Planet Clapton

He’d been around, of course.  I was the one not paying attention.

In those early years, as he moved from the increasingly commercialized Yardbirds to John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, I was being introduced to Tom Paxton and Lead Belly. While I practiced my 12-string, Cream (Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker, and Clapton) came and went in just two years, disbanding a few months before Woodstock. 

After Cream, Clapton formed a new group.  Derek and the Dominos released Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs in December of 1970. A tale first told by the Persian poet Nizami, the story of Layla and Majnun became one of rock’s definitive love songs: its famously contrasting movements composed separately by Clapton and Jim Gordon.

Clapton’s contribution to Layla was inspired by his then unrequited love for Pattie Boyd, wife of friend and fellow musician George Harrison.  Though unaware of the details behind its composition, Layla  haunted my life for years. I loved the song, but couldn’t have told you the artist’s name.  It was enough to hear the music, drifting unbidden through the air of two decades and three continents, poignant and breathtaking as an unexpected tear.

Unfortunately, the album opened to lackluster sales, even as its length proved prohibitive for radio airplay. Edited and released as a single in March 1971, it peaked no higher than #51 on the Billboard charts. Depressed by Layla‘s lack of commercial success, the breakup of the Dominos and his own unrequited love for Patti, Clapton retreated into drug addiction, and disappeared from public view.

His re-emergence in 1973 coincided with my departure for Liberia. By the time I returned to the States, his career had risen and fallen again. Apart from noting the story of his son Conor’s death, the beautiful song, Tears in Heaven, written in tribute to the child, and the inevitable mention of his name in conjunction with every award  in the business, Eric Clapton remained no more to me than a name.

All that changed when I began immersing myself in the Blues prior to a trip to Clarksdale, Mississippi. It seemed that Robert Johnson, the Delta Bluesman who left an indelible mark despite his short life and limited discography, had left his mark on Eric Clapton. In a particularly interesting interview, Clapton said:

See, most of my youth, my back was against the wall, and the only way to survive that was with dignity, and pride and with courage.  I heard that in certain forms of music.  I heard it most of all in the blues, because it was always one man with his guitar versus the world.
It wasn’t a company, it wasn’t a band or a group or anything. When you came down to it, it was one guy who was completely alone and had no options, no alternatives whatsoever, other than to sing and play to ease his pain, and that echoed what I felt in many aspects of my life.

Articulate in conversation, thoughtful and composed, Clapton today is one of the most effective blues interpreters among us, and wholly capable of occasional surprises. Asked which book he would take to that mythical desert island if he were denied opportunity to take a full set of Charles Dickens, he settled for Barnaby Rudge.  His favorite music includes Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker and Blind Lemon Jefferson, but there’s room on his list for Luciano Pavarotti singing Che Gelida Manina from  La Boheme,  as well as the Pavane in F-sharp Minor, Opus 50 by French composer Gabriel Fauré.

Given what I’ve learned about Clapton, it seems entirely fitting that he not only performs across the stages of the world, but crosses its skies as well.

Minor Planet 4305/Clapton was discovered March 7, 1976 by astronomers at the George R. Agassiz Station of the Astronomical Observatory associated with Harvard University.

At the time of discovery, the planet was known provisionally as 1976EC. After proceeding through a relatively stringent and complex naming process, the minor planet was designated Clapton as a tribute to the musician (International Astronomical Union Minor Planet Circular Number 16249, dated April 10, 1990).

The substance of the IAU’s recent debate about new definitions and terms for planets and “those things out there between Mars and Jupiter” isn’t particularly relevant here. It’s enough to note that “Small Solar System Bodies” is now the preferred term, but “minor planet” and “asteroid” remain acceptable for common use. Located between Mars and Jupiter in an area of space known as the Asteroid Belt, Minor Planet Clapton is part of a collection of debris which may have originated during the formation of the solar system.

The International Astronomical Union knows little about the physical properties of Clapton. They estimate its diameter to be 8 to 18 kilometers. Like all minor planets, Clapton is composed of rock or a mixture of rock and metal, has no atmosphere and is incapable of supporting life. Just 1/8475 as bright as the faintest objects visible to the naked eye, it can only be seen with a telescope.

Clapton is in a 4.97-year elliptical orbit around the sun, ranging in distance from 405.4 million km at perihelion (closest point to the sun) to 465.8 million km at aphelion (furthest point from the sun). The last perihelion passage occured in January, 2011.

The diagram below shows the orbit of Clapton in relation to the major planets of the inner solar system For those who are interested, clicking on the image will take you to the IAH Minor Planet page with an updated diagram and links, including a link to ephemerides (sky location) for each of the rock’n’roll minor planets. If you’ve not seen Clapton in concert, you at least can determine Planet Clapton’s location in the sky.

