Todd Rundgren on the time Eric Clapton let him play his 'Blackie' Strat after he snapped a string

Eric Clapton and Todd Rundgren
(Image credit: Michael Putland / Larry Hulst/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Usually, when we break a string on our electric guitar during a jam – and we, erm, forgot to bring a back-up – we spend the next five minutes replacing it while our bandmates impatiently watch on, glancing at their watch and tapping their feet.

For Todd Rundgren, however, breaking a string instead led to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, which lends itself to one of the best string-break stories around.

In an exclusive interview with Guitarist, Rundgren revealed that, during a jam with Eric Clapton in 1974, the legendary bluesman lent the rock maestro his ‘Blackie’ Strat – and his entire rig – to play after he snapped a string on his own axe.

Said Rundgren, “In ‘74, Eric Clapton was headlining Madison Square Garden and he invited me to jam. I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I’m actually going to play with Eric.’ So I get up there and on the very first note, I bust my E string.”

Luckily, Slowhand was there to save the day, with Rundgren recalling, “Eric takes off his ‘Blackie’ Strat, gives it to me and lets me play through his rig, while he called for a spare.

"It was one of the most gentlemanly things a musician has ever done for me, and I've never forgotten it."

As most of us would, Rundgren reacted like a star-struck fan, saying, “I was so bedazzled at that point, I wasn’t even paying attention to how the ‘Blackie’ felt to play. I was too awestruck to evaluate it. I only had a few moments with that guitar, but it was one of the highlights of my life.”

Todd Rundgren

(Image credit: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images)

Elsewhere in the interview, Rundgren revealed he had a similar run in with Slowhand years prior, saying that he had lent Clapton his own guitar when the two crossed paths at an after-hours jam.

“I met him very early in my career, when I was still just in a local blues band. One night, after-hours at the Cafe Au Go Go, a jam session was forming with Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters,” he recalls. “Eric came in, but he had no guitar, and I didn’t travel anywhere without one.

“So I said, ‘Here, take my guitar, please.’ It was a decent guitar, some sort of Gibson semi-acoustic,” he continues. “Then I just sat there for the next hour, in a completely empty club, with just a couple of other hangers-on, watching these guys go through it, for each other, not for an audience.”

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.