Eric Clapton's music career began after his dismissal from the Kingston College of Art in London. Focused more on blues music and guitar, Clapton began playing in local pubs around his hometown of Surrey, England, in 1962. At seventeen, he joined his first band, the Roosters. In less than a year, Clapton's highly-praised guitar work caught the attention of Keith Relf and Paul Samwell-Smith, who asked Clapton to join their band, the Yardbirds.
Clapton played with the Yardbirds for 18 months, earning the nickname "Slowhand." He recorded two albums with the Yardbirds, Five Live Yardbirds and Sonny Boy Williamson and the Yardbirds, before leaving after the group decided to abandon its blues roots and record the pop-oriented "For Your Love."
After the Yardbrids, Clapton joined John Mayall's BluesBreakers. His increasing versatility and instrumental prowess garnered Clapton mainstream attention, stirring one graffiti artist to write "Clapton is God" on the wall of a London subway station. After little more than a year, Clapton left the BluesBreakers and formed Cream with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker. Defining the term "Power-trio," Cream released three well-receieved albums, Fresh Cream, Disraeli Gears, and Wheels of Fire, and became regarded as one of the best live bands in the world. Extensive touring and internal strife, however, caused the band to implode after only two years.
Shortly after Cream's demise, Clapton formed Blind Faith with Baker, Steve Winwood, and Rick Grech. They released one album and quickly disbanded as Clapton grew more frustrated with his iconic roll as a "guitar god." In an attempt to shun his increasing fame, Clapton took the reserved roll of sideman with folk-rockers Delaney & Bonnie & Friends.
After releasing his self-titled solo debut in 1970, Clapton created Derek & the Dominos with members of Delaney & Bonnie's backing band. They recorded Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, but the album failed to connect with audiences upon its release and the group broke up before a second album could be made. Disillusioned, Clapton became addicted to heroin and went into reclusion for three years.
At the behest of his friend Pete Townshend, Clapton began performing again in early 1973. He reinvented his sound with his second solo album, 461 Ocean Boulevard. Clapton has continued to release albums under his own name since, though in 2005 he did reunite with Cream for a series of shows in London and New York.