Eric Clapton’s ‘Wonderful Tonight’ Guitar Estimated To Fetch $500,000 At Auction

In the world of music memorabilia, few items hold as much significance as the instruments played by legendary artists. Now, one such treasure is set to captivate collectors and fans alike: Eric Clapton’s cherished Martin 000-28 flat-top acoustic guitar, which he used to compose the timeless ballad “Wonderful Tonight.” Bonhams, which is hosting the auction, estimates the guitar’s value between $380,000-$510,000.

This particular Martin 000-28, serial number 353275, was Clapton’s constant companion throughout the mid-1970s. It quickly became his go-to acoustic for both live performances and studio sessions. Clapton himself has described the instrument as “a working instrument and probably my best friend at the time.”

Eric Clapton's Martin 000-28 Flat-Top Acoustic Guitar
Eric Clapton’s Martin 000-28 Flat-Top Acoustic Guitar. (credit: Bonhams)

The guitar’s most notable claim to fame is its role in the creation of “Wonderful Tonight,” Clapton’s love song to his then-girlfriend and muse, Pattie Boyd. The story goes that one evening, as Boyd was getting ready for a night out, Clapton waited patiently, “fiddling with his guitar.” When Boyd finally emerged and asked, “Do I look alright?” Clapton responded by singing the now-famous lyrics:

“It’s late in the evening, She’s wondering what clothes to wear,
She puts on her make-up, And brushes her long blonde hair,
And then she asks me, ‘Do I look alright?’
And I say, ‘Yes, you look wonderful tonight'”

Boyd, in her autobiography “Wonderful Today,” reflected on the song’s emotional impact.

“‘Wonderful Tonight’ was the most poignant reminder of all that was good in our relationship, and when things went wrong it was torture to hear it,” she wrote.

The Martin 000-28 also bears a unique tribute to one of Clapton’s musical influences. Affixed to the upper bout side is a large white bumper sticker with blue lettering that reads, “SHE’S In Love With A RODEO MAN.” This sticker refers to the title of a 1974 recording by country singer and songwriter Don Williams, whom Clapton admired for the lyrical simplicity of his songs.

Clapton’s friendship with Williams led to several collaborations, including a cover of Williams’ “We’re All The Way” on Clapton’s 1977 album “Slowhand” and a performance of “She’s In Love With A Rodeo Man” during Clapton’s 1978 U.S. tour.

Throughout the latter half of the 1970s, this Martin 000-28 was Clapton’s constant companion, appearing on stage and in the studio on numerous occasions. Notable appearances include:

  • Concert at the Crystal Palace Bowl, London, on July 31, 1976
  • “Slowhand” album, recorded in May 1977 and released in November that year
  • BBC TV’s “Old Grey Whistle Test,” Television Theatre, on April 26, 1977
  • Tours in 1977 and 1978
  • The unreleased documentary “Eric Clapton And His Rolling Hotel,” later released as part of ITV’s “South Bank Show”

In 1999, Clapton made the difficult decision to part with this beloved instrument, selling it at Christie’s to raise funds for his Crossroads Centre charity in Antigua. In the original catalogue entry, Clapton described the Martin as his “chief guitar throughout the 1970s” and emphasized its importance to him during that period. It sold for $173,000.

Reflecting on the auction in a 2000 interview, Clapton shared what it meant letting go of this guitar.

“There were three or four guitars that actually got to me, but the two that really did were an acoustic Martin — which was not an expensive guitar — and it had a sticker on the side which said ‘She’s In Love With A Rodeo Man,'” explains Clapton. “I’d had that since the ’70s and that guitar went everywhere with me. During the auction, the guys were all around me, and I felt myself starting to cry.”

As the guitar hits the auction block once again in 2024, marking its 50th anniversary, it remains in remarkably good, original condition, bearing only the marks of Clapton’s extensive use — most notably, the wear on the fingerboard and the cigarette burns on the headstock.

The auction begins June 12. Click here for more information.

HobbyListings editor Matt Higgins contributed to this report.

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