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Bidding starts at $1 million, as Eric Clapton's 1954 Fender Stratocaster ”Slowhand” is up for auction

Eric Clapton 1954 non-tremolo Stratocaster
(Image credit: Gotta Have Rock and Roll)

Eric Clapton's 1954 Fender Stratocaster has been put up for auction. With the opening bid set at an eye-watering $1 million, it is expected to be one of the world's most expensive electric guitars.

Nicknamed Slowhand, the Strat is a rare non-tremolo model that Clapton tuned to open G and used extensively in the studio an onstage for slide parts, notably opening his 1979 sets with the toe-tapping Tusla Time and Early In The Morning. It was on regular rotation until circa 1985.

The serial number reads 7431. Under the neck-butt it reads "T-G-54" in pencil, "TG" standing for Tadeo Gomez, the Fender employee who shaped the neck.

Spec-wise, there are a trio of Strat single-coils, which if they are original '54 models – the year the Strat was launched – they should have Alnico magnets, staggered hand-beveled pole pieces, heavy-gauge Formvar magnet wire and magnificent dynamics. (You can read more about '54 Strat pickups here.)

There is the usual complement of volume and tone controls. However, the listing specifies a five-way pickup selector, which suggests a mod, but Clapton certainly was one to use those in-between positions on the three-way switches, notably on tracks such as Bell Bottom Blues.  

The neck has the characteristic skunk stripe down the back, and as per the Fender catalogue of 1954 it promises a "slim fast" ride. Elsewhere, you've got a white pickguard and six adjustable saddles.

It is interesting to see Clapton using a non-tremolo Strat. Latterly he would prefer a blocked tremolo to a hardtail on the grounds that they sounded better, but he sure got a lot of mileage out of this one.

Under the microscope: Eric Clapton's 'Blackie' Strat

Among the case candy is a signed letter of authenticity from Clapton's guitar tech, Lee Dickson – indeed, his handwriting adorns a sticky-tape label on the case that reads “'54 S/Burst Fender Strat #7431.“ You also get a signed gold edition of Slowhand the album and a strap.

The auction is being hosted by Gotta Have Rock and Roll and opens on 25 November (Wednesday). It is expected to fetch between $1.5 million and $2 million – which, if you take into account the $3.9 million that David Gilmour's Black Strat went for, could be considered something of an entry-level Strat for the one per cent.

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.