Musicians getting together and blending their styles to cook up something amazing isn’t exactly rare in the world of music. Sometimes, though, getting a big-name artist to jump on board can take quite a bit of elbow grease. But when everything finally clicks, the result can be pure magic, with a side of intriguing behind-the-scenes tales.
Take Eric Clapton, for example – the man’s a living legend with guitar prowess and a musical impact that puts him right up there with the greatest of all time. His string of successes and classic tunes are enough to make any aspiring guitarist green with envy. Clapton has inspired generations of musicians and continues to make waves in the industry.
While he’s known for his own musical masterpieces, he’s also lent his talents as a session guitarist to other artists. Throughout his career, Eric has collaborated with countless musicians from various genres, proving time and time again that he can hold his own in any musical setting.
Back in ’91, Clapton spoke with Rolling Stone about how playing for other artists gave him a sense of humility. He mentioned how fan adoration would make him feel like he’s on top of the world, but stepping into a studio with a bunch of people expecting the best would yank him right back to reality.
In the interview, he explained:
“I find it to be a very humbling experience. I walk around with this impression in my head that I am this great journeyman, this wandering musician with fantastic capabilities. Like in New York, for instance, I walk down the street, and it’s ‘Hi, Slowhand. Nice to see you.’ And I’m on a cloud with all this respect and admiration. Then you put me in the real situation, in a studio with a tape recorder and someone who expects the best, and I’ve got to come up with the goods, and it’s never there.”
Funny enough, a dash of pride and ego can sometimes work wonders in creating a hit tune. That’s exactly what led Clapton to join forces with Richie Sambora on his first solo studio album. Sambora, best known as the lead guitarist of Bon Jovi, was no stranger to working with other high-profile musicians, but getting Clapton on board was a whole different ball game.
He reached out to Eric Clapton to play a guitar solo for ‘Mr. Bluesman,’ one of the songs on his album. The track was a hit, but the guitarist’s journey to nail the perfect sound was far from smooth sailing. The song, with its intricate melodies and bluesy feel, was a perfect fit for his style, but mastering it took more effort than anticipated.
Recording the song was no piece of cake for Eric. He spent hours grinding away in the studio, with Sambora watching him sweat bullets as he wrestled with the complex arrangement. Turns out, the song was way trickier than Clapton had imagined.
The reason for this miscalculation? Richie Sambora’s sweet talk and smooth persuasion. He wrote the musician a heartfelt letter and gifted him a stunning twelve-string Taylor guitar, touching Clapton’s ego just enough to get him on board without really knowing the song. He, flattered by the gesture and eager to take on a new challenge, agreed without hesitation.
His recollection of the time went as follows:
“Richie really put me on the spot. It was a nightmare. I got a very sweet, dedicated letter from him, and I was deeply touched; my ego was pumped up. And I thought, ‘Of course, I have to do this.’ And I never actually listened to the song; I never acquainted myself with it. I just went in on this little fantasy about how easy it was going to be.
And then Richie came to London with the tape, and I showed up at the studio, and he gave me a gift, which was a massive twelve-string Taylor guitar with my name on it. And it was magnificent. And then he put the tape on, and I realized instantly that I was completely out of my depth. The song wasn’t what I expected it to be, and I had to sit down and go down to the bottom of my socks and pull up whatever I had to make it work. And it took hours, and I sweated buckets.
Richie was sitting there, watching me go through this. And it was the kind of thing you would like to go off and do in private because you’re going to make all your worst mistakes right there in front of everybody. So there goes your reputation right out the window. Reality comes in the door.”
In the end, Sambora’s smooth moves might have given Clapton a bit of a rough time in the studio, but they also brought a fantastic song to life. ‘Mr. Bluesman’ is proof that when great musicians get together, even the toughest challenges can turn into something truly special.