 From the IAU: This view of the inner solar system is seen from the north ecliptic pole. The sun is the yellow star at the center of the image. The blue orbits represent, in increasing distance from the center, the major planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars and Jupiter. The position of each major planet at the date indicated at the bottom of the plot is shown by the large circled cross.

The orbit of the minor planet is shown in red, with the location of the minor planet (at the date indicated at the bottom of the plot) shown as a white circled cross. From this vantage point the planets revolve around the sun in a counter clockwise direction. The vernal equinox is off to the right. The portion of the minor planet’s orbit that is below the plane of the earth’s orbit is shaded grey. The perihelion point of the minor planet’s orbit is at the end of the white straight line through the sun indicated by “P”.

Eric Clapton isn’t the only rock musician to have a planet bearing his name. The IAU has honored several others, including, ironically enough, George Harrison.  John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Springsteen, Buddy Holly and Jerry Garcia are in orbit, along with Enya, Peter Gabriel and the BeeGees. The list has something for nearly everyone, although Kurt Cobain and Eddie Van Halen still seem to be working their way through the IAU process.

I’m reminded of the world’s astronomers and their collection of musical planets occasionally, as I wander through a certain boatyard. A fellow working there always is ready for a little conversation, and even if one or both of us is too busy to chat, I still ask, “How’re things?” “Fine, just fine,” he says. “The world’s still rockin’ along.”

And so it is. For proof, turn off the television tonight. Put the kids to bed, or put the computer to sleep, then wander out into the dark. Take time to look around, and be sure to listen very, very closely. If you’re lucky, you’ll hear a distinctive beat as the celestial spheres, oblongs, and chunks travel along their planes.

Should your ear imagine an especially fine riff, a faint vibrato shivering across the cosmos with no apparent beginning, and seemingly without end,  that music just might be emanating from 4305/Clapton: the perfect conjunction of planet and star.

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98 thoughts on “Planet Clapton

  1. Awesome post… Clapton is also one of my favorite musicians. There was a time my friends used to call me Clapton, not for my guitar playing.. For my haircut and Yes it would not surprise me at all to hear one of his riffs in the air as I looked up at the stars!

    1. Thanks, Joe. One of the things I love about Clapton is the way he collaborates with others. “The Road to Escondido,” done with JJ Cale, may be my favorite album. And if you haven’t seen any of his performances backing up people like Sonny Landreth — well, this one will do. It’s fun to watch a performer who is, himself, having fun!


  2. Well, what a wonderful read. I really enjoyed it. Being an avid watcher of the long running TV show, ‘The Sky at Night’, hosted for almost fifty years by Sir Patrick Moore, I had heard of the ‘musicians’ in the sky. Like you, I love the song Layla, and now can hear it going around in my head!

    Tom Paxton…a blast from the past. I saw him in concert four or five times, during the 1970’s What a great entertainer he was – a phrase I could equate to you, too – you entertain us with your writing in so many ways. Thank you.

    1. Well, my dear. I see Mr. Clapton has a series of birthday concerts scheduled for Royal Albert Hall next May. Don’t you think you ought to be there? I very nearly “bit” when he and Steve Winwood came through Houston, and then decided against it.If he’d been touring with JJ Cale, I would have been there in a minute.

      I’m tickled that you knew about the planet-naming. I am glad there’s a bit of a process, and that it’s not like the “give the gift of a star for Christmas” foolishness. I just checked one of those pages, and laughed to see this disclaimer at the bottom: “All Stars are named and recognized under the BuyTheStars brand name and not the IAU.” No kidding.

      Paxton was great. The first song I learned to finger-pick was his Can’t Help But Wonder Where I’m Bound.” I still remember the chording, but I probably listened to that song a thousand times.

      Thanks for those complimentary words, and for stopping by. I’m glad you enjoyed it.


  3. I don’t care if it shows my age, I love Clapton. And if he’s among the stars, I definitely needn’t be embarrassed. He’s on my iphone and I can hear him anytime I choose.

    Going out at night to look at the stars is a wonderful treat for us here at the end of the known world. Hardly any streetlights, dark fields and hills, with not a soul in sight other than sheep and a looming castle ruin making the darkness even darker, the heavens are a miraculous sight whenever the cloud cover recedes. I would hate to live in a city where the sky is forever hidden by artificial light.

    1. Friko, consider this. When Clapton plays the Royal Albert Hall next May for his birthday concerts, he’s going to be celebrating seventy years. I’d say we’re right there in his target audience. Besides, if music’s good, it’s good, and his music is very good. I daresay it’s going to endure longer than we will.

      You are lucky to have the darkness. I was thinking about that last night when a mysterious but very large blackout took place here and lasted for a couple of hours. It distressed the cat so, she woke me up. There wasn’t a light to be seen, apart from the lighthouse and the Hilton across the lake, which apparently has a very large emergency generator. The moon was setting, and it was gorgeous. I went out and admired it all for a while, amazed again by how much light even a partial moon can shed.

