The Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton are cut from the same rock and roll cloth. After learning the ropes by performing at the same pubs in Surrey, they both gained international superstardom, yet, it all started in Richmond-Upon-Thames.
Clapton always had The Rolling Stones to look at in admiration. They had already completed the circuit he found himself operating on, and it was impossible not to be inspired by what they had achieved in the music business. The Stones showed that it was possible to make it from humble beginnings, and they set a benchmark that Clapton attempted to follow.
When he joined The Yardbirds in 1963, their fellow Surrey boys were already catching steam after signing to Decca Records and having a hit with ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’, a number that was originally written by The Beatles. For Clapton and his group, it made perfect sense to follow in their footsteps and try to emulate their every move.
After departing the band, Clapton found success with Cream before venturing into solo territory. In 1973, the musician blissfully remembered: “The Yardbirds came in to the Crawdaddy Club a week after the Stones finished their Sunday night residency. They had done it for almost a year, I think, and then we did it for a year. It was better when they were playing there because when they went, they took half the crowd with them and it took us quite a while to build up our own following.”
The Crawdaddy Club in Richmond proved to be the place in which both outfits made their name, and getting the opportunity to play live consistently helped create a buzz, making the picturesque Richmond an unlikely fertile ground for rock ‘n’ roll. Five decades on from those nights at the Crawdaddy, Clapton reunited with The Stones to perform Muddy Waters song ‘Champagne and Reefer’ in 2012 — albeit at the much more glamourous O2 Arena in London.
Both Clapton and The Stones are blues obsessives, therefore covering Waters was a natural choice. After all, during an appearance on Desert Island Discs in 1989, Clapton cited him as one of his favourite artists and admitted he “had the greatest influence on me”. Meanwhile, The Rolling Stones pinched their name from one of his song titles.
It’s a fitting ode to the man who had a transformative impact on their lives. As teenagers, Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry successfully infected everybody on-stage’s veins with an intoxicating life-long affection for the blues. A love which they visited the root cause of with this performance of ‘Champagne & Reefer’.