Was it his fast guitar playing chops?  Was it the fact that he took forever to change his broken guitar strings?  Was it drug-related?  How did Eric Clapton come to be known as Slowhand?  The answer isn't definitive, as the facts and story surrounding the nickname have changed or evolved over the years.

The one thing we know for sure is that Clapton received the nickname from Georgia Gomelsky - the Yardbirds manager, circa 1964.  But why he gave it to him differs, depending on what story you read - and what year the account was written.

One theory suggests that Gomelsky gave Clapton the nickname because when he broke a string onstage, Eric would remain there in the spotlight while he strung a new one on his instrument.  By most accounts, Clapton was a bit of a perfectionist when it came to putting a new string on his axe and it took a long time for him to complete the task.  While they waited, the crowds would usually start to do the "slow handclap".  Consider that "clap" was part of his name and put the "slow" and "hand" part of that together and its easy to see how that nickname would have happened.

While the pertinent details of that story have remained constant over the years, some of the fringe details have changed or evolved.  In some interviews, Clapton would suggest that Gomelsky coined the term as a taunt of Eric's fast fretting skills or the way he held the guitar.  Some interviews, the whole guitar string portion of the story would disappear.

One alternate version that has floated around suggests that the slowhand term was drug-related.

Whatever the finite details, Eric Clapton's nickname was forever branded when he titled his 1977 release "Slowhand" - an album that became a breakout smash.


Some facts for this post were sourced from the following websites: