On Friday January 20, I will embark on a very unique tribute to show at The House Of Blues. There aren’t many tributes to Eric Clapton in the world – for whatever reason or another. Our show on Jan 20 hopes to buck that trend – a concert tribute to the great Slowhand with some of the best guitar players in New Orleans!
This show holds a very special meaning to me.
I had picked up guitar at the age of six. Having come from a musical family, I was always searching for what my musical avenue would be. My grandfather, the world-touring jazz musician Chuck Credo, encouraged me more towards a brass instrument (I ended up putting down the guitar for a while and played alto sax in the school band). After getting frustrated with the saxophone in general, I was aimless for a while. It wasn’t until my father played a tape of “Layla” from The Eric Clapton Unplugged album one evening when I was twelve that I decided to pull the guitar back out and figure out those first notes of the riff.
Twenty-four years later, here we are.
That first glimpse into a more mature musical world was my first step on my path as a performer and a guitar player. I began to study the work of Eric Clapton from that day on. As a 13 year old, I’d come back home from school and rewind, and rewind…and rewind…watching VHS tapes trying to figure out what his hands were doing on the strings, why he played a certain way, how he always would bend the stings up and not down, finger vibrato etc. I had a very skilled guitar teacher (Todd Schulz) who helped guide me on how to play the songs correctly – which just fueled the fire as I began to learn how to play. I became pretty obsessed with learning more about this whole style of music which was 30 years old at the time, but brand new to me.
It was my discovery of Clapton which soon brought me to other influential artists for me: Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jeff Beck, Duane Allman…and most importantly, George Harrison and The Beatles. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” was my gateway drug into the world of The Beatles. Learning the history of Clapton also brought me to discover a world of British and American music – and gave me a crash course in the blues. By the age of 14, I was studying the styles of Freddie King, B.B. King, Robert Cray, Muddy Waters, Hubert Sumlin, Howlin’ Wolf, Willie Dixion – I was a kid in a candy store. I started seeing the similarities of the way that Clapton played and the way that Buddy Guy would play. I started noticing the history of the riffs that were on Clapton and Jeff Beck albums came from blues albums like “Albert King Plays” and “The Best Of Muddy Waters.” I would then go back even further to discover the acoustic blues of Robert Johnson, Son House, Bukka White, Leadbelly, and Big Bill Broonzy. I was forming a core of musical knowledge that would allow me to understand and interpret new music with a found sense of musical fundamentals. I suddenly could start to tell if musicians had done their homework or not. It was an age of enlightenment of me with music.
I can’t figure out why this music spoke (and still speaks) to me as my favorite form of music. A fourteen-year-old white kid from Metairie, LA was not supposed to be taken by the blues, or the music of a 45 year old British guitar player. I still don’t understand it- but decades of joy playing the guitar is hard to argue with!
There’s a point I’d like to make about Clapton. Many people have asked me “Clapton, so what?” What’s the big deal about Clapton? There are plenty of guitar players who are more technical, faster, etc. So what….? History proves that Clapton was the first person in the recording studio to really solidify the Gibson Les Paul/Marshall combo and mic it from a distance. For all you non-music people, Clapton basically invented the lead guitar sound that would last for the next fifty years. “John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton” and “Fresh Cream” – that super-sustaining sound on all of Clapton’s solos was NOT heard prior to that. He often does not get the credit for this – as many would believe it came from Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. If you rewind the clock and look at when that sound was first heard – you need to look at Clapton 1965/1966. Is there much better than his tone on “Spoonful”, “Steppin’ Out”, “Sleepy Time Time” or “Toad”?!
This Clapton Tribute show on January 20 will showcase songs from Clapton’s 50 year career – from John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers to Cream and Blind Faith, Derek and The Dominos and his solo career throughout the 70s, 80s, and 90s. On stage with me will be a host of incredible talent including my friends Beau St. Pierre, Travis Thibodaux, and Jimmy Messa who will hold down the house band. Devon Allman (son of Greg Allman, nephew of Duane) will be with us as well to visit some of The Dominos material among others. Dwight Breland, Dave Rosser, and Jimmy Robinson will also be jamming through the evening on the House Of Blues main hall stage.
Of all the shows I’ve done, this one will be a very special occasion for me as I finally get to perform a full show of the songs that inspired me the most. Please join me for this great evening of music as we play tribute to Mr. Eric Clapton!