Ed Sheeran Stresses Over Ruining Eric Clapton’s ‘Layla’

In a recent appearance on the Howard Stern Show, Ed Sheeran revealed the profound influence that rock and blues legend Eric Clapton had on his own guitar playing and the first song he learned to play from Clapton.

The pop star shared an intriguing anecdote from his childhood, about his first encounter with Clapton’s music at the Queen’s Jubilee when he was just 11. Captivated by Clapton’s performance of ‘Layla,’ the young Sheeran was inspired to delve into the musician’s repertoire, acquiring his other albums.

Later, the singer also purchased a replica of the guitar Slowhand used during the Queen’s Jubilee performance. He even had the chance to play this guitar during a show with Jools Holland, a well-known figure in the English music program scene, leading to an unexpected correspondence with Eric himself.

When Stern asked if he had ever met Eric Clapton, Sheeran responded:

“Yeah, I mean, that’s an interesting story because I was watching the Queen’s Jubilee when I was 11, and he came on and played the first [plays the intro of ‘Layla’], and I was like, ‘Oh, what the hell is that?‘ And then my dad’s like, ‘Oh, that’s ‘Layla,” and I got the Derek and the Domino’s album. I got the ‘Eric Clapton Greatest Hits,’ I bought ‘Unplugged’ and just learned all these songs.

Another funny story out is I bought the sort of replica guitar of the guitar that he was playing at the Queen’s Jubilee. There’s this guy that does this amazing music program in England called Jools Holland, and I played a Jools Holland show with that Eric Clapton guitar, and I remember waking up New Year’s Day because it aired New Year’s Eve.

I got this email, and it just the title was just ‘E,’ and it just said, ‘Nice guitar.’ And I was like, ‘I think that’s Eric Clapton.’ And we just got friends from there.”

He continued:

“[‘Layla’] was the first and only thing that I could play for a long time. I’m not like the world’s best guitar player [starts playing and singing ‘Layla’]. I’m viewed as like not a great guitarist. They’ll be guitar people around the world now being like, ‘What’s he doing? [He’s] murdering this song.‘”

Ed Sheeran further revealed that ‘Layla’ was the first song he was able to play entirely, and for a long time, it remained the only one. Even as he admitted to his own perceived shortcomings as a guitarist, he humorously recounted instances when people criticized his renditions of the song.