      Music and moonlight — you get them both!


  4. Well…..this post led me to places I didn’t expect. Beautiful as the stars and music themselves. Often, late at night, just before going to bed, I step outside and look at the stars. It’s therapeutic. Next time I am out I will listen for the music.

    1. It’s hard to tell what you’ll hear down there, Gallivanta. Perhaps a little piano music, with bull hooves providing a percussive beat?

      Or perhaps a bit of Kiri Te Kanawa? I absolutely love the West Side Story studio sessions, directed by Leonard Bernstein. In this one, both she and Bernstein are having as much fun as Clapton and his groups ever did. I can just see you, singing “I Feel Pretty” as you dance over the grass.


        1. Oh, yes.There’s only one thing wrong with that song. When I hear it — especially as part of a good video, like this one — I miss being at sea. The good news is that I did enough sailing to know that I don’t really want to do more. Not now. Still, the memories are wonderful.

  5. Very nice post, Linda. I have also been a fan of EC since his days with the Yardbirds, although I never did write “Clapton is God” on any walls as many of his fans did. It comes as no surprise that he would be among the heavens.
    BTW, did you know that he and George Harrison never had a problem about Eric’s pursuit, winning away and eventual marriage to Patti. As a matter of fact, Harrison referred to the two of them as “Husbands in law.” :-)
    I think you can see the depth of their friendship in this video, and how much Eric misses George in this one.

    1. Believe it or not, Steve, I actually know two fellows who referred to themselves as “husbands-in-law.” At least they did. One went off to claim a mail-order bride in Bulgaria or somewhere, and the newlyweds decided to stay in eastern Europe. So, I think the old joke is pretty much over.

      I have read about the various complexities of the Clapton/Harrison relationship. You’re right about the depth revealed in those videos. I enjoyed seeing them. I suspect you’ve probably read Clapton’s autobiography. It’s interesting, to say the least.

      I had some pretty big gaps in my knowledge as far as those early days went, because I came to Clapton through the Robert Johnson sessions, then found him paired with JJ Cale, and then worked my way back. It’s been great getting to know his work, and a good bit of blues history through him.


  6. Great post, Linda. I’m a fan of most of Clapton’s work and I have 3 or so of his Cd’s. One has Layla as one of the songs. When I first read that Clapton was besotted with Harrison’s wife, I found that strange but then I reckon that at least he was honest. He’s now living in Ohio, Indiana, or one of the northern states after marrying an American.

    Anyhow, I had no idea that parts of the galaxy have been named after famous musicians. That is too funny. But come to think of it I suppose no more odd than how many plants were named.

    I’m also a fan of the blues but I especially like the “down in the mud” type of blues that is part of the deep South. Those guitar sounds all but speak.

      1. Ha-ha. I had no idea. That is all just more than I could have ever thought about. Unfortunately I have no desire to bother. :-) Steve you are like Linda. An unimaginable source of information. :-)

        1. Check out my response to Sandi, up above, Yvonne. There’s another company who will “sell you a star” — probably for the low, low price of only $19.95. If you’re lucky, they’ll throw in a potato peeler or a bread knife, too!

          1. That’s honky dory,Linda. I’ve never in my life pined so much to have a star given my name sake and maybe a potato peeler, thrown in for good measure. I’ve always needed just one more peeler. One can never have too many peelers in the kitchen do-dad drawer or maybe you know that already.

            I’m joking but I think you know that too. :-)

    1. I do know you were joking about the peeler, Yvonne, but I also know you’re exactly right about never having too many. I’m down to one, and was thinking last night that it might be time for a new, sharper one, since the one I have goes back a couple of decades.

      The IAU’s naming program has room for all sorts: not just musicians. If you’d like to see the entire list of official names, you can scroll through it here. Just a few names I picked from random: Acapulco, Big Ben, Ol’Gusha (a Texas oilfield hit?), Utopia, and Vespa — perhaps for scooting around the heavens!

      I just took a hard right turn into one version of an old, old list called, among other things, “How to Sing the Blues.” I haven’t laughed so hard in a good while. You can see the whole thing here, but here are a couple of favorites.

      “5. Blues cars: Chevys and Cadillacs and broken-down trucks. Blues don’t travel in Volvos, BMWs, or Sport Utility Vehicles. Most Blues transportation is a Greyhound bus or a southbound train. Jet aircraft an’ state-sponsored motor pools ain’t even in the running. Walkin’ plays a major part in the blues lifestyle. So does fixin’ to die.”

      #20. I don’t care how tragic your life: you own a computer, you cannot sing the blues. You best destroy it- with fire, a spilled bottle of Mad Dog, or get out a shotgun. Maybe your big woman just done sat on it. I don’t care.”

