“The first time I saw a Martin, it was like an exotic creature”: Watch Eric Clapton run the rule over his Guitar Center exclusive signature acoustics

Guitar Center has put together an exclusive run of limited edition acoustic and electric guitars to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival, and among them are a trio of signature Martins for Slowhand himself.

To launch the collection, Guitar Center’s Michael Doyle dropped in on Clapton to present him with a pair of Martins to get his seal of approval. First up was a D-28 with a build inspired by Clapton’s 000 signature guitar; Sitka spruce on top, Indian rosewood on the back and sides, herringbone rosette and purfling, ebony fingerboard with diamonds-and-squares inlaid in abalone pearl, and Clapton’s signature inlaid in MOP at the top of the fingerboard. 

They’re only making 60 of these, each priced $4,499. The sight of has Clapton recalling his long love affair with the storied acoustic guitar brand, and how they were like an “exotic creature” when he first laid eyes on them.

“It was a D-28 way back in the early ‘60s, and someone said, ‘I’ve got a Martin. Do you want to see it?’ And a group of people formed a circle to look at this thing.”

Martin x Guitar Center Eric Clapton D-28

Martin x Guitar Center Eric Clapton D-28 (Image credit: Guitar Center)

Next up was a real high-end acoustic guitar, a D-45 with Madagascan rosewood on the back and sides. A limited run of just 25, it is the D-45 replica of the ’68 model that Clapton played onstage with Derek and the Dominoes legendary charity gig on 14 June 1970. It comes with special hard-shell guitar case stencilled with “Eric Clapton Group. Delicate electronic instrument. Handle with care.” 

Clapton recalls that Lyceum gig coming around just as he was warming to a change of pace post-Cream and performing with a little less volume onstage.

I had fallen in love with the whole idea of playing acoustic onstage, having been part of Cream where it was really loud, and two 100-watt Marshalls behind me

Eric Clapton

“That gig was a charity event, and it was just an excuse to take what we’d been mucking around with," he says. "And I had fallen in love with the whole idea of playing acoustic onstage, having been part of Cream where it was really loud, and two 100-watt Marshalls behind me. Unbelievable. And I’d have one of them one and the other one off, but I’d turn the other one on for the solos. What was I thinking? A 100-watts extra for the solo! [Laughs] So playing acoustic, I fell in love with Martin.”

Martin x Guitar Center Eric Clapton D-45

(Image credit: Guitar Center)

This D-45 has all the finery bestowed upon it. There is the slightly rounded headstock edges, the abalone rosette and purfling, the abalone ‘hexagon’ inlays, period-correct gold Grover tuners, with Madagascan rosewood on the headstock facing. Clapton has signed the label on the inside of the guitar. It costs $15,499, and Eric Clapton is a big fan of it.

“Lovely. Lovely tone. It’s great actually,” he says. “Beautiful. Nice neck. Great action. Yeah, that’s all right with me. Yeah, this is fantastic.”

All approved. What we don’t see in the video, however, is a one-of-one Martin D-45 with Brazilian rosewood. A truly high-end guitar for the collector’s market, it was listed at $74,999. 

You can’t have a special Clapton release without a Fender Stratocaster, and Guitar Center has also hooked up with Fender for a couple of signature Strats to mark the occasion.

Fender x Guitar Center CRASH Eric Clapton Stratocaster

Fender x Guitar Center CRASH Eric Clapton Stratocaster (Image credit: Guitar Center)

Again, we’ve got high-end and then very high-end options. The Eric Clapton CRASH Stratocaster is the more affordable at $3,499, and takes its name – and design – from NYC street artist John “CRASH” Matos. 

Limited to 60 instruments, it has an alder body, a bolt-on V profile neck, vintage frets, a blocked synchronized tremolo as per Clapton’s preference, and a trio of Vintage Noiseless Strate single-coils. There is a custom-engraved Crossroads neck plate and it ships in a custom tweed case.

Fender x Guitar Center Eric Clapton Todd Krause Stratocaster

Fender x Guitar Center Eric Clapton Todd Krause Stratocaster (Image credit: Guitar Center)

Now for the Custom Shop Strat, a guitar put together by Fender Master Builder Todd Krause. Finished in Blu Scozia, this is limited to 25, has the soft V profile neck, the Noiseless pickups, and once more the vibrato unit is blocked. But there are some differences. 

The build quality will be off the charts, of course. There is also an active mid boost control that can add up to 25dB, so no need to be running that second Marshall head for the solos. The COA is signed by both Krause and Clapton. As Strats go, this is a latter-day holy grail and is priced accordingly at $14,999.

PRS x Guitar Center Private Stock Carlos Santana I

PRS x Guitar Center Private Stock Carlos Santana I (Image credit: Guitar Center)

Rounding out the collecting is a PRS Private Stock Carlos Santana 1, which comes with a personal letter from Santana himself, and the suspicion that this could well be the original that Paul Reed Smith built the electric guitar icon back in the ‘80s. It has a pre ’85 spec. There’s Brazilian rosewood on the fingerboard. 

There’s custom abalone Santana OM inlay on the truss rod cover. The maple top is a work of art. And there are only 10 of these worldwide. Priced $14,999, they are available exclusively from Guitar Center, which is where you should head for more information and to order.

A portion of the proceeds from these guitars will go to the Crossroads At Antigua addiction recovery centre. The Crossroads Guitar Festival 2023 is also in aid of the centre and takes place on 23 and 24 September, with Clapton performing on both nights and joined by the likes of Joe Bonamassa, Gary Clark Jr, Cheryl Crow, Samantha Fish, Eric Gales and more. See Crossroads Guitar Festival 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.