Story behind Clapton’s nickname

The Story Behind Eric Clapton’s Nickname “Slowhand”

Eric Clapton, the renowned guitarist and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, has been widely known by his nickname “Slowhand.” This intriguing moniker has sparked curiosity among fans and music enthusiasts alike. Let’s delve into the origins of this nickname and explore the various stories behind it.

Giorgio Gomelsky’s Play on Words

One version of the story credits Giorgio Gomelsky, Clapton’s music manager, with coining the nickname “Slowhand.” Gomelsky, recognizing Clapton’s exceptional guitar skills and his ability to play lightning-fast, saw an opportunity for irony and humor. He playfully referred to Clapton as “Slowhand,” contrasting his nickname with his remarkable speed and dexterity on the guitar [2].

The Slow Handclap Phenomenon

Another account comes from Chris Dreja, Clapton’s bandmate in The Yardbirds. Dreja observed that during live performances, Clapton would occasionally break a guitar string. As Clapton swiftly replaced the broken string on stage, the English audiences would respond with a “slow handclap,” a sarcastic and mocking form of applause. This slow handclap, meant to poke fun at Clapton’s string-breaking incidents, sparked Gomelsky’s imagination and led to the adoption of the nickname “Slowhand.”

Clapton’s String-Breaking and Changing Ritual

In his autobiography, Clapton himself sheds light on the circumstances that contributed to his nickname. He reveals that he used light-gauge guitar strings, which made it easier for him to bend notes during his playing. Consequently, during particularly energetic and frenetic parts of his performances, Clapton would frequently break at least one string. As he attended to the string replacement, the audience would often respond with a slow handclap, cementing the association between Clapton and the nickname “Slowhand.”

The “Slowhand” Album

Clapton’s nickname gained further popularity with the release of his album “Slowhand” in 1977. The album featured iconic tracks such as “Cocaine” and “Wonderful Tonight” and achieved tremendous commercial success, selling over 3 million copies in the United States alone. The album’s title undoubtedly contributed to solidifying Clapton’s association with the nickname “Slowhand.”

In conclusion, Eric Clapton’s nickname “Slowhand” is a testament to his exceptional guitar skills and the various stories surrounding its origin. Whether it was Giorgio Gomelsky’s playful wordplay, the slow handclap response from the audience, or Clapton’s own string-breaking incidents, the nickname has become an integral part of Clapton’s legacy in the music world.


  1. “Why is Eric Clapton Called Slowhand” – American Songwriter
  2. “The Story Behind Why Eric Clapton is called Slowhand” – American Blues Scene
  3. “How Eric Clapton got the name ‘Slowhand'” – Far Out Magazine


How did Eric Clapton get the nickname “Slowhand”?

Eric Clapton acquired the nickname “Slowhand” through various accounts. One version attributes it to Giorgio Gomelsky, Clapton’s music manager, who playfully referred to him as “Slowhand” as a humorous contrast to his fast playing style.

What is the significance of the “slow handclap” in relation to Clapton’s nickname?

The slow handclap phenomenon played a role in the origin of Clapton’s nickname. During live performances, when Clapton would break a guitar string and replace it on stage, English audiences would respond with a sarcastic and mocking applause known as a “slow handclap.” This audience reaction inspired the adoption of the nickname “Slowhand.”

Did Clapton’s string-breaking incidents contribute to his nickname?

Yes, Clapton’s string-breaking incidents played a part in the development of his nickname. Clapton used light-gauge guitar strings, which made it easier for him to bend notes but also increased the likelihood of string breakage. As he changed the broken strings on stage, the audience would often respond with a slow handclap, further solidifying the association between Clapton and the nickname “Slowhand.”

How did Clapton’s album “Slowhand” impact his nickname?

The release of Clapton’s album “Slowhand” in 1977 further popularized his nickname. The album’s success, featuring hit songs like “Cocaine” and “Wonderful Tonight,” contributed to the association of Clapton with the nickname “Slowhand” and solidified its place in his musical legacy.

Is there any other version of the story behind Clapton’s nickname?

Yes, another version of the story suggests that Gomelsky, while teasing Clapton about his playing, came up with the nickname “Slowhand” as a pun. Gomelsky playfully combined the phrase “slow handclap” into “Slowhand” to create a humorous play on words.

How has Clapton embraced his nickname throughout his career?

Clapton has fully embraced his nickname “Slowhand” throughout his career. He has used it as the title of one of his albums and continues to be recognized and referred to by this iconic nickname.

Is “Slowhand” Clapton’s only nickname?

No, Clapton has been associated with other nicknames throughout his career, such as “God” due to his immense guitar skills and influence in the music industry.

What impact has Eric Clapton had on the music industry?

Eric Clapton is regarded as one of the greatest guitarists in rock history. His contributions to blues and rock music have had a significant influence on subsequent generations of musicians. Clapton’s soulful playing style, emotive guitar solos, and powerful songwriting have earned him a place among the most respected and influential artists in the music industry.