      Now I’m going to head off to work all smiley. I guess since I’m writing this on a computer, I can’t sing the blues, but I sure can appreciate them.


  7. Thanks. Jim will enjoy this, also, when he gets a chance to read it (perhaps in a few days…) We’ve been listening to the new tribute album to JJ Cale, which our son bought for Jim recently.

    1. Melanie, I’ve not heard the tribute album yet, but I’ve given “The Road to Escondido” plenty of play time. As the title suggests, it’s some of the best road music out there. I have to be careful about playing it too much at home, lest I be overcome by a desire to hit the road. I need to give that tribute album a listen.


  8. One of the greatest musician’s of all time, in my opinion. Was at my side in tumultuous times, really GOOD times, and everything in between. The tribute song to this son, Conor, is stunningly beautiful. He plays with heart and soul, as evidenced in most “blues” compositions; from which he originated. Stellar post Linda.

    1. The great ones cross every sort of boundary, and their work is capable of touching us through all the times of our lives. The circumstances of his son’s death were so unexpected, so tragic — and yet he was able to transform even that into something for us all.
      I agree with your assessment of him as one of the greatest – and I’m glad you enjoyed the post.


  9. I always love the way you bring us along on your rambles, Linda, easily shifting from one subject to the next. So tonight I got a lesson on music and astronomy. So I am going to close off on this comment and go admire the stars. The moon is a little full tonight for complete appreciation, but I can see the Milky Way from our house as it stretches across the sky in a way that has been lost to urban areas. –Curt

    1. Well, Curt, when you get tired of the stars and start dreaming of your next adventure, the good Mssrs. Clapton and Cale have a little something else for you. How about a kayak and a commitment to “Ride the River”? You and your beloved ought to be ready for it by now!


      1. “Floating down the river, leave all my troubles behind…” My kind of river Linda. Kind of like “floating down the river on a Sunday afternoon,” except in the latter I get to do a little spooning. Do people still spoon? :) -Curt

  10. Oh dear Linda, this is another amazing post/written piece that I read from you. Eric Clapton is a legend, I love him and his music… Thank you for this beautiful musical voyage thtough your words/thoughts… Love, nia

    1. Isn’t it wonderful how music can appeal to people across cultures and language, Nia? There’s room in our worlds for Cheb Mami and Clapton — I’m glad to know you enjoy him, too.


  11. I caught Cream on the first bounce. Disreali Gears and Wheels of fire were two of my favorite albums, two of the 20 odd record albums I still had up until this last move. One of my brother’s “minions” who works in his stringed instrument repair shop was enamored of vinyl and some of the music of that era and ended up with those 20-odd records, my old Garrard turntable, an amp and speakers, and made out like a bandit. I never played the vinyl any more because those albums were replaced by cassettes, and then by CDs.

    Clapton, as well as Bonnie Rait, Eddie Van Halen (who named his son “Wolfgang” after his favorite composer), Stevie Ray Vaughn and Jimi Hendrix are the guitar virtuosos in my pantheon.

    My favorite author has an asteroid named after her, too: Asteroid 77185 Cherryh, discovered March 20, 2001 and named in her honor. She’s in some pretty distinguished company.

    1. I never followed Cream, although a couple of their singles were favorites (“White Room” and “Sunshine of Your Love”). There is a great YouTube bit showing Jimi in London, elbowing his way into a jam with Cream. It’s great..

      And then there’s Van Halen meets Django Reinhardt in “Big Bad Bill is Sweet William, Now”. “Diver Down” was my first Van Halen CD, and I still enjoy it. I wouldn’t quibble at all about your list of guitarists, but I’d add Mark Knopfler and Albert Lee. Well, and for a little variety, Django Reinhardt and Leo Kottke.

      Cool, about Cherryh. Faulkner and Sandburg don’t have planets, but Django does — and Father William. Remember him? (“You are old, Father William…”) Ah, fame.


  12. I finally got here. EC has been a favorite through the years. About 10 yrs ago, I borrowed an electric guitar and amp from a teacher colleague to teach myself to play. I’d tried classical 35 yrs ago and found it too hard. Electric was easier and more fun. Once I started getting the hang of it, I’d put a cd into the player and join in. I have several EC and BB, John Hooker, JJ, Peter Green, Robert Johnson, etc. Today, I start up Pandora and get surprised by each that comes up.

    EC’s latest collaboration with artists for JJ Cale is an interesting set of tunes. I like the way EC works with so many others to create beautiful and moving performances.

    Blues for me is deeply satisfying.

    1. The info about the minor planet was news to me. That’s cool. My daughter bought a certificate for me years ago with a star named for me. I’ve never seen it. Too dim.

