Eric Clapton’s Awkward Audition for The Band Never Panned Out: ‘They Were Magnificent Heroes for Me’

One of the most well-known classic rock guitar players is Eric Clapton. He has had the chance to meet other legends and even shared the stage with Jimi Hendrix. Clapton has had a prolific career with various bands and by himself. John Lennon asked if he wanted to be a part of The Beatles at one point. Despite Clapton’s talents, there seemed to be one band that he failed to join. Simply called The Band, the musician auditioned but failed to make it. 

Eric Clapton on stage with a guitar in front of a dark background
Eric Clapton | Steve Rapport/Getty Images

Eric Clapton was a member of Cream

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Clapton frequented the West End of London and was looking to make a career in the music industry. The artist joined a couple of bands during the early part of his life. He got involved with The Roosters for a few months until the band broke up. Soon after, Clapton joined The Engineers but later left them. In October 1963, the musician got invited to be a member of the Yardbirds. With them, he recorded his first hit, “For Your Love.” Clapton eventually left the Yardbirds in 1965 and joined the Bluesbreakers. 

After Clapton left Bluesbreakers, he formed Cream with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker in 1966. A couple of years later, Clapton got the opportunity to play with former The Beatles member George Harrison. The two co-wrote the song “Badge,” which appeared on the Cream album Goodbye. Even though Cream became increasingly popular, the band still broke up. Reportedly, there was tension between the band members, which led to the group disbanding.

Eric Clapton wanted to join The Band

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The Band is a Canadian-American rock group that produced hits like “Up on Cripple Creek” and “The Weight.” One of the band members was guitarist Robbie Robertson, who was the primary songwriter. The band had their farewell concert called The Last Waltz, and it also served as a documentary. However, before The Band dissolved in the ’70s, Clapton tried to be a part of the group. According to CBC, the musician recalled listening to The Band’s Music from Big Pink. He developed an admiration for them and took an interest in joining the group. 

When Clapton went to go play with them, he noticed that they wore business attire in contrast to his hippie-styled outfit. The guitarist asked if they were going to jam, but the group told him that they do not jam but write songs and play them. Robertson wrote a memoir and explained that he hoped Clapton would not think they were boring. Robertson mentioned that the artist wanted to become a guitarist for them but never got the courage to do it. “I jokingly asked if he was suggesting that we could have two guitar players, or did he want to take my job? He never answered,” Robertson writes. 

Eric Clapton became a solo artist

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Evidently, Clapton realized that being a part of The Band was never meant to be. However, the musician remained good friends with Robertson. Clapton ended up having a solo career. Even though Clapton spent most of his early career with bands, he found success being a solo artist. There was a time when Harrison invited Clapton to perform a solo for The Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Not only did the guitarist perform well, but the other band members recognized that he was one of the best players at the time. So, it came to no surprise that he would do well on his own. 

One of Clapton’s most popular singles was a cover of Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff.” He later released popular albums like No Reason to Cry. The musician continued to show music productivity over the years. He would get inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for the third time as a solo artist.