Legendary Guitar: The Saga of Eric Clapton’s Famous Fool SG

Eric Clapton fans, here’s a treat for you! Gibson.com has just published a G-R-E-A-T article about the legendary SG “Fool Guitar”!

[Originally by Steven Rosen | 04.16.2008, Gibson.com]

The legend of the Psychedelic SG¯as it was sometimes referred to¯was oft-told and varied from telling to telling. Clapton’s Les Paul Standard had been stolen and replaced with this Gibson. Initially, everyone referred to it as a Les Paul SG. But they were wrong. Les Paul did not like the new SG design and asked that his name be taken off the model. By 1963, the guitars were known simply as SG Standards.

There were no Les Paul SGs in 1964.

Not only was it identified incorrectly model-wise, but everyone also goofed up the year. Originally, everybody thought it was a 1961; a close examination of the body revealed a sixth screw hiding just under the lower left corner of the bridge pickup. Prior to 1964, only four screws were used. That was the giveaway.

Clapton’s guitar, then, was a 1964 regular issue SG Standard.

When he first began playing the Gibson, the guitar was still fitted with the original Deluxe Vibrolo tremolo arm; Clapton simply fixed the mechanism in place. The vibrato bar was eventually removed and replaced with two other tailpieces: another Gibson tremolo with a flexible piece of metal instead of springs; and a non-tremolo trapeze-style unit.

The tuning heads were switched out from the standard-issue ivoroid Klusons to Grovers.

And then there was that trippy acid-influenced paint job by the Fool. A Dutch design collective and band (they released one eponymous album produced by Graham Nash), the original members were artists Simon Posthuma and Marijke Koger. The hippie pair had designed clothes and album covers for the Hollies, Procol Harum, the Move, and the Incredible String Band. But it was after seeing what they’d created for the Beatles pals that Eric fell under the influence.

Eric Clapton

Simon and Marijke had psychedelicized one of George Harrison’s Stratocasters and transformed both John Lennon’s piano and one of his Gibson acoustics. They’d also illustrated an astonishing three-storey mural on one of the exterior walls of the Beatles’ Apple Boutique in London.

Eric saw that and knew immediately he wanted his recently-acquired Gibson SG turned Fool-ishly psychedelic. The original cherry finish was given a coat of white primer and then the oil-based paints were applied on top. Brushed-on enamels. Every inch of the instrument was painted including the back of the neck and even the fretboard.

Maybe not such a great idea at the time.

Eric Clapton with Fool SG

The psychedelic graphic was as weird as it was beautiful. A winged wood sprite with curls of fire sat astride a cotton candy cloud. His left hand grasped a triangle while his right hand held a spoon-shaped beater about to strike it. The arch of his right foot balanced gently atop a tone control, while the toes on his left pointed delicately downwards towards a pickup’s toggle switch. Yellow six-sided stars sprinkled against a sky of azure and aqua orbited him. Swirls, flames and gradient shades of blues, greens, and yellows danced across the instrument’s body. An orange orb dipped behind a burnt sienna mountain range that floated across the pickguard.

During live performances, paint chips literally flaked and flecked off the neck while Clapton played. Eventually, all the excess paint was permanently removed. Soon, Clapton began using Gibson ES-335s and Gibson Firebirds. One day, he simply left the guitar with George Harrison, who was a friend, and never returned for it.

Around June 1968, the Beatle, in turn, loaned it to Jackie Lomax. The singer was signed at the time to Apple Records and George knew he needed a guitar so he gave Jackie the legendary SG.

In 1971, while in Woodstock, New York, Lomax and Todd Rundgren met at a session and became friends. Rundgren was astonished when he learned that Lomax owned that very same guitar he’d seen hanging from Eric Clapton’s neck. He told Jackie about seeing the guitar back in ’67 and what an impression it had made on him.

A year later, in 1972, to Rundgren’s shock, Lomax offered to sell him the guitar for $500. Lomax’s only caveat was that he had the option to buy the guitar back. A year passed and not a word was heard.

In 2000, Rundgren sold the Psychedelic Fool Gibson SG at a Sotheby’s silent auction, where it brought $150,000. This anonymous buyer re-sold the instrument several years later for an estimated $500,000.

This is an abridged version of the original article. To read it in full, please view article on gibson website.

The Vintage Eric Clapton “Fool” SG Copy:

Thankfully, Eric Clapton fans don’t need to spend thousands of pounds for a little taste of the “Fool”. Vintage make a very credible and high-quality copy of Clapton’s guitar, the VS6 ICON Series Fool” SG (view page) Each hand made Vintage® Icon Series™“Fool” guitar is a true, ‘one of a kind’ instrument, with unique artwork exquisitely and individually hand painted, in oils, in a faithful re-creation of the iconic guitar. They seem to have done a great job, just compare the original Fool SG (left) with the Vintage copy (Right)

The original Fool SG Vintage copy. Fooled? (click to enlarge)

A trained eye might spot a few minnor differences (like the number of stars)…maybe due to copyright issues or something?

Vintage Fool SG Features:

  • Body: Mahogany
  • Neck: Mahogany – Set Neck
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Scale: 24.75″/628mm
  • Frets: 22
  • Neck Inlays: Pearloid Crown
  • Tuners: Wilkinson® Deluxe WJ44
  • Bridge: Tune-O-Matic with Stop Bar Tailpiece
  • Pickups: Wilkinson® Double Coil x 2 (N)MWVC (B)MWVC
  • Hardware: Chrome (VS6/ VS6B/ LVS6) Gold (VS6CG)
  • Controls: 2 x Volume/ 2 x Tone/ 3-Way Toggle
  • more info HERE

VIDEOS:

Watch: Eric Clapton explain sthe subtleties of guitar playing and the famous “woman tone”

Watch: Cream’s “Tale Of Brave Ulysses”…Clapton uses his legendary SG

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~ by dolphinblog on April 17, 2008.

7 Responses to “Legendary Guitar: The Saga of Eric Clapton’s Famous Fool SG”

  1. Great article! Gotta love it.

  2. I am the guy that sold the delux 1963 sg tuners to Eric Claptons guitar tech. They were to be put on Eric Claptons The Fool Guitar, the one that george Harrison left Clapton after his death, or so i was told. i was also promised a “signed copy ” of the Crossroads dvd ???? never got it, so if the tech is reading this i hope that he will make good on his promise.. but on a lighter note: great article…………..

  3. DUDE! Get yours eyes checked. The Vintage “copy” is in name only. “Minor differences” in the painting? Don’t think so!

  4. Umm, I must have a trained eye. (not). Other than it having 2 pickups and the shape of the SG, it’s not very close at all. The painting is a poor representation of the origial and should not be considered a “copy” but a rendition. “maybe due to copyright issues or something”? More like, “Didn’t have the original to paint from”.

  5. The “copy” is more like a cartoon version of the original. Reminds me of the “fools” that are sold out of Las Vegas for $5,500. Not anything like the original. What a ripoff!

  6. That “replica” looks like one of the ones Ed Roman was trying to foist on the unsuspecting. I have a true replica painted by the incomparable Ian Wilkie twenty years ago utilizing an original ’64 SG. It’s one of my favorites and sounds as good as it sounds.

  7. I believe I read and saw an interview with George Harrison where he said he painted his own Strat using some dayglo paints and Patti Boyds nail varnish.

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