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Guitar World
Guitar World
Matt Owen

“I turned everything on the amp to 10 and smoked the guitar so hard that it would rattle someone’s teeth… They said nothing, then Jack Bruce signaled me out”: How Blues Saraceno became ‘the kid that replaced Clapton’ – despite almost blowing the audition

Blues Saraceno, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker.

At the tail end of the 1980s, a reunited Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker were back in the market for a new electric guitar player, one who could join them to tour Cream’s repertoire almost two decades after the supergroup disbanded. 

It would be a tall order for any player, who’d not only be tasked with filling the shoes of a non-returning Eric Clapton in this new-look post-Cream trio, but also with bringing their own flair to the table.

The role ultimately went to Blues Saraceno – at the time a young phenom who, after capturing the music world’s attention with a feature in Guitar for the Practicing Musician mag at the age of 16, began to grow his credits list as a prolific session player.

It proved to be a successful appointment for Baker, Bruce and Saraceno, who would embark on a handful of tours playing Cream’s repertoire together over the years. 

Such was the success of Saraceno and his famed plaid guitar, he was eventually anointed as “the kid who replaced Eric Clapton”. However, despite the heights the trio reached, the origin of the story isn’t quite as straightforward.

Speaking in an upcoming interview with Guitar World, Saraceno reflected on how he ended up ‘replacing’ Clapton and became Bruce and Baker’s guitarist – and recalled how his audition got off to a rather rocky start.

Rocking up two hours late due to his car breaking down in Manhattan, Saraceno found himself surrounded by “heavy-hitter session guys”. It was quite a contrast to himself, who – in his own words – “was in prime Guns N’ Roses and Van Halen mode”.

But he thought he’d give it his best (and most memorable) shot: “I plugged into a Marshall JCM800 and figured, ‘It doesn’t matter; there’s no way I’m getting this gig anyway,’” he said. “I just did my best and respected the situation – even though I was so stressed. 

“I turned everything on the amp to 10, tilted it away to not blow them away, and smoked the guitar so hard that it would rattle someone’s teeth.”

Apparently, it made quite the impression.

“They were all looking at me, and I’m like, ‘Fuck. Not only am I late, but I just completely blew this gig,’” he continued. “They said nothing, and then Jack Bruce looked over to signal me out, and I did like this walk of shame on the way out. 

“I was like, ‘Fuck. Maybe I shoulda had the amp on eight rather than 10,’ and all that stuff. So, I thanked them, figured, ‘That could not have gone worse.’

“But when I got home, a message said, ‘Jack would like you to come back.’ I returned on Monday, learned three songs, locked it in, and slayed it. That’s how I got the gig.”

Despite believing he’d made an unfavorable first impression, Saraceno would become a linchpin in Bruce and Baker's post-Clapton years, and was wholly unfazed in the face having to follow in Clapton's footsteps.

As for how he managed to juggle those expectations, and whether he felt like he was living in the shadow of his predecessor, Saraceno went on: “It was weird in some ways, but I kinda loved some elements of the gig, too.

“I wasn’t trying to be Clapton, nor could I be. No one can touch what Eric Clapton has done. He’s a once-in-a-lifetime talent, and Jack knew that, so he loved the fact that a kid like me, with a blue mohawk and a plaid guitar, was up there making the songs his own. 

“I was just standing there, playing Cream songs and doing dive bombs in the corner; it was the coolest thing.”

Keep your eyes peeled on for the full interview with Blues Saraceno in the coming weeks.

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