How Eric Clapton Got the Nickname “Slowhand”

The nickname “Slowhand” was not, as is commonly thought, given to Clapton due to playing the guitar slowly.  Rather, it was given to him because of audiences giving him a slow hand clap when he would replace guitar strings on stage.  When most guitar players break a string on stage, a roady will typically bring them another guitar and fix the string on the old one off-stage.  Clapton, on the other hand, had a practice of standing on stage and replacing and tuning the string in front of the audience.  While he was doing this during one particular performance, the audience gave him a slow clap or a “slow hand” until he had fixed it and was ready to play again.  This slow-clap ultimately became a common thing with Clapton, while with the Yardbirds, where whenever he’d break a string during a performance, the audience would give him a slow clap until he was finished replacing it.  According to Eric Clapton, the guy that managed the Yardbirds, Giorgio Gomelsky, then gave him the nickname “Slowhand”: “He coined it as a good pun. He kept saying I was a fast player, so he put together the slow handclap phrase into Slowhand as a play on words.”


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  • I played as a teenage member of a “back-up” band, that shared the bill with Eric and the other Yardbirds, back in about ’64-’65, in Gravesend, Kent.
    He broke his E- string 2 or 3 times, and got the “slow handclap” from the audience, though in a rather good- natured way. When he finally got it together, the Yardbirds brought the house down.
    What nobody ever realised was that he was experimenting with banjo strings (much lighter) on his fender that night, and came a cropper for his endeavours to bend the strings more.
    “Slowhand” of course, became an ironic nickname for one of the world’s most exceptionally talented fast (when required” guitarists.
    All the best, Brian.

  • I take it that you mean my story is awaiting consideration, not moderation. That would not be necessary…I do not exaggerate.

    • Daven Hiskey

      @Brian Collier: Moderation. We get about 100K spam comments per day, most of which are auto-filtered of course. But new commenters where the comment doesn’t look like spam are always put in moderation until reviewed by me, which can sometimes take a while particularly on the weekend. 🙂