Justifying an Eric Clapton Signature Martin (000-42EC) was difficult, even with 5-40% discounts. It helped that a significant portion of the proceeds would benefit children's charities at Eric's discretion. "Sunshine of Your Love" was the first song I picked out on guitar twenty seven years ago. I had always wanted a Martin. And let's face it, I'd buy Eric Clapton Signature Poison Ivy if they made it.
While 1995 was the twelth year of Martin limited edition guitars, signature models only began a year earlier with the Gene Autry model. Only 461 Eric Clapton Signature Martins were handcrafted (not 461 per year as reported in Entertainment Weekly). Guess where that number came from? The guitar combines features of Eric's 1939 000-42 (seen in recent concerts during "Malted Milk" and "From Four Until Late") and a 000-28 modified with a style 45 fingerboard, headstock and top pearl.
The guitar is smaller than I expected. The top is Sitka spruce, the neck is ebony (post-publication correction: the fretboard is ebony but the neck is mahogany) and the sides and back are East Indian rosewood. Abalone, a type of mother-of-pearl, is inlaid around the top, around the soundhole, at the bottom of the fingerboard and in the snowflake-pattern fret markers. Ivoroid bindings and a tortise colored pickguard contrast nicely with the wood. A reproduction of Eric's signature is inlaid with mother-of-pearl between the 19th and 20th fret. An amber label inside the guitar is numbered and personally signed by Eric Clapton and C. F. Martin IV. The case is black with burgundy velour lining, a combination lock and an engraved brass plate. A pick is even included with a reproduction of Eric's signature and the name and number of the guitar. The guitar has a deep, rich tone. It shakes you when you play it. It even smells great!
On the Martin factory tour, craftsmen in bifocals are seen working beside guys with Led Zeppelin T-shirts. I saw 000-42ECs being made. Even though Eric helped design the guitar, the people I encountered never saw him at the factory. A bulletin board had a telegram wishing Eric a "Happy 50th Birthday" and pictures of Eric receiving his guitar. These seemed surreal, since Eric wore white against a white background (post-publication correction: the picture below is actually what I saw at the factory). His hair was combed backwards and his beard was either short or absent. He looked more like Derek than Eric. He reportedly bought his 000-42EC just like everyone else! Although no one else got #1! And #461 and some others, according to a recent E-mail from Martin. Many members of his entourage bought them, too. Lee Dickson, Eric's guitar technician told me that #1 was on tour in 1995, as a backup for the 1939 Martin. #461 had not yet been made, and Lee was considering buying it at the time.
|Nothing in life is perfect. The action was high, possibly for better tone and to accommodate styles such as Bluegrass. The intonation of mine was off, so that some strings were 12 cents sharp at the twelth fret. The ear can't tell this and acoustic guitars are prone to imperfect intonation. A shorter compensated saddle corrected the action and intonation. I expected a V shaped neck like my Eric Clapton Signature Stratocaster. The neck of this guitar is wider and more U shaped. The peg for the strap was not inserted at the factory and mine did not fit properly. The hole had to be reamed out by a Martin service person.|
The value of a collectable guitar is best preserved by keeping it in a safe place with all its original papers and never playing it. Yeah, right. The first song I played on mine was "Bell Bottom Blues!" It was just almost as much fun as the first time I played "Sunshine of Your Love."
Reprinted with permission from "Slowhand Magazine," March 30, 1996 issue. Copyright 1996, all rights reserved. "Slowhand" is published quarterly by E.C. Publications, PO Box 488, Pelham, NY 10803. Subscription: $20 a year (U.S.) $25 (Overseas). Back issues are $5.
Acoustic Guitar World Article