"I charged him £200 for it. It's worth about two million now": The Police's Andy Summers on the guitar he deeply regrets selling to Eric Clapton

Andy Summers and Eric Clapton
(Image credit: Jeremy Fletcher/Redferns | Michael Putland/Getty Images)

The Police's former guitarist Andy Summers has enjoyed a hugely successful career, but it's not been one without regrets, such as the day he sold a beloved - and now incredibly valuable - Les Paul guitar to his old friend Eric Clapton

Summers tells the story in an interview with music industry expert and YouTube personality Rick Beato. He introduces the anecdote by setting the scene, telling Beato that, back in the mid '60s, he and all the other hot-shot young guitarists in London - Jeff Beck, Albert Lee, Clapton - would hang out together at The Flamingo Club, a jazz nightclub in London's Soho district, watching one another's bands. And it was at The Flamingo, while soundchecking with London blues king John Mayall, where Clapton first spotted Summers with a new guitar that he instantly coveted.

"I walked in with this beautiful sunburst Les Paul and he went, 'Where'd you get that?' Naively, I said, Oh, down the road, in [famous Denmark Street guitar shop] Rose Morris, they've got another one. If I had any brains I would have bought both of them - who knew? - as they're both worth about a million dollars each now. So Eric went and got it he got it."

Sometime later, as Summers tells Beato, Clapton's Les Paul was stolen, at which point, the guitarist began eying up Summers' guitar again.

"He knows I've got the other one, so he starts calling me relentlessly," Summers recalls. "I had moved over to a '58 white Telecaster and I liked it more than the Les Paul for some reason - I don't know pickup set up, whatever and he knew I had that as well. But he kept calling and calling, [and I said], No, I don't want to sell it...so I kept resisting it. Finally he called me so many times, that I actually agreed to sell it, with some misgivings. I didn't feel great about it, but he just really wanted it, so we agreed on a price."

Asked how much he sold the instrument for, Summers replies, "I charged him £200 for it: it's worth about two million now!"

Summers remembers bringing the guitar to Clapton while he was at Advision studios in London's West End, prepping for the recording of Cream's 1966 debut album, Fresh Cream.

"He was there with Jack [Bruce] and Ginger [Baker], and as I came out.. for some weird reason the studio room was coming through the PA in the foyer of the studio, and you could hear them all talking and he's going, 'Fuuuuucking hell, it's great! Wow! And I felt so terrible that I'd let Eric Clapton have my Les Paul."

You can watch the full interview with Summers below:

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.