Eric Clapton’s ‘Wonderful Tonight’ Guitar Fails To Sell At Auction After Not Meeting Reserve

It turned out not to be a wonderful auction for a rare Eric Clapton guitar. According to cllct.com’s Will Stern, the guitar the legendary rocker used to compose the timeless ballad “Wonderful Tonight” failed to sell after not meeting its reserve.


Bidding ended at $360,000 in the Bonhams auction. The auction house originally estimated the guitar’s value between $380,000-$510,000.

Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight” guitar was the top item in the Bonhams auction.

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.

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.”

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