The Eric Clapton Signature Model Stratocaster was designed by Fender Guitars (U.S.) to recreate the look and feel of Clapton’s favorite Stratocaster, Blackie, but with modern electronics that could produce a fatter sound when needed. The guitar was introduced in 1988.
Eric Clapton explained how it came about: “Dan Smith…who was head of Fender at the time, asked me if I’d be interested in putting out a guitar with my name on it and specifying the way I would want it. When he asked me what my favourite guitar was, I said ‘Blackie’ was it, so if they could make copies of that, especially the neck shape – I wouldn’t want any changes made except for optional sound, to fatten it up. You’ve got one volume and two tone knobs. The second tone is the compression sound. The more you turn it clockwise, the fatter the sound gets. The colours I asked for were Ferrari Red, 7-Up Green and charcoal gray.”
A prototype had a softer V-neck than Blackie and Eric preferred it. The neck is one-piece maple construction with 22 frets and a small headstock. The frets are carefully positioned which allows the action to be set very low without creating a buzz. It has a white single-ply pickguard. The original prototype had 14db boost but Eric wanted more. Fender then created a prototype with three Fender Gold Lace Sensor pickups (neck, middle, bridge) and a circuit that had a 25db boost in the midrange at around 500 Hz. This model then went into production. At first, the Eric Clapton Signature Stratocaster was only available in the three colours suggested by Eric. Per his request, black was not offered as a colour choice. However, it did become an option starting in 1991.
The mid-range boost is controlled from the second tone knob, which provides gradual increments in mid-range boost. At the “full” setting, the Eric Clapton Signature Strat takes on the tonal characteristics of a Gibson Les Paul. The first tone knob controls the TBX tone boost. It adds clarity to the high-end working in conjunction with the mid-range boost to compensate for the lack of high-end when it is set to “full”.
Over the years, adjustments have been made to the guitar’s features. The Eric Clapton Signature Model Stratocaster is now sold with Fender Vintage Noiseless Pickups (neck, middle and bridge), active mid boost (+25dB), TBX circuits and a blocked original vintage tremolo bridge. According to Lee Dickson, Eric’s guitar technician, “The springs are tight and there is a little piece of wood in there between the block and the guitar body. But there is something about the tremolo block being there that he likes, even though he doesn’t use it, per se.”
The model is now sold in Olympic White, Black, Pewter, Torino Red and Candy Green. However, Eric Clapton has asked Fender to build signature model stratocasters for him in custom colours, including gold leaf, daphne blue, ferrari grigio silvertone, and more.