Eric Clapton auctioned one of two Fender Stratocasters that he played at last year’s Slowhand at 70 concert to pay the medical debts of a fellow musician.
The guitar sold for $45,000 on July 23 through Heritage Auctions in Dallas. The winning bid was made via telephone, and the bidder requested anonymity.
A portion of the proceeds will help Johnny Nicholas, a Texas guitarist who has worked with Asleep at the Wheel, pay off medical bills from his late wife’s treatment for leukemia. The money will also go to support leukemia research.
Nicholas worked with Asleep at the Wheel in 1978 when the band asked him to perform with them. He took time off from music in 1980 to raise a family with his wife, Brenda. The couple owned and managed the Hill Top Café roadside restaurant near Fredericksburg, Texas. Nicholas returned to recording in 1991 and has released several albums. His latest, The Golden Triangle: Swamp Blues, was issued on TopCat Records in 2012.
According to the auction description, “When Brenda was diagnosed with Leukemia, Mr. Clapton was kind enough to offer one of his personally owned and played guitars to help raise money for Brenda's courageous fight. Sadly, Brenda Nicholas recently lost her battle with the disease. However, it is the desire of Mr. Clapton to see this wonderful guitar sold in an effort ease the Nicholas family's medical expenses and to further alternative Leukemia treatment research.”
The Masterbuilt Stratocaster, described as being in mint condition, was built by Todd Krause for Clapton in 2014. The guitar appears nearly as new with the exception of a few very light scratches on the back from Clapton’s playing the guitar. The pickguard is signed by Clapton in black Sharpie, and the auction included a Custom Shop Certificate of Authenticity, hard case, case candy and a tool kit.
Clapton’s Slowhand at 70 shows were held at London’s Royal Albert Hall on May 21, 2015, in celebration of the guitarist’s 70th birthday. In the clip below, he can be seen using one the two Stratocasters on a performance of “Cocaine.”