -- was that I was convinced that had I had a problem that nobody else had, you know?

KING: Because of the alcohol and the ...

CLAPTON: Yeah, and I would just end up every day feeling completely alone and removed from ...

KING: You mentioned you saw Betty Ford on this show.


KING: Was that on the money that night?

CLAPTON: I thought she was fantastic, yeah, yeah.

KING: So they do work, these places?

CLAPTON: Yeah, I think so.

KING: Because you never got in trouble after the second one?

CLAPTON: I went into treatment just over 10 years ago now, the last time.

KING: You have been dry all this time?

CLAPTON: I've been sober ever since.

KING: When you see someone with a drink, do you want it?

CLAPTON: No, no I don't.

KING: No desire ever to take drugs?

CLAPTON: I have -- if it comes up on any level, it comes up in just a -- not in a physical sense like that. I will make -- I may get an emotional response to a situation where I just think I want to be around -- I want to disappear, or I wish the floor would swallow me up. And that's what I drank and did drugs on. So these things, to my mind, are symptomatic. The drink and drug is a symptom of a psychological state of being.

KING: When we come back, we'll talk about a tragedy in Eric's life and overcoming that, and take your calls as well. More on an extraordinary musical career as well. Don't go away.

By the way, Eric won six Grammys in one shot. We're showing you a lot of clips from that historic album. The video from "Pilgrim" not yet available. In fact, he saw the front cover of the CD tonight. We'll be right back.


CLAPTON (singing): I have always been one to take each and every day. Seems like now I have found the love who would care, care just for me.

Indeed (INAUDIBLE) the long face All of our dreams will come true. Our world would be right Love (INAUDIBLE) of me and you.



KING: We're back. In a little while we'll be taking your calls for a living legend. Eric Clapton begins a major tour at the end of March. How do you deal with that unimaginable of things, the loss of a child?

CLAPTON: Well, music was very important as a solution. Friends, obviously, and talking, confronting it head on was the best thing for me. I actually -- someone gave me a book on how -- kind of like a manual on this, because it's one of the things in life that there's no rehearsal for. I mean, and there's a few other things that I think we need a bit of training for too.

Parenting, itself, I think requires training which nobody seems -- I don't know where the -- whether school is for that. But for the loss of a child, I really needed to -- I wore my friends out, you know? I wore my friends out. And then I found I had to go and see a professional. And that was -- that became the long-lasting solution is just to go to talk to somebody once a week and knowing that it didn't matter whether they were bored or not.

KING: Did you drink or take drugs?

CLAPTON: No. Of course not. Actually it never occurred to me. It was the last thing.

KING: Really.

CLAPTON: Because what I felt was, I felt I had to kind of -- I had to be responsible. And that would have been the opposite to being responsible. First of all, there were other people that were going to pieces, like his mother and his grandmother. And all of the family. I actually found a role for myself very quickly in that situation.

KING: The healer?

CLAPTON: Where I was looking after people, yeah.

KING: Where were you when he fell?

CLAPTON: I was here in New York.

KING: Not with him, though?

CLAPTON: No. He was staying at a place called -- I can't remember. It was a big high-rise on 57th street. And I was in a hotel about seven blocks away.

KING: Who told you?

CLAPTON: His mother called me. I was going to have lunch with him. I was going to go down and pick him up.

KING: He was, what, 4?

CLAPTON: He was four-and-a-half. Yeah. I was getting ready to go pick him up for lunch. His mother called me and she was hysterical. First of all I couldn't believe it: I thought it was some kind of sick joke.

Then -- in fact, when these things happen, my body almost started moving without my mind registering it. I kind of went on hold, I think, psychologically. I just kind of started to shut down bit by bit. I could feel reality slipping away.

KING: You wrote a song about it?


KING: Why?

CLAPTON: Because there were a lot of questions in this for me. I had no idea what, really, the outcome of this was going to be because -- the very difficult -- I mean, it's easier to deal with people and relationships when they're still in the world, and you don't see them anymore. That's tough, than physically when their life is ended.

KING: Finality to it.

CLAPTON: Or, is there any continuity? That's what I was asking with song is do we get to experience any of this again, you know?

