Eric Clapton’s ‘Wonderful Tonight’ guitar in sale

Eric Clapton’s acoustic guitar, the instrument on which he wrote one of his most popular songs, the timeless ballad Wonderful Tonight will be offered in Bonhams Rock, Pop & Film sale on June 12.

The legendary musician’s 1974 000-28 Martin acoustic guitar carries an estimate of £300,000-400,000 in the live auction at Bonhams Knightsbridge, London.

Eric Clapton's Martin acoustic guitar from 1974

The instrument was Eric Clapton’s primary guitar during the seventies; “That guitar went everywhere with me,” he said. He used it extensively for writing, recording, and live performances until parting ways with it for a charitable auction in 1999 in aid of his Crossroads Centre. Reflecting on how much this guitar meant to him personally, Clapton said: “During the auction, the guys were all around me, and I felt myself starting to cry.”

Two signature Clapton’s elements stand out on this guitar: a sticker on its side, which reads “She’s in Love with a Rodeo Man” to honour one of Clapton’s favourite songwriters, Don Williams. The second Clapton touch resulted from wedging his cigarettes under the strings, leaving trademark burns on the headstock.

'She's in love with a rodeo man' sticker on the side of Eric Clapton's acoustic guitar

Claire Tole-Moir, Head of Bonhams Popular Culture department, commented: “This guitar is a one-of-a-kind collectible of immense cultural significance. Written in 1976 by Clapton while waiting for his then-girlfriend (and future wife) Pattie Boyd to get ready for a night out, the song ‘Wonderful Tonight’ is an ageless anthem. With intergenerational appeal, the song’s popularity has grown since its release four decades ago, with more than 450 million streams on Spotify, 490 million views across YouTube, and billions of plays on terrestrial radio.”

An acoustic guitar that belonged to Eric Clapton on which he wrote 'Wonderful Tonight'

The global depth of this song’s popularity is perhaps best captured in the thousands of heart-rending comments following the numerous YouTube video renditions of “Wonderful Tonight.” The song debuted on Clapton’s second most popular album, Slowhand, which itself has been streamed 1.3 billion times as of April 2024.

The guitar has remained in the current owner’s possession since 1999.