      1. Well, that makes perfect sense. I’m sure there are plenty of people with their own stars, and as long as everyone understands how the naming is done, it’s a neat gift. Maybe we should get a campaign going to get you on the IAU’s list!

    2. I suppose whether imitation is or isn’t the sincerest form of flattery is an open question, but there’s no doubt it’s a staple of self-taught guitarists.

      There’s a nice variation that goes on at our monthly bluegrass concerts/jams. Each month, a new song’s introduced for people who want to expand their repertoire. It’s a good way to learn, and a great opportunity for people who otherwise don’t have much chance to play with others. There are a lot of folks who come to the concerts, but just as many come to jam.

      There are so many sources of music available today, but I do love Pandora. I’ve found many, many artists there I never would have surfaced myself, as well as tunes I’ve never heard, done by favorite artists.

      I’m looking forward to the JJ Cale tribute album. As for the blues, do you know R.L. Burnside? He’s gone now, but he was a great Mississippi Hill Country blues player. His grandson, Cedric, plays drums. You can hear R.L. here, on “Rollin’ and Tumblin’.


  13. When I hear the name Eric Clapton, the first song I think of is “Cocaine”. Never did the stuff but he sure made the stuff sound appealing.

    I enjoy hearing about where you were in your life journey in context of his musical journey. Along that same line, we spent 5 years in New Jersey when our kids were little. 1985 to 1990. those are the “Missing years” I can’t for the life of me tell you which songs were on the radio, what movies came out then etc. We were in survival mode and had no time to pay attention to pop culture during that stint. DM

    1. Those “missing years” in our lives are an interesting phenomenon, DM. When I was in Liberia, it was simple isolation that kept me from knowing what was happening in pop culture here — not that I felt any lack. On the other hand, there are certain songs that were popular there and then, like the Sweet Talk’s “Akumpaye” that bring those times back in a flash.

      On the other hand, the first three years of starting my business are much the same. There was nothing in those days but work and occasional sailing. Learning how to varnish was one thing. Learning how to run a business was quite another. Moving from salaried employee to a bidding contractor can be quite a shock to the system, not to mention the bottom line — as you know.


  14. Your post reminded me how peaceful it is to step outside into the cold, crisp morning air as Dallas “goes potty,” Linda. There’s something quite magical — and always has been — about a fresh new day, one unsullied by problems or worries or conflicts. Now that you’ve piqued my interest, I’ll have to remind myself to listen for the music, too!!

    1. I remember cold, crisp morning air, Debbie. Someday, we may get some of our own. But, yes: no matter the temperature, a fresh new morning is a delight. We’re moving into the time of year when the birds seem to be especially quiet at dawn. It makes it easier to listen for “the music in the spheres.”


  15. Clapton has always been unique – on his own planet among others. How cool it’s literal now. A huge influence on music. (I have all of Cream’s albums – and most of the others he played on.)

    “How’re things?” “Fine, just fine,” he says. “The world’s still rockin’ along.”
    Boatsmen and farmers so much the same – must be the closeness to the elements and nature. Used to hear that in East TX all the time. (Did you see the boat fire last week? – we saw the smoke on I45 and knew it was probably a marina fire)

    Wonderful read to start the week,and if I can stay inside maybe I can write something besides fluff – your words are always so complete, thoughtful, and elegant

    1. Who knows, Phil? Maybe that fellow in the boatyard is from East Texas. Or maybe, like so many older folks, he’s just lived long enough to have learned that the seasons are going to roll and the storms subside, even if it seems to be taking a while.

      I didn’t see the fire, but I sure enough did see the smoke. It was a boat over at the Boardwalk marina. It was the same song, just a different verse: gas engine, fumes, spark. I don’t know any more than that, other than that the fellow working on the boat survived it all. I still remember the day those boats on Pier 15 at South Shore caught fire. There was either a west or east wind, but I still packed up the cat and got mom dressed, just in case a hasty exit was required.

      Thanks for stopping by, and for those kind words. If you haven’t stayed inside yet, you will tomorrow. “They say” the rain is coming, and I’m ready for it.


      1. That is just such a true phrase. Must be universal somehow?
        I understand the owner’s pet (dog I think) immediately jumped off the boat and swam to safety. Glad it didn’t spread and get as bad as it could have easily been.
        Dealing with series of medical issues here – waiting on results between docs. It will flood tomorrow – we have to head to big med center. It will storm. Molly just better go into suspended animation.
        I missed some great vintage plane pix over the weekend – just couldn’t move fast enough….or we were moving, but Molly was determined to go her way. I always love the planes. (and a nice day indoors reading by the window as a cold front moves in would be nice…)

  16. Thanks for this very personal and informative story! I have been thinking of him and Cream with the death last week of Jack Bruce.(Cream). Yesterday there was an illustration in our Sunday paper. It read Jack Bruce 1943-2014..”I’m Free!” and today this article! I had every Yardbird 45! Yes, I am dating myself!! But I did not learn till much later that Eric Clapton was in the band. I knew him from Cream.

