A young Eric Clapton was given his first guitar as a birthday present from his grandparents when he turned 13. This simple gift sparked a long and legendary career, from which we've collected dozens of great photos.

Clapton was only 18 years old when he joined the Yardbirds, the band that would give him his first taste of success. Their 1965 hit “For Your Love” reached the Top 10 in both the U.S. and U.K. It also drove the Yardbirds toward a pop oriented sound. Determined to stick to blues-rock, Clapton quit the band.

Following a short stint with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Clapton joined Cream in 1966. That placed the guitarist alongside drummer Ginger Baker and bassist Jack Bruce. Over the next three years, Cream fashioned a string of memorable songs like "I Feel Free," "Sunshine of Your Love," "White Room" and "Crossroads." These successes helped cement Clapton’s reputation as one of the greatest guitarists on Earth.

Clapton’s next band, Blind Faith, was a supergroup featuring Steve Winwood, Ric Grech and Baker. Their existence was short-lived, as the group broke up after one LP and just seven months together.

Clapton released his debut solo album in 1970, only to quickly assemble a new band, Derek and the Dominos. Together they recorded the landmark album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. Two years after its initial release, “Layla” became a Top 10 hit in the U.S. and U.K. It has since been recognized as one of the greatest rock 'n' roll songs of all time.

All told, the man nicknamed Slowhand has released more than 30 studio albums and sold over 100 million records, making him one of the most prolific, and commercially successful, musicians of all time. Take a look back, as we share an array of live photos, promotional pictures and still shots from throughout the course of Clapton’s career, alongside several of his memorable album covers.

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