KING: Paul Newman told me that no matter what goes on in your life, how many years you live, there's always a piece missing?


KING: Same with you?

CLAPTON: Yeah, yeah.

KING: Was it difficult to record that song?

CLAPTON: Yes, it was. It's still difficult to perform it too.

KING: Because I imagine the public wants you to perform it.

CLAPTON: Yeah, and I like doing it, believe it or not. And it can be -- it can be -- I mean, it can be fine. I have played it a lot, actually, over the years since he died. And -- there's a break. Like we have got a break going on now, and we're going to rehearsals next week, we'll come to that and probably the first couple of times I'll have a frog right there in my throat.

KING: I have a brochure I want to show you quickly called Crossroads Center at Antigua. This is an Eric Clapton project. What is it?

CLAPTON: For the last three years I have been trying to start a treatment center there.

KING: For addiction?

CLAPTON: Addiction to drugs and alcohol, yeah.

KING: Why Antigua?

CLAPTON: It's a place I have made my second home for the last 15 years. I have been going there that long. And I have seen a lot of problems there, and no one to attend to them. There's a lot of kind of misinformation about the whole thing down there.

KING: Are you doing it for people who live on the island?

CLAPTON: I am primarily doing it for people who have no money that need treatment.

KING: There's no charge?

CLAPTON: Well, what we have got is, we need to do a "Robin Hood" type thing with this so that we can bring people with money from Europe and America to pay and subsidize a third of the beds which would be for local people who have none.

KING: When does it open?

CLAPTON: Hopefully July.

KING: How did you name it?

CLAPTON: That was someone else's idea. I wouldn't have come up with that because obviously it would be too reflective of my career and everything, but I think it's a good name.

KING: What's the secret of a good center? What will the Crossroads Center do?

CLAPTON: We'll work from -- on a 12-step foundation, I think group therapy is probably the key success of any treatment center.

KING: Sharing with others?

CLAPTON: Yeah, sharing that bond. And what we're going to be having -- the most difficult part is introducing people to that because we're going to have rich, wealthy people from Europe and America mixing with poor local people from Antigua in a group situation.

KING: Do you think they'll go because you licked it, or they'll go because it's you?

CLAPTON: It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. If -- as long -- I think they'll go -- I think people only go to these situations when they really need to. I mean, I only went to treatment as a last resort. I hung on to drinking and drugging as long as I could.

KING: How do people get more information on this?

CLAPTON: Well, I am afraid ...

KING: Do they just write to Crossroads in Antigua?

CLAPTON: They need to write to a lady named Ann Vance. I
can probably give you the information after the program.

KING: I'll tell you what we can do. If you want more information, it opens in July, you write to us at LARRY KING LIVE at CNN in Washington, and Eric will give us a number or an address for you to contact.


KING: When we come back, we'll include your phone calls and touch more on his career. The album is "Pilgrim." It's out now. The tour is in March. We'll ask about the big band return. Don't go away.


CLAPTON (singing): Before you accuse me, take a look at yourself. Before you accuse me, take a look at yourself. I said, I am spending my money on other women. You're taking money from someone else.



KING: The lady who opened and ran Betty Ford, Anne Vance, is behind this. The Crossroads Center at Antigua, an international and nonprofit facility for the treatment of alcohol and other drug dependents. And if you want more information write to us, LARRY KING LIVE, CNN, Washington, D.C., I think it's two-triple-zero-two, and Eric will get in touch with us and we'll respond to you and get a brochure to you and the like. Let's get some phone calls for the genius that is Eric Clapton.

Longmeadow, Massachusetts, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Eric.


CALLER: First of all, I wanted to thank you for all the great music over the years.

CLAPTON: My pleasure.

CALLER: I look forward to seeing you in Hartford, Connecticut, hopefully in April.


CALLER: I noticed in the latest "Ice" magazine you recorded Bob Dylan's "Born in Time" on your album "Pilgrim."


CALLER: I was just wondering if you could tell us your feelings about Bob Dylan.

KING: Good question, why Dylan, why that song?

CLAPTON: I understand he is nominated for a Grammy, best album of the year. I can't think of greater guy for that to go to.