    At 18, I took a job in a club on LI, did not tell my parents. It was the club that had all the greats from that day 1967..I was told to serve drinks in the star room and although I was not star struck like people are today. I felt it was cool to go in and meet them. There were Eric, Jack and Ginger (still noticeably shaking from his energetic playing and most likely drugs, even at 18 I never thought he would make it to old age! but he has !). I gave 2 the drinks and had Eric’s on the tray, when he pulled me on his lap, said ” Now there’s a pretty bird”( that was an English term of the day) and kissed me . Everyone laughed and I jumped up and got out of the “star” room. Never thinking a guy in a band was going to be so famous years later because my dad was a band leader in the 40’s and 50’s and 3 of my brothers were in bands at the time. They are still in the music industry and boy has it changed since those days.

    Its still a nice memory and now when I take my 4 year old grandson out to see the stars I can tell him, grandma kissed a star. So thanks for that info.:)

    1. What a wonderful story, Vee. I enjoyed reading it and imagining what it must have been like to have that kind of experience.

      I do think entertainers of every sort were more approachable in those days. They certainly were in the sixties and seventies. One of my favorite memories involves meeting and talking with Peter, Paul, and Mary, in a Des Moines coffee house after a concert. They hadn’t announced anything about it. We simply had gone there after the show, and they showed up. The very casualness of the encounter was the best thing about it.

      You raised another sort of memory when you mentioned your dad was a band leader. During the 50’s, it was common for my family to go to the Masonic Lodge for the family nights on Fridays. There was dinner (steaks for the big people, burgers for the kids) and then there was dancing to a live band. That’s where I learned to dance, with my own dad, and that’s why I still listen to the Glenn Miller, Dorsey Brothers, and Benny Goodman orchestras. As my mother liked to remind me, into her 90s, “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing!”

      I love thinking of you and your grandson, out looking at the stars. You sure enough did kiss a good one, and now he’s shining on you. Starshine may be faint, but it’s there.


      1. Thanks for responding just went back into this blog. Yes, Dorsey and all were my dad’s favorites, he would be 91 if he was still here. Thanks for the memories , as another oldie Bob Hope used to say!

  17. And I am also “part of a collection of debris which may have originated during the formation of the solar system.”

    Thanks for mentioning Barnaby Rudge. I had not heard of that until now.

    1. And lo! Thanks to the joys of modern technology, if you’d like to have a read, you can find Barnaby Rudge here.

      I keep hearing Dickens’s name mentioned in conjunction with musicians. I wonder if most of those who favor him are British. It would make sense, but in any event, it’s nice to know that Clapton’s reading more than mags ilke “Blues in Britain.”


  18. Our fascination with stars interests me, even as it fades with the predominance of urban light. I wonder if the same will happen with the predominance of viral music, noise etc. My kids opt for alternative rock which seems to celebrate – within limits! – their counter cultural obscurity. But it might just be a trend…

    1. There’s no question that indie music, rock and otherwise, has gotten a terrific boost from today’s technologies. The various streaming services, and sites like YouTube and MySpace (which I gather has come back as a stage for young musicians) have made it much easier for those without large budgets and industry connections to make themselves known.

      I suppose that, even with musicians, there are those whose careers are analogous to the so-called “shooting stars.” They’re brilliant for a moment, and then gone. Better to be a planet, even if a minor one!


  19. What a great post. A real treat to see all those old names. I remember some not all. I’m very fond of Django and have several of his CD’s. Big Bad Bill was another favorite too.

    I love how you segued into the stars Linda. Glad too about your mention of Barnaby Rudge.

    1. Posts like this are hard to keep corralled, Kayti. A mention of this or that, and away we go. Big Bad Bill reminds me of another blues great — Big Bill Broonzy. I don’t think he was particularly bad, but he surely could play the guitar.

      And here’s a segue that will tickle you. I first heard of “Barnaby Rudge” when I was trying to track down the meaning of Dolly Varden. As it turned out, she’s a character in Dicken’s book, but “Dolly Varden” also was a woman’s style of dress in England. In the “Alexandria Quartet,” one of Durrell’s characters, the police inspector Scobie, was given to dressing in his “Dolly Vardin,” : that is, in a “greasy old cloche hat, and a pair of antediluvian court shoes with very high heels,” before going out to (ahem) search for a companion for his evening.

      Dickens, Dolly and Durrell: there’s a connection for you!


  20. A brilliant post. Layla haunted me too and it was good to hear it again. Clapman’s story is so gritty yet poignant – and now the discovery of the planet. His music will live on.

