DALLAS, Texas - Guitar-king Eric Clapton hosted a three-day festival featuring tens of guitarists, all of whom played guitars once owned and recently auctioned by Clapton. Proceeds from the guitars and the festival went to Crossroads Centre, the nonprofit drug and alcohol rehabilitation center Clapton founded on the Caribbean island of Antigua, where he lives.
"I was with Cream once," said Clapton just before introducing performers using his old guitars. Those performers included B.B. King, Carlos Santana, Keith Richards, Bruce Springsteen, the still-unknown-once-lead-guitar player for Herman's Hermits, Jeff Beck, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, Joe Walsh, J.J. Cale, Bo Diddley, Gene Cornish, James Taylor, Paul Simon, Vince Gill, Buck Owens, Robbie Robertson, Willie Nelson, Elvis Costello, John Kerry, Howard Dean, Mick Jagger and Billy Joel.
"I know as many chords as Bo Diddley," said Mick Jagger, "so Eric let me in the festival."
"I know more chords than Jagger," said Billy Joel, still bandaged from a recent car accident, "so Eric let me in the festival."
"Vote for me," said Kerry.
"I can still hold a guitar around me shoulder," said Richards, "but I have no idea which fingers go where any more. I don't even know how many fingers I have any more."
"This was more than two years in the making and the biggest undertaking we've ever done," said Peter Jackson, Clapton's tour manager since 1978. "It just got bigger and bigger and bigger," he said.
The surprise of the weekend shocked everyone as elder statesman of the blues, Robert Johnson, thought to be dead for decades, came out on stage and played during Clapton's set. "Clapton crapped his pants," said Jackson, who later cleaned the mess. "Eric thought he was dead. We all did."
Johnson played to a standing ovation and later slapped a lawsuit on Clapton, claiming residuals from Clapton's latest album, Me and Mr. Johnson, which features all songs written by the thought-to-be-dead blues great.
"I had no idea who he was," said Billy Joel, "but Eric sure did."
The festival offered hands-on guitar clinics, interactive manufacturer exhibits and a display of guitars either owned by or once looked at by Eric Clapton.
The Crossroads festival was held at Dallas Fair Park and Cotton Bowl Stadium, coordinates with the start of Clapton's summer U.S. tour, which begins June 9 in Oklahoma City and continues until audiences have grown tired of his rendition of Sunshine of Your Love.
Clapton, 59, who overcame a drug and alcohol addiction in the 1970s, said he was happy with the festival and reminded reporters he was once with the group Cream.