pounds 450,000 for the cream of guitars

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The Independent Online
THE ROCK star Eric Clapton put a small part of his collection of classic electric guitars on show at Christie's in London yesterday ahead of a sale of 100 of the instruments this summer to raise money for charity.

Andy Fairweather-Low, a longtime member of Clapton's band, put 15 of them through their Slowhand paces for onlookers. The guitars on show included "Brownie", the 1956 Fender Sunburst Stratocaster on which Clapton first played his classic song "Layla".

Fairweather-Low, a former singer with the Sixties pop band Amen Corner, played through "Cocaine", "Layla" and "I Shot the Sheriff".

Brownie is expected to raise pounds 80,000 when it goes on sale in June in New York. Other guitars have been donated by musician friends including Mark Knopfler, lead guitarist with Dire Straits. Other instruments included a rare Gibson Explorer made in 1958, a 1974 Martin steel-string acoustic, and a 1956 Gibson, which Clapton has used since his early days with the band Cream.

Money from the auction will go to the Crossroads Centre in Antigua, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation unit founded by Clapton and named after the classic blues number by Robert Johnson, the alcoholic king of the Louisiana delta blues. It took Clapton 30 years to build his guitar collection but after selling 100 this summer he will still have 50 left to play.

The collection is expected to raise pounds 450,000, but some of the guitars have a reserve price of as little as pounds 1,000.

Clapton's collection features in one of the great rock and roll myths. According to the story, Steve Jones, from the Sex Pistols, was found passed out drunk by Clapton in a London club. Being a kind soul, Clapton took him home and laid him out on his sofa to sleep it off. When Jones awoke, he was struck by fear and momentary panic. He had looked up and all around was the greatest collection of guitars he had ever seen - so he assumed he had died and gone to Heaven.

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