KING: You like his music?

CLAPTON: Oh, yeah.

KING: Is he a true poet?

CLAPTON: I don't know what a -- I mean, I don't know much about poetry. I came to Bob through music, so for me he's a singer and a songwriter.

KING: And why that song?

CLAPTON: He sent it to me.

KING: Oh, really?

CLAPTON: Yeah, he sent that. He played it to me about 1989, when we were both recording in New York. And then he went and put it out himself. And I kind of thought no more of it. But the first time I heard it I loved it, I have to say. Then he sent it to me again about, what, 10 years later.

KING: Chesaning, Michigan, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Eric.


CALLER: First, I'd like to tell you how much I enjoy your music.

CLAPTON: Thank you.

CALLER: It always makes me happy.

CLAPTON: Thank you.

CALLER: I saw your "From the Cradle" tour twice and I'd like to know if you have any plans to release a video of that tour?

CLAPTON: Well, now, I am not sure what footage we got of that. I think there is a bit lying around and it would be interesting to put something -- there was a blues project I had at one point, where I wanted to do a documentary on the blues, and we did some work with Martin Scorsese on that, but I think it's still on hold. And I'd like to finish that up one day.

KING: You have done some unusual things in your life. Did you sing on the Beatle's "White Album" or did you play on the Beatles?

CLAPTON: I played guitar on one track, yeah.

KING: Just, 'cause -- it was unbilled, right?

CLAPTON: Yes, it was an anonymous venture, but George was -- I think George was struggling with the two big boys in the group. And he needed -- some backup on one of his songs.

KING: Was that a kick?

CLAPTON: Are you kidding, yeah. I mean, to watch those guys work in those days was pretty inspiring.

KING: Did you work with Hendrix?


KING: Knew Hendrix, well?

CLAPTON: Pretty well. As well as anybody, I think.

KING: What's his legend -- what will his mark in the business be?

CLAPTON: I think he opened up the electric guitar to just about -- took it as far as it could go. And I don't think anyone's took it any further, really.

KING: Madison, Wisconsin, with Eric Clapton, hello.

CALLER: Hello, Eric.


CALLER: I would like to ask you about some recreational things you would like to do, like fishing?


CALLER: And I was wondering if you have ever had a chance to fish in Wisconsin?

CLAPTON: I think I have, actually. I think we -- did a fishing tour about -- about 12 years ago, or something like that where we would only play places near water all across America.

KING: Are you a fishing freak?

CLAPTON: I am not as much as I used to be. I used to be absolutely obsessed by that.

KING: Did you fish when you were into drugs and alcohol?

CLAPTON: I fished after that. It became like a transfer obsession.

KING: Another -- was it like golf to others, you fished?

CLAPTON: Yeah, I became a trout fisherman and I was going every day.

KING: Tell me about this tour. First, why a 20-piece band?

CLAPTON: Well, making the album involved a lot of technology. We brought in the orchestra at the end of the whole thing. And now, for me to go out on the road without that doesn't make sense. I mean, I -- really want to honor this record. But not just to represent it or -- deliver it as it is, to actually see if I can extend it, with -- 'cause live will be different.

KING: You're not going to do just tunes from "Pilgrim," then?

CLAPTON: No, it will be probably -- I'd like to do as many as I can.

KING: What are you calling it?

CLAPTON: The tour? I don't know. The tour.

KING: How about "Pilgrim?"

CLAPTON: The "Pilgrim" tour. I don't know. That's a bit too ...

KING: Twenty cities?

CLAPTON: I am not sure.

KING: All in America.

CLAPTON: Well, to begin with, yes. And then Canada and then Europe.

KING: Do you like America?

CLAPTON: I love America.

KING: You can answer honestly, you've made it.

CLAPTON: No, it's true, I love America. But the funny thing is, I am not sure if I could live here.

KING: Because ...

CLAPTON: Because I am an Englishman. Because I would feel out of place, eventually. I would want to go home. I think I have a real root mentality.

KING: There's no anger at America over the death of the child here, though?

