What Did The Members Of Cream Do Before Forming Their Iconic Band?

The band Cream is sometimes regarded as the first-ever supergroup, a term that has gone on to have a bad rap in the decades that followed. Nowadays, the term sometimes elicits a groan from music fans, because the prospect of a bunch of high-profile getting together to form a new band rarely pans out well for more than one album or two at most.

According to Guitar World, one of the things that set a supergroup apart from a solo or side-project is that supergroups are intended to be full-fledged bands. The problem is often that the members respective CVs often set the expectations sky high and wind up rarely being met. However, there are some supergroups — a small selection of the many that have come and gone over the years — that have seen critical and commercial success and even influenced the next generation of musicians, as a lot of supergroup fare isn't exactly "groundbreaking." Cream was one of the exceptions.

The English rock trio was comprised of guitarist and vocalist Eric Clapton, bass player Jack Bruce, and drummer Ginger Baker; each with their respective careers. Together they developed a unique sound that fused their respective backgrounds in different genres including blues, psychedelic rock, and jazz (via Britannica).

Eric Clapton

Eric Clapton was born on March 30, 1945, in Ripley, Surrey, England. He was raised by his grandparents, though for the first part of his life. Then, at 9 years old, the woman he thought was his sister, was revealed to actually be his biological mother (via the Mail Online). This had a major impact on Clapton as, according to his website, he stopped applying himself in school. He got his first guitar at 13 years old but abandoned it after finding the cheaply made German instrument too hard to play.

However, Clapton rediscovered music several years later and became obsessed with playing guitar and listening to American blues musicians like Freddie King, B.B. King, Muddy Waters, and Buddy Guy. At 17, he joined his first band, the Roosters. That band didn't last long at all, but Clapton wasn't left on the bench for long, as he was recruited to play in the Yardbirds just a few months later. As a member of the Yardbirds, Clapton started to garner a lot of attention in the music scene and was given one of his famous nicknames, "Slowhand."

The Yardbirds started veering toward pop music, but Clapton wanted to continue on a path with blues music. According to Britannica, he joined John Mayall's Bluesbreakers which also featured future Cream bassist Jack Bruce. Clapton's other famous nickname, "God," came from his time with the Bluesbreakers. Clapton took a respite from the Bluesbreakers, returned, then left again. In 1966 he teamed up with Bruce, and Ginger Baker to form Cream.

Jack Bruce

While Clapton's musical background was rooted in the blues, bass player Jack Bruce started on cello and eventually started playing double bass in dance halls and as a member of jazz groups, per the late bassist's website. In 1962, after touting Italy and England with jazz groups, he joined Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated. What was perhaps most notable about this band was that the rhythm section was comprised of Bruce on bass and future Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts behind the kit.

Bruce went on to join the Graham Bond Organization, a band named after organist Graham Bond. Manning the drums for the Graham Bond Organization was none other than Ginger Baker who had also been a member of Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated, having been recommended for the job by the departing Charlie Watts (via NPR). However, Bruce and Baker didn't exactly hit it off, as Bruce left the Graham Bond Organization after Baker criticized his playing for being "too busy."

Bruce was offered an opportunity to play bass for R&B superstar Marvin Gaye but turned it down. Instead, he met Clapton after joining John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. Bruce left the Bluesbreakers and joined Manfred Mann, but his career took another shift when Baker asked him to play bass as a part of a trio with himself and Clapton. At Clapton's insistence, Bruce took on primary vocal duties.

Ginger Baker

Ginger Baker was a talented and influential drummer, and he knew it, as NPR points out, his autobiography was titled "Hellraiser: The Autobiography of the World's Greatest Drummer," but you'd be hard-pressed to find people who wouldn't at least agree that he was possibly the greatest rock drummer of his era. Clapton would later describe him as a "fully formed musician."

The famously red-headed, hot-tempered Londoner, started out playing trumpet before taking up drums and playing with a jazz band in his hometown. He had a tumultuous relationship with Jack Bruce dating back to their time together in Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated. They stuck together with the Graham Bond Organization until Bruce's departure.

Baker is credited with the idea of starting Cream. He approached Clapton, who at the time was still the lead ax-man for John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, and floated the idea of starting a more experimental group. Clapton was all for the idea, but only on the condition that Jack Bruce complete the power trio by playing bass and handling vocals.