Happy Birthday to Eric Clapton, who turns 74 on Saturday (March 30th)!!! Since his mid-'60s stint in the Yardbirds, through John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Cream, Blind Faith, Derek & The Dominos, and his solo career, Clapton -- who was affectionately dubbed "Slowhand" by his fans -- has come to personify the best in blues-rock guitar. Clapton holds the unique distinction for being the only artist inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three times -- for his time in the Yardbirds, Cream, and for the work on his own. Last year the officially sanctioned documentary Eric Clapton: Life In 12 Bars premiered on Showtime to glowing reviews and is now available on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital platforms.

Clapton has just announced the fifth installment of the Crossroads Guitar Festival. The Festival, which has become legendary in its own right for hosting performances and impromptu collaborations from the world’s most legendary guitar players, is set to take place on September 20th and 21st in the city that hosted the first-ever Festival -- Dallas, Texas. The Crossroads Guitar Festival has been held every three years since 2004 to raise funds for the Crossroads Centre in Antigua, a treatment and education facility that Clapton founded in 1998 to help people suffering from chemical dependency.

In addition to Clapton, the musicians appearing at the 2019 event include Jeff Beck, Peter Frampton, Joe Walsh, Jonny Lang, Bonnie Raitt, Derek Trucks, Doyle Bramhall II, Jerry Douglas, Jimmie Vaughan, Keb Mo, Albert Lee, Andy Fairweather Low, Billy Gibbons, Jerry Douglas, Gary Clark Jr., Robert Cray, and Los Lobos, among others. For more info, log on to: http://www.crossroadsguitarfestival.com/

Today, Eric Clapton's life is a world away from where he was in the 1980's. Now a sober family man, he recently talked about how low his two bottles of vodka a day habit had laid him: "I would wake up and look out the window and I wouldn't know if it was morning, or late afternoon, or if it was dark, whether it was night -- evening or early -- y'know, I didn't know in the end. And sometimes I didn't even know where I was. Even though I woke up at home, I wouldn't know where I was. And then sometimes I would go out, or if someone managed to get me into a social situation -- I'd drink on top of that."

Last October, Eric Clapton released his first holiday set, titled Happy Xmas. The album, which marked "Slowhand's" first new studio collection since 2016's I Still Do, was co-produced by Clapton and longtime collaborator Simon Climie. The set features 13 holiday evergreens, alongside one new track called "For Love On Christmas Day."

In January 2018, Clapton revealed he's worried about his health and his stamina to get though his upcoming gigs. During a chat with Britain's BBC Radio 2, "Slowhand" touched upon his then-upcoming concerts, admitting, "I am still going to work. I am going to do a show at Hyde Park in July; the only thing I am concerned with now is I am going deaf, I’ve got tinnitus, my hands just about work. . . I mean, I am hoping that people will come along and see me (for) more than (because) I am a curiosity. I know that is part of it, because it’s amazing to myself that I am still here. The only thing I'm concerned with now is being in my 70's and being able to be proficient."

The month before, Clapton spoke about some of the maladies plaguing him as he ages, telling Rolling Stone: "I had eczema from head to foot. The palms of my hand were coming off, and I had just started making (2016's I Still Do) with (producer) Glyn Johns. It was a catastrophe. I had to wear mittens with Band-Aids around the hands and played a lot of slide (guitar) as a result. My hands are good. It hasn't gone completely, but I put ointment on. It's just getting old now. I'm as good now as I've been in the last two years."

One of the downsides to having such a long and influential career is that Clapton's current work is always measured against his past successes. He admits that he's easily insulted when people tell him that they prefer his earlier work: "People have said to me, 'Your best work was with Cream.' And I think, 'Oh, well, I know you think you're paying me a huge compliment, but in actual fact, it's kind of, y'know, it's a little bit upsetting that you don't care about what I'm doing now.'"

Jimmy Page is one of many Clapton fans who's impressed with not only his guitar chops -- but his songwriting as well: "He's got a great body of work, hasn't he? He really understood the blues and how to play it, and he turned a lot of people on to that. In the early days -- I'm talking about right in the early days when he had the technique of the finger tremolo and everyone else was wondering what it was -- he's had some good songs. On the Derek & the Dominos albums, there was some nice songs."

Phil Collins, who produced and performed with Clapton throughout the 1980's, told us that one of the biggest highlights of his career was playing live with Clapton: "The most exciting, I think, was playing drums in Eric Clapton's band. Of all the things I've done. It doesn't involve anything to do with my songs."

Eric Clapton, who's married with four daughters, said that having a stable family and home life keeps him grounded: "I'm hoping, maybe, that there's an evolution going on in my character, which makes it so that I'm just a little bit more accessible -- a little bit more sane -- about the reality of what I need to be, y'know, and what my life is composed of these days. I'm married and I have kids, and that, that home thing is actually there, and is actually waiting for me. So it's not so much anxiety about that anymore. Nothing has to be that drastic or dramatic as it used to be."

AUDIO: ERIC CLAPTON SAYS HIS FAMILY AND HOME LIFE KEEPS HIM GROUNDED
AUDIO: PHIL COLLINS SAYS DRUMMING FOR ERIC CLAPTON WAS A CAREER HIGHLIGHT
AUDIO: JIMMY PAGE ON ERIC CLAPTON
AUDIO: ERIC CLAPTON SAYS DON'T TELL HIM HIS BEST WORK IS IN THE PAST
AUDIO: ERIC CLAPTON ON HIS ALCOHOLISM