Joe Bonamassa discussed Eric Clapton in a Musicians Hall of Fame interview.
“I met him at a private event, and I was shocked to find out that he knew who I was – because I don’t assume anybody knows who I am, and I’m usually right.
“And I was just shocked that he knew, and he had asked me at this private party about the baffle, the shields I use in front of the amps, and I was like, ‘Oh my god!’
“I didn’t even know where I am, he’s actually watched me, which is a really strange thing.
“We had a nice conversation, and a mutual friend of ours, he’s like, ‘You should invite Eric Clapton to the Royal Albert Hall.’
“‘Yeah, while we’re doing that I’m gonna put Clooney in the front row, DeNiro will be over here – BB King, he’ll be in a box up there… It’s Joe Bonamassa, nobody’s coming…’
“He goes, ‘Write him a letter, I’ll get him the letter.’ I hand-wrote him a letter, and I said, ‘Mr. Clapton, the reason why I wanted to play the Royal Albert Hall is because of your legacy in this place.’
“And if he had played all those legendary gigs, you know, the Fox & Hounds pub in London, I would have wanted to play the Fox & Hounds.
“It had nothing to do with the beauty and grandness of this hall, it’s just because of those classic things he would do in the ’80s with ’24 Nights,’ and Cream, and then you get the Zeppelin and The Beatles, I mean, everyone’s played there.
“But it was, in particular, Eric Clapton that made an impact in my life, so I wrote a letter and just articulated that, killed a few trees because I crumpled it up, I hand-wrote the letter, and I left my email.
“And then one day, it was on a random Sunday, I get one email, which I thought was spam, and it just said, ‘Albert.’ I said, ‘What’s that?’ And I clicked on it, I’m like, ‘Oh crap, I know who this is!’
“And he said, ‘As long as the vehicle is simple…’ – don’t call ‘Giant Steps,’ basically, so I started thinking… He’s asked me to choose a song, and I thought of ‘Further On Up the Road’ because it was the first electric blues song that I ever learned, and it was his version.
“And I said, ‘Well that would be just surreal.’ And he goes, ‘You want to do the Bobby Bland version or my version?’ I go, ‘No, your version, sir.’ And that was it, and he showed up.
“This is the one thing about the gear that I’ll always tell people – he showed up, he had a brand new Custom Shop Strat.
“It was an Eric Clapton model, Blue Daphne, and he had a brand-new ’57 Reissue Tweed Twin, still had a little card on top with the sample settings and a Monster cable into the amp, into the guitar.
“Sounded like Eric Clapton. Sounded like The Bluesbreakers. I said, ‘That’s talent.’ And then he sings, and it’s like every note’s in tune, and he plays, and every phrase is in the right place. I go, ‘That’s a gift.’
“And I could never repay the debt of gratitude that I owe him because it really, especially in this country [the UK], put a stamp of approval on me.
“And then I became known, especially in the United States, as British, people didn’t realize until they actually met me or talked to me or heard me speak that I was from Upstate New York.
“My whole life changed after that moment, and it was really something very cool that I could never recreate – you could see the look on my face, you can see the look of how much it meant to me, and he knew it, he absolutely knew it.
“The thing was, and we live in a time where everything is discussed ad nauseam and accusations are made of who’s authentic and who’s not, I didn’t know who Hubert Sumlin was until I realized that ‘Killing Floor’ by Jimi Hendrix was, you know, those guys were our conduits, our hosts for this music that was hiding in plain sight.
“I was introduced to Robert Johnson through Eric Clapton, I was introduced to all of the great blues artists – BB King in some respect – through the British, and it doesn’t make me less in love with the music, it’s just how you get there, and it’s the journey from point A to point B.” Ultimate-Guitar transcribed his comments.