Eric Clapton

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Prior to Eric Clapton, the idea of the guitar hero didn't exist in rock & roll. There were plenty of flashy players, but nothing along the lines of Clapton, who rocketed to fame in the 1960s as the guitarist for the Yardbirds, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, and Cream. Clapton eased into a solo career in 1970, but he was so reticent to step to the front of the stage he adopted the pseudonym Derek & the Dominos for the album, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. By the end of the '70s, he had finally embraced his role as the preeminent guitarist of his generation, and also tempered his virtuosity with pretty ballads. That sensitive side shone on his biggest hit, 1992's MTV Unplugged, which also reconnected him with the blues roots upon which his entire career lay.