CLAPTON: Oh, absolutely not. You know what, this -- I don't know if I would have actually got anything like the kind of compassion anywhere else in the world that I got from the people here. I have always felt incredibly grateful to the people, especially of New York, for the way they kind of got me through that.

KING: There are a lot -- warmer than people think.

CLAPTON: Yeah, absolutely.

KING: Eric Clapton is our guest. We'll be back with more phone calls. Don't go away.


CLAPTON (singing): People tell me, the walking blues ain't bad. Worse-off feeling, I most ever had. People tell me, the old walking blues ain't bad. Well, it's the worse-off feelin' Oh, Lord, I most ever had.


KING: Before we take the next call, America's rocked with scandal. You had that with a wife and George Harrison. What's your look back on that aspect of the -- Clapton story?

CLAPTON: It's not -- something I regret. It's something I regret.

KING: What -- in a nutshell, what -- you...

CLAPTON: I wanted what he had, basically.

KING: And you took her?

CLAPTON: And I took her, but it took a lot of -- not overnight. I mean, it was a long, painful process of, you know, I admired him and I fell in love with her and ...

KING: Must have been a difficult situation?

CLAPTON: It was difficult. And there was a period -- I mean, I kind of, for a while -- I became addicted to drugs seriously during that period, because I couldn't cope. And I -- sought that as a way out of the situation, because I really didn't know how to deal with it.

KING: Did he hate you?

CLAPTON: I think for quite a long time he was pretty angry. I still think he -- there's a lot of anger left, I think. It's still not -- that stuff doesn't get to be resolved in a short space of time.

KING: Did you wind up with her?

CLAPTON: For a long time, yeah.

KING: Tucson, Arizona, for Eric Clapton, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Eric.


CALLER: Carol here.

CLAPTON: Hello, Carol.

CALLER: Over the years you have been called a chameleon, due to your radical changes in appearance. Everything from '60s swinging London to Armani. What are you trying to say with the new look and is it connected to the style of music you're now embracing?

KING: Good question.

CLAPTON: It's a good question. Well, I am wearing a suit tonight.

KING: Definitely, black, tailored, very nice conservative suit.

CLAPTON: And this is the first time I have had a suit on for -- I mean, just for Larry I am wearing this suit, because I felt like ...

KING: What would be typical garb?

CLAPTON: Jeans and a T-shirt.

KING: Is that the way you work, too?

CLAPTON: No, I think this tour we'll probably be dressing up, too.

KING: With the band, you should come out -- tuxedo, maybe?

CLAPTON: Well, for the strings, definitely.

KING: West Babylon, New York, hello?

CALLER: Hi, Eric.


CALLER: This is Gina.

CLAPTON: Hi, Gina.

CALLER: How are you doing?


CALLER: There's a passion we see you pull from deep inside of you when you're performing. Do you find that your mood on any given day changes that passion and your performance on that particular evening?

CLAPTON: Oh, yeah.

KING: When you're down, is it harder to get up.

CLAPTON: No, it's actually sometimes quick from that. That's what's great about music, you know? That's what's great about music is that I can hear -- it's probably easier for me to hear somebody else -- let somebody else lift me. The band can do it better than me sometimes.

KING: So sometimes you're at your best when you're feeling the worst?

CLAPTON: Yeah, I have known times -- walked on stage when I thought I was at death's door, sometimes with a really bad flu, things like that, or just depressed or just tired, fatigue. I mean, I don't want to be there and played the best night of my life.

KING: Isaac Stern told me once, the great violinist, that on the nights he thought he was the worst he would get the most applause.

CLAPTON: Oh, yeah.

KING: And when he thought he was the best, he would get the least. Do you find that a lot?

CLAPTON: It's a dilemma, yeah.

KING: Your own self-criticism is higher than anyone else's.

CLAPTON: Oh, yeah, much more. My standards are just too high for myself.


KING: That's a great one. My standards are too high for myself. We'll be back with our remaining moments with Eric Clapton. "Pilgrim" is now out. The tour starts in late March. If you want more information on the rehabilitation center, write to us and we'll let you know. We'll be back with more Eric Clapton after this.


CLAPTON (singing): Alberta, Alberta, Alberta, where you been so long? Alberta, Alberta, where you been so long? Ain't had no lovin' since you been gone.



