The First Time I Saw EC

Slowhand Magazine, December 30, 1995

My contribution to Slowhand Magazine's "First Time" series.

When I wrote this article, I used the best information available at the time. Since then, I have found two additional sources of information that disprove what I previously believed to be true. "Legs" Larry Smith had a toy guitar instead of a ukelele. A trivial detail, except that Keith Moon would later appear onstage and hit Clapton on the head with it!

When Clapton introduced Pete, Keith actually appeared onstage. This disputes my sixth paragraph and also Marc Roberty's account. Pete only appeared onstage once during the encores to play "Layla," "Badge" and "Little Queenie." Finally, Keith Moon apparently was not allowed to play Jamie Oldaker's drums after damaging them the night before in Atlanta. He played maracas in Greensboro.

All the photographs are from that night. The black and white photos are courtesy of Gray Ragan and the color photos are from Butch. He has more pictures and his account of the concert here and here. If you can't bring up these sites, they are mirrored here and here.

The first time I saw EC I was, as the song says, 18 and I liked it! So did the other 18,000 in attendance, with the possible exception of the 18 arrested on drug charges!

My high school friends shared an appreciation of music by Eric Clapton, The Who, The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, etc. This separated us from the multitudes mindlessly disco dancing. So, when Eric Clapton's first North Carolina appearance was scheduled for August 2, 1974, my friend Bob Lucas and I decided to attend our first major rock concert.

I was rather testy before the show. "Festival seating" was physically exhausting and shoving caused tempers to flare. Well, I can't help it that I was shoving! I was anxious for the show to start, because we had to repeat the three hour drive after the concert. The warmup band, Ross, only delayed the real show. A couple of fans mentioned that Keith Moon & Pete Townshend joined Eric in Atlanta the
night before. "The big cities have all the luck," I grumbled. Still, there was a moment of giddy anticipation when the lights went down and "Pinball Wizard" blared from the PA system.

To my extreme displeasure, "Legs" Larry Smith came out and did a Pete Townshend imitation with a ukelele. It appeared that more time would be wasted with a comedy act. Fortunately, "Legs" was just there to introduce Eric, who began with the Charlie Chaplin song "Smile." With such an unusual opening, I did not totally believe that I was seeing Eric Clapton until he started "Easy Now." Eric's attire at 1974 concerts was often bizarre, but not in Greensboro. He did, however, remove his shoes and socks during the show!

"Can't Hold Out," "Tell the Truth" and "Blues Power" followed, with George Terry providing all of the slide and most of the lead guitar. "Have You Ever Loved a Woman" featured Eric's finest playing of the evening.

Eric suddenly quipped "And tonight, for your pleasure or my pain, one of the two, the great Pete Townshend." I expected

the reappearance of the dreaded comedian while Clapton took a break. Wrong! Suddenly, instead of seeing my favorite guitarist, I was seeing my TWO favorite guitarists. After years of wondering, I learned that Eric and Pete played "Willie and the Hand Jive" and "Get Ready." Pete returned later with Keith Moon, who forcibly removed Jamie Oldaker from his drums, for "Badge" and "Little Queenie."

Two sources helped me reconstruct the event. A bootleg of the concert contained most of the songs listed above plus "I Shot the Sheriff" and "Let It Rain." A bootleg is a great concert souvenir and now I can listen to Eric's introduction of Pete over and over again! Marc Roberty's "Slowhand: The Life and Music of Eric Clapton" helped me realize that "Willie and the Hand Jive" was unfamiliar because the single and album had not yet been released. I remembered Eric trying to remove Yvonne Elliman's blouse with the neck of his guitar. The book helped me realize that this was during "Get Ready." I have to disagree with Marc on one point. I was listening for "Layla" and never heard it.

This was by no means Eric Clapton's best performance. His solos were agile enough, but lacked the focus and tone he now possesses. Even with Pete's presence, the Great Guitar Gala I expected never really occurred. With Keith's presence, it seems likely that many of the musicians were inebriated. Still, for me, seeing half of Derek and the Dominos with half of The Who was almost like seeing The Beatles.

With college and career pursuits and Eric's musical changes of the late 1970's, my interest diminished but never died. Ironically, giving Bob the "Crossroads" CD set when I visited him reacquainted me with Eric Clapton's massive body of work. I have attended a total of twelve of his concerts in 1974, 1990, 1992,
1994, and 1995. Music remains a vital interest, although I generally enjoy yesterday's Blues more than today's Rock. While my own guitar playing is far from flawless, the enjoyment and escape this affords is unparalleled. Of all the reasons I am grateful to Eric Clapton, this one tops the list.

Reprinted with permission from "Slowhand Magazine," December 30, 1995 issue. Copyright 1995, 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.

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