By Damian Fanelli
“Steppin’ Out” is one of Eric Clapton’s best-known John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers tracks, and with good reason. Along with “Hideaway,” it delivers the heftiest dose of Clapton’s solid, mind-blowing tone and ferocious playing. This upbeat, straightforward blues instrumental in G finds him borrowing bits and pieces from Memphis Slim’s original 1959 version.
Clapton (along John Mayall on keyboards) plays the figure from Slim’s piano intro and then references the track’s tenor sax solo. At the 54-second mark, he incorporates an ingenious “scraping” technique from the original guitar solo, which was played by Matt “Guitar” Murphy, who would go on to join the Blues Brothers Band in the late Seventies.
Clapton incorporates some serious finger vibrato on the 12th fret of the G string—which only adds to the sustain produced by his overdriven Marshall amp—and he uses finger slides as he shifts between several positions of the G minor pentatonic scale. The well-paced solo ends with Clapton, much like his idols B.B. King and Buddy Guy, bending high on the neck before returning to the intro figure.
It’s worth noting that Clapton recorded other versions of “Steppin’ Out” with his short-lived 1966 supergroup the Powerhouse and with Cream, including the knockout 14-minute version on Live Cream Volume II.
Below, in order, check out the Bluesbreakers’ version of “Steppin’ Out” with Clapton on guitar (top), the Memphis Slim version with Matt “Guitar” Murphy on guitar (middle) and the Powerhouse version, also with Clapton on guitar.