    1. It certainly will live on, Mary. Clapton’s so much more than a technically-accomplished guitarist. Quite apart from a full seventy years of living — all of the good and the bad — he’s always been widely read, curious, and dedicated to his art.

      It tickles me that a 1972 album was titled “A History of Eric Clapton.” There still was a good bit of history to be written, and I suspect there will be more.


  21. Not as blues oriented, but not insignificant, either, was Clapton’s collaboration with Steve Winwood and Ginger Baker in the band Blind Faith. Shame they only made one album.

    1. I can’t remember for sure, Wiley, but I think that Barefoot got to see Clapton and Winwood in concert in Oklahoma City (or maybe Norman). I stopped by the wiki to refresh my memory on Blind Faith, and discovered, to my delight, that the name came from Clapton, who understood it as a sly reference to his willingness to start the new group.

      It’s fun to go back and remember the early days of these musicians, not to mention learning bits of the history that have tended to fade away.


  22. Wonderful post Linda. As you probably know, Jack Bruce died last week. News of his passing brought Cream to my mind and of course that brought to mind the legacy of Clapton. Just yesterday I listened to “Bell Bottom Blues.”

    Now that there is a Planet Clapton I suppose it is possible that some modern day pagan might consider it worthy of worship, giving new meaning to the old claim that “Clapton is God.”

    1. I did hear about Jack Bruce’s death. As i do more often these days, I also checked his age. Hmmmm… seventy-one. My best friends are older than that. What’s that strange ticking I hear?

      I must say, given the gods that have moved into the musical pantheon over recent years, Clapton’s far from the worst. Perhaps what makes him so attractive as a god is that he’s so recognizably human.


  23. I saw the stars in the early wee hours Monday and was reminded of how much I miss seeing them when I don’t take the time. Now, I’m looking forward to a haunting melody next time!

    Clapton takes me back to “I shot the sheriff” many years ago . . . that is my first recollection of his music, although I don’t know if that came before or after Layla, which I also recall from my college days. Who would have thought that minor planets would be named after musicians? Always something new and delightful with you, Linda!

    1. You need a haunting melody that involves stars? You don’t need Clapton, Chèr. You’ve already got a fine song that’ll fit just right down on the bayou.

      “Layla” came first (1970). Bob Marley wrote and released “I Shot the Sheriff” in 1973, then Clapton covered it later. I’ve probably heard Clapton’s version, but the song’s so firmly linked with Marley in my mind, I just don’t remember it. (On the other hand, I just checked the date, and Clapton released it in 1974. There was a lot happening those years I was in Liberia. No wonder I don’t remember it.)

      I kept up with things in Terrebonne last night. It was great to see your 44.8% turnout, but I was sorry my favorite candidate didn’t win. Clearly, that was a nail-biter. :-)


  24. I don’t think there could possibly be a better homage to Eric Clapton than yours. You’ve collected here a trove of delightful, and often poignant, information about the man, the music, and the planet named for him.

    1. Thanks, Susan. Obviously, it’s easier to write about someone who’s interesting and accomplished. And of course, it’s always a delight to write about, and learn more about, someone whose artistry we admire. But of course I don’t need to tell that to you, who do it so well.


  25. I was once fortunate to attend one of Eric’s concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in London. He used to have a ‘Residency’ there for a week or two – all sold out. But the very best concert I went to there was Santana when they were at the height of their powers. I’m a music lover, once upon a time I played the guitar – that was back in the days of Dylan, Joan Baez, Peter Paul and Mary and others.

    1. When I stopped by the Clapton website, just to see about those tickets for the 2015 concert, of course they all were sold out. Just to ease my disappointment, I dug up one of the classic performances from the Crossroads Guitar Festival in Dallas, 2004. How about a little Santana AND Clapton, on the same stage? I don’t know how much drop-off there’s been here from their glory days, but I’d say not much!


  26. Ah yes, the ’60s, when rock groups adopted strange names like The Strawberry Alarm Clock and The Grateful Dead. I remember that when I came across an album that had on its cover, in separate lines, Cream and Disraeli Gears, I couldn’t tell which was the name of the group and which the name of the album. I lived in Honduras at the time, so maybe I can be forgiven for not always being able to keep up with such things.

    Speaking of Honduras, it was mostly rural enough and undeveloped enough that it provided great stargazing. On a return visit in the 1970s I brought a star chart with me so I could identify stars and constellations further south than the ones visible from the United States, like the Southern Cross. “Those were the days, my friend….”

    1. The name of the one-hit-wonder group named Strawberry Alarm Clock may have been strange, Steve, but I’m among those who still remember their one hit: “Incense and Peppermints.” I remember the tune, too, although I don’t know the lyrics and may not have known them when the song was popular.

