Bobby Whitlock Looks Back On Legendary Eric Clapton Collaboration


50 years after releasing the legendary Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs, keyboardist Bobby WhitlockEric Clapton's primary collaborator in Derek & The Dominos — looked back at writing the album with “Slowhand.” During a chat with Guitar Player, Whitlock explained how he and Clapton gravitated towards each other after they hit the road with Delaney & Bonnie: “He didn’t know what his next step was going to be, but he wasn’t ready to be a solo artist and front his own group. The Dominos was really just a stepping stone to his solo career, of his being able to go out there on his own and be the Eric Clapton that he became.”

Whitlock went on to say that it was Booker T & The MG's guitarist Steve Cropper who helped push him in the right direction: “I didn’t know what I was going to do after I left Delaney & Bonnie. I just knew I didn’t want to go back to Memphis, and I didn’t want to stay in L.A. Steve said, 'Call Eric and just see what he’s up to. Just ask him if you can visit for a couple days.' I said I didn’t have any money, and he said, 'Don’t worry about that. Just call him.' So I called, and Eric picked up the phone! And I told him, 'Hey, I just left Delaney & Bonnie, ’cause they’re driving me nuts, and I have to get out of here.' And he said, 'Why don’t you come on over?' And that was a Wednesday. And I called Cropper back, and he said, 'I’ll have a ticket for you tomorrow.'” I got on the plane and took off with $300, my guitar and a suitcase, and the clothes on my back. I arrived at Heathrow and exchanged my dollars for pounds. I got a cab and said, 'Take me to Hurtwood Edge!'”

Whitlock soon proved himself to be the most consistent and important songwriting collaborator of Clapton's career to that point, with the pair tearing through one new brilliant tune after the other: “'I Looked Away' was the very first one. And then 'Anyday,' and then 'Tell The Truth.' It really felt natural for us to write together, because we were friends first and we weren't writing to make money or anything like that. We were just writing songs to have something we could play together.”

Whitlock still remains awestruck at the ease in which he and Clapton came up with the original material for the Layla album: “We just clicked. It was like Lennon & McCartney, or Jagger & Richards. We were a quintessential writing team. The collaboration was just perfect, and the songs poured out effortlessly.”

The Dominos included drummer Jim Gordon, bassist Carl Radle, and guest guitarist Duane Allman. The players had their first inkling of what kind of band they would be while backing George Harrison for his first post-Beatles set, All Things Must Pass: “I remember when we were doing our tour of the United States. We were riding in a station wagon somewhere up in Minnesota, heading to a gig, and ‘My Sweet Lord’ comes on the radio. At the time, it was the Number One record in the country. And there we were, four guys in a car, heading to some little gig somewhere. I mean, we were the guys on a Number One record, and nobody even knew who the hell we were!”

During a recent interview, when the question was posed about the writing of “Bell Bottom Blues,” rather than go on record as stating that he co-wrote the song — which until recently had been solely credited to Eric Clapton — Bobby Whitlock, who remains close with the guitarist, emailed him and wrote down his recollection of how the pair came up with the song: “I said, ‘I hope this refreshes your memory.’ Y’know? And he wrote back to me in three-and-a-half minutes, saying, ‘You’re right! Y’know?’ (Laughs) And he said, ‘I’ll take care of this. I’ll make it right’ — and he did. And so, as of now, from now on, my name’s going to be on everything that has anything to do with ‘Bell Bottom Blues’ and all the future releases, when they put the 50th anniversary box set together. So, everything has been made right. This is, like, brand new, man. You’re the first person to know about this outside from, y’know, people close.”

Bobby Whitlock On Updated ‘Bell Bottom Blues’ Credits :