KING: Before you line up at stores all over the country tomorrow to buy "Pilgrim," it goes on sale on March 3. It's not yet -- it's two weeks, OK? Get a little nervous. You don't want to have people angry. So even though the album is here -- we see it, we have shown its cover, it will be out on March 3. Let's get another call in for Eric Clapton.

Mattapoisett, Massachusetts, hello.

CALLER: Hey, Eric.

CLAPTON: Hi, how are you doing?

CALLER: My name is Mercedes.

CLAPTON: Mercedes.

KING: Don't Benz my ear with...


CALLER: I have been dazzled by you since I saw you on the "Fresh Cream" tour in 1968.

CLAPTON: Wow, you're giving away a lot there.

CALLER: I know that. Tell me something, was there ever any truth to the rumor that was going on after Garcia left, that you would step into his shoes.

CLAPTON: The "Grateful Dead?"


CLAPTON: It didn't come to my ears.

KING: Hadn't heard -- this is the first you have heard of it?

CLAPTON: This is the first I have heard of it, yeah.

KING: Any band you would like to play and tour with?

CLAPTON: I would have loved to have played with them actually. That would have been great fun, just to pick up some of that vibe that -- just to figure it out.

KING: Anything you haven't done you would like to do?

CLAPTON: I would like to make a whole record with B.B. King, also with John Lee Hooker, also with Ray Charles. There's a lot of stuff I haven't done, a lot of stuff.

KING: The articulation of your love for the blues is somewhere in the soul, do you think? I mean, it's impossible to explain. Like B.B. King -- it would be hard to picture the great British artist would pick B.B. King -- classic American artist out like that?

CLAPTON: Yeah, yeah, I just think he has the greatest touch, and there's not many people that -- and he's, he's not a spring chicken. This guy is working, flat out, still the same as he was when he was in his 20s. Actually I think he sounds better.

KING: How long will Eric work?

CLAPTON: I don't know if I have got that kind of capacity. I honestly don't. I mean ...

KING: Do you still play as good, guitar?

CLAPTON: Well, if I didn't feel I was improving I would definitely quit.

KING: Improve?

CLAPTON: I think that's an axiom that I would have to hold for myself.

KING: Not as good, better?

CLAPTON: Not even as good. I need to know that I am actually getting a little bit better all the time. And what proves that is for me to go see someone like B.B., because I know it can be done. I see him do it so I know it can be done.

KING: How about singing?

CLAPTON: Singing too, same thing.

KING: You would tend to think that it is harder.

CLAPTON: I just now feel like I have developed in that area.

KING: Really? You're a better singer now?


KING: Because?

CLAPTON: Because I have worked harder at it.

KING: When you step on stage -- you start this tour March 30, haven't been on stage for a while -- it's opening night, the band, are you nervous?

CLAPTON: Oh, yeah, terrified.

KING: About succeeding?

CLAPTON: About not get -- about getting it right, if that's what you mean by -- succeeding, yes, succeeding, but musically.

KING: Will they like me?

CLAPTON: No -- well, that is quite important, more important than I care to admit -- but.

KING: Sinatra says that existed in him while up until he finished performing, right up until he went on stage -- are they going to accept me.


KING: So there's a little bit of terror every night?


KING: It goes away quickly?

CLAPTON: It goes away as soon as I am in my stride. The thing I think about playing in a band or working with a lot of musicians, or good musicians is that as soon as you have made that bond, you're secure and the audience is not quite so important to you.

KING: And then the rest of the night is a high?

CLAPTON: Yeah. Yeah.

KING: Without need of any additional help?

CLAPTON: Uh-huh. Uh-huh.

KING: Thanks, Eric.

CLAPTON: Thanks, Larry.

KING: Eric Clapton, the new album available March 3 is "Pilgrim." The tour begins March 30. It's throughout the United States, then Canada, then out of the states and the Americas. And of course, if you want more information on that rehabilitation place in Antigua, just write to us at CNN in Washington. Thanks for joining us. For Eric Clapton, yours truly and our crews all around the world at CNN, good night.

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