      It’s always been interesting to me that so many people I know returned to places where they served abroad: Peace Corps, medical personnel, assorted NGO employees. It took me a few years, but even I got back to Liberia.

      The experience of leaving, returning, and leaving again, stretched out over time, was bittersweet. I’d forgotten Mary Hopkins’ song, but it captures all of that perfectly. I suppose it’s the unbeatable combination of Klezmer and nostalgia. Listening to it again in the midst of our lovely rain almost makes me want to head down to the pub for a pint.

        1. That article’s just full of interesting detail. The President of Equatorial Guinea using the song for his 1975 Christmas Day massacre was especially — noteworthy.

          I hadn’t noticed the anapest, or the alliteration, but as soon as you mentioned it I remembered that I’d made use of anapest in this poem. It’s a rhythm I really do like. One of these days I should try using it intentionally.

    1. Thank you, Shimon. I’m glad you found it of interest. One of Eric Clapton’s great qualities is that, when he comes to the apparent end of a sidewalk, he just keeps on, building his own road as he goes.


      1. I have to admit, that while I’ve heard the name of Eric Clapton, I’m unfamiliar with his music. What you say about him does sound interesting. I will have to ask my friends if someone has a recording of his work.

  27. Well, this is a wonderful post Linda. I’ve always enjoyed, appreciated and sung along with the music of Eric Clapton and admired his work with the Crossroads Guitar Festival, which I believe is set in your own state. But I certainly missed hearing about Planet Clapton (which sounds like a much more fun restaurant theme than Planet Hollywood — imagine the music!).

    So, I learned rather a lot here — about the sky and about the stars. (Faure? Who knew?!) Thanks!

    1. Jeanie, the Crossroads Festivals have been held in several cities: New York, Dallas, Chicago. I’ve always enjoyed the multiple meanings of the name. On the one hand, the concerts do benefit the Crossroads Recovery Center. But of course, the name also points straight back to Robert Johnson, his song titled “Crossroads,” and the famous story behind it all.

      I do wonder sometimes what Mr. Johnson would think, if he knew his recording of “Crossroad” is up on a thing called YouTube, and has been watched there by more than twelve million people. He might say, “That was a pretty good deal I made with that devil, after all!”


  28. Linda,
    Ha! Leave it to you to tell me that Eric Clapton has a planet named for him. Who knew? Not me. You are always enlightening… among other grand things.

    I’ve been catching up. I had no idea I was so far behind but it gave me an enjoyable time while H was napping. He will not know what he missed.

    1. You’re not far behind, Bella. From your latest post, it’s clear you’ve left the rest of us in the dust, as far as the upcoming holidays are concerned. I just heard today that Thanksgiving is three weeks away. It hardly seems possible. I’m still somewhere back in early September. Or 2005. Or 1952, depending…

      I love looking through the list of officially approved minor planets. Never mind Clapton. There’s a Planet Bella, too. No Bella Rum, unfortunately, but there is a Rumsey. Bella Rumsey has a nice ring to it.

      Just so you know, Bella’s just next to Bellagio on the list. Now, when H wakes up, you can check the list to see if he has a planet. If not, you’ve one-upped him again.


    1. Thanks for stopping by, Freddie. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I’m not one who believes in the concept of reincarnation, but it does occur to me that a mockingbird might do for Clapton. I’ve got one outside my house that never stops singing!


    1. And not just musicians, Sheryl. There are a wide variety of people and places so honored. In fact, I checked the list, and discovered that there’s also a minor planet named Helena circling around out there. You don’t suppose…?

      Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad you enjoyed the post!


  29. The -ton at the end of English names (e.g. Washington, Blanton, Barton, Harrington) usually means ‘settlement, town, farmstead,’ so it’s natural to wonder about the first part of the name Clapton. According to the Wikipedia article about the town of Upper Clapton in England, the older form of the name was Clopton, with Old English clop meaning ‘lump’ or hill,” so Clapton would originally have been named for being ‘a settlement on or near a hill.’

    1. That never occurred to me, and it should have, given that I was born and raised in Newton — that is, New Town. As far as Clapton the musician’s concerned, despite not being born in a Clapton of any sort, I’d say he still deserves to be considered a shining guitarist on a hill.

      Unrelated but interesting: I learned a neologism today. Do you know “snowclone”? I used one in my newest post, without even realizing it. I found the term while looking up the source of the phrase, “thy name is…”

      1. Call me a newbie: the term snowclone is new to me, although the concept isn’t. One structure I’ve been thinking about for some time is: “It’s not about X, it’s about Y.” That’s common in political discussions when supporters of Y try to deflect attention from the substantial evidence pointing to the reality of X.

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post, Otto.It was a wonderful opportunity for me to spend some time reading about him, and listening to his music again. The great ones can have their ups and downs, erratic careers and difficult personal circumstances, but they’re always interesting.

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