“More than just a favourite instrument of one of rock's greatest living guitarists”: Eric Clapton’s ‘Wonderful Tonight’ 000-28 Martin acoustic is heading to auction (again)

Eric Clapton's 1974 Martin 000-28
(Image credit: Bonhams)

The 1974 Martin 000-28 acoustic guitar that Eric Clapton used to write Wonderful Tonight is headed for auction, and is expected to fetch up to $400,000. 

Hosted by Bonhams on 12 June, the auction will see this legendary acoustic go under the hammer for the second time, with Clapton having including it in a massive consignment of 100 guitars that he auctioned off in June 1999 to raise funds for the Crossroads Center Foundation. 

There were some choice pieces in that event. But the Martin was particularly hard to let go. There wasn’t without a little pain on Clapton’s part. “That guitar went everywhere with me,” he said at the time, admitting that, yes, there were some tears as the bidding got under way.

It was, however, all worth it. That event duly raised $4,452,000 for the drug and alcohol rehab facility. Clapton would host further auctions to support his foundation, notably auctioning off his Firebird and Blind Faith Telecaster in 2020. Which might take his mind off that Martin, but maybe not. 

You can't write one of the greatest love songs of all time on it and not think about it from time to time, feeling a pang of regret. With this ’74 000-28 having resided in the 1999 auction buyer's collection ever since, it is now their turn to feel the pain. We would imagine that this is one guitar any player would get a little attached to.  

Eric Clapton's 1974 Martin 000-28

(Image credit: Bonham's)

This is a pretty special acoustic. As the press release says, “this is more than just a favourite instrument of one of rock's greatest living guitarists.” Claire Tole-Moir, head of Bonhams Popular Culture department, describes it as a “one-of-a-kind collectible of immense cultural significance.”

As one of Clapton’s go-to acoustics, it has quite the back story. This was what he used to write one of the all-time great love songs as he was waiting for his then-girlfriend Pattie Boyd to get ready for a night out in 1976. They would later marry in ’79. 

 It is impossible to put a number on the amount of couples who have had Wonderful Tonight played at their wedding but the stats shared by Tole-Moir would suggest it is a fair few.

“With intergenerational appeal, the song’s popularity has grown since its release four decades ago,” says Tole-Moir, “with more than 450 million streams on Spotify, 490 million views across YouTube, and billions of plays on terrestrial radio.” 

That is quite the legacy. Those years of service to Clapton are writ large on the guitar itself. This was not kept in its guitar case and brought out for special occasions. You will find cigarette burns on the headstock. Clapton had a habit of using the headstock as a cigarette holder during performances. 

There is also a sticker on the top side of the body reading “She’s in love with a rodeo man” – a tribute to the Don Williams track that appropriately was released in the same year as this Martin was made. The case itself is pretty cool, too, heavily stencilled with “Eric Clapton Group. Tulsa, Okla.”

The auction gets underway on 12 June at Bonhams Knightsbridge, in London. See Bonhams for more details.

Jonathan Horsley

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.