Blackie - Eric Claptons ikoniske Stratocaster; hva vet vi om tilblivelsen?

Tekst: Kjetil Storvik

Blackie – Eric Claptons hovedgitar gjennom mange år – er en av historiens mest sagnomsuste elgitarer. Og lenge den dyreste bruksgitaren – dvs. uten diamanter og annet glitter – solgt på auksjon. Da gitaren gikk under hammeren hos Christie’s 24. juni, 2004, ble den solgt for $ 959.500 etter en forhåndsvurdering på $ 100.000 – 150.000.

Til tross for at Blackie er ikonisk, er det bemerkelsesverdig hvor lite vi vet om gitarens tilblivelse. Rett nok finnes det en hovedversjon, men det finnes sidespor og direkte motstridende historier. Alle versjoner tar imidlertid utgangspunkt i at unnfangelsen av Blackie fant sted i Nashville en tidlig novemberdag i 1970.

5. november opptrer Clapton sammen med resten av Derek and the Dominos i Johnny Cash’ show i Ryman Audithorium. Bandet hadde så langt hatt en meget hektisk turné, med konserter annenhver kveld. Etter konsertene i Jacksonville noen dager tidligere, skulle de nå oppholde seg i Nashville flere dager, hvilket gir bandet et etterlengtet pusterom. Clapton benytter fritiden til shopping – gitarshopping. Han kjøper en hel haug med Stratocastere som bl.a. kommer til å danne grunnlaget for Blackie. Men hva skjedde mellom handlerunden og ferdig gitar?

Eric Clapton made it

Blackie ble solgt på auksjon i 2004. Foto fra Christie's

Via gode venner som Øivin Fjeld og Phil Hadler fikk vi stilt spørsmålet til Claptons Guitar Tech gjennom mange år, Lee Dickson. Han kom inn i bildet noen år etter at Blackie ble skapt, og har følgende korte kommentar: "Only Eric knows".

Og Erics versjon er bl.a. gjengitt i hans Autobiography (Arrow Books, 2008):

“The guitar I chose to use for my return to recording was one that I had built myself, a black Fender Stratocaster which I had nicknamed 'Blackie'. In the early days, in spite of my admiration for both Buddy Holly and Buddy Guy, both Strat players, I had predominantly played a Gibson Les Paul, but one day, while I was on tour with the Dominos, I saw Steve Winwood with a white Strat, and, inspired by him, I went into Sho-Bud in Nashville, which had a stack of Strats in the back of the shop. They were completely out of fashion at the time and I bought six or seven of them for a song, no more than about $100 each. These were vintage instruments, which today would be worth about a hundred times that. When I got home I gave one to Steve, one to Pete Townshend, another to George Harrison, and kept the rest. I then took three of them and made one guitar out of the three, using the best components of each.”

We [Guitarist, November 2017] ask what it was about this 50s hybrid Strat that made it so special and after a little thought, Clapton replies, “The fact that I made it. It was one of the last guitars that I kind of road-managed myself, really. Therefore it felt like it was invested with some kind of soul, you know…”

Mao. ingen tvil om at Clapton skrudde sammen gitaren selv - hjemme I England.

Men er dette hele historien, eller finnes det mer … Gitarkeologene måtte frem med tannbørste og teskje og undersøke nærmere.

Fender har f.eks. publisert en helt annen historie om Blackie’s tilblivelse på sine hjemmesider. Historien om innkjøpet er den samme, men her slås det fast at det var en gitarmaker i Nashville som bygde Blackie:

Ted Newman Jones made it

Blackiie's velkjente hode med svimerke etter Claptons sigaretter. Foto fra Fenders Media Kit da Custom Shop lanserte en Blackie Re-issue

“Here's the story. …

Clapton gave one of the guitars to Pete Townshend, one to Steve Winwood and another to George Harrison. He kept the remaining three for himself.

He played all three for a while, but ultimately, he liked the idea of having a black Strat. However, while the black ’56 Strat he bought at Sho-Bud had a good body, he preferred the neck of another one of the guitars. So he decided to take all three guitars to legendary Nashville luthier Ted Newman Jones to assemble his ultimate Strat.” [1]

Mao. Ted Newman Jones bygde Blackie I Nashville. Men når skjedde det? Mens Clapton var i Nashville? Neppe. Det harmonerer ikke med at han spilte på de tre gitarene en stund før han bestemte seg for å samle deler til én gitar. Spilte han på de tre gitarene hjemme i England, før han så reiste tilbake til Newman Jones i Nashville for å skru sammen Blackie? Neppe. Ikke desto mindre støttes denne versjonen i en biografi om Ted Newman Jones:

“He came onto the scene in 1970 when he refurbished and reconstructed a number of guitars for Eric Clapton including Clapton’s famous ‘Blackie’ Stratocaster.” [2]

Sho-Bud eller George Gruhn - eller begge?

Serienummeret på Balckie's halsfesteplate indikerer at produksjonsåret er 1957. Bilde fra Guitarist, June 1994

Så langt er imidlertid de fleste enige om at gitaren ble kjøpt hos gitarbutikken Sho-Bud. Men det er ikke George Gruhn – i dag en av verdens ledende vintage guitar eksperter. I e-poster forteller han:

“There is a great deal of folklore regarding the origin of Blackie. I'm not sure how much Eric truly clearly remembers many of the details what was going on in his life at that time. I opened my shop January 1970, which was right about the time when Derek and the Dominoes performed on the Johnny Cash TV show which was taped at the Ryman Auditorium which was located only a few hundred feet away from my shop. When Eric was in town for that event he came to my shop and bought four 1950s maple neck Stratocasters, including one which had been refinished black. He also went around the corner and bought a variety of Stratocaster necks, bodies, and other parts from Sho-Bud. To the best of my knowledge Blackie was assembled from parts and guitars obtained on that visit to Nashville, but I was not present and did not witness assembly process, therefore I cannot attest to who assembled it or which parts came from my shop or Sho-Bud, but I can, however, say that Eric did not come back to Nashville for some time after that, and I am unaware of Newman Jones doing any work in Nashville at that time.

It was my understanding from what I heard later that Blackie was assembled in England. I had never heard that it was assembled in Nashville or that assembling it had anything to do with Newman Jones."

 

KIlder:

[1] https://www.fender.com/articles/gear/iconic-mods-eric-claptons-blackie/
[2] http://ugly-things.com/ted-newman-jones-iii-the-legend-legacy-of-a-crazed-cowboy-guitar-genius/