In July 1966, Eric Clapton was earning his reputation as the premier blues guitarist in Britain. His career with The Yardbirds and John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers was soaring, though Clapton felt creatively confined by the music of taste and craved the possibilities of playing through a new, self-organized band.

Earlier in the year, Clapton had met drummer Ginger Baker, who was leading The Graham Bond Organisation and was impressed by his playing. Baker, also wanting to move past Bond’s band, asked Clapton to join his new, unnamed project, and Clapton accepted his invite under the condition that bassist Jack Bruce (who had previously played in GBO) would also join the band.

While he accepted the offer, Baker initially resisted the idea of bringing Bruce into the fold because of some previous quarreling between the two during their tenure with the Graham Bond Organisation. Their tensions had risen so high that Baker once threatened Bruce at knifepoint.

Putting all this aside, the three musicians became a band—although short-lived—and called themselves “The Cream” because they were considered the “cream of the crop” amongst blues and jazz musicians in the exploding British music scene. Eventually, “The Cream” became just “Cream,” and to this day, the trio is still considered one of the most influential rock bands of all time.

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After a few weeks to get organized, the band made its unofficial debut at the Twisted Wheel on July 29th, 1966. Cream’s official debut came two nights later at the sixth annual Windsor Jazz & Blues Festival.

Primarily active for all of two years (with minor reunions in 1993 and 2005) the eccentric sound of Cream is defined through a blues-rock/hard rock hybrid that combines the psychedelic themes of the late 1960s with Clapton’s unique guitar playing, the bass-thumping notes and vocal extremities of Bruce, and the jazz-infused percussive snaps of Baker. They came out with songs like “Strange Brew”, “Crossroads”, and “Badge” in their first year together, and went on to continue their fame with tunes like “Sunshine of Your Love”, “I Feel Free”, and “White Room”.

With ongoing tensions between band members, Cream performed their “Farewell Concert” on BBC-TV in 1968, which went on to be included in their final album, Goodbye. While the band sounded as strong as they’d ever been, this performance was not definitive of their best abilities. It did, however, shine a spotlight on an interesting time in the band’s short run.

Relive some of the magnificent sounds that the trio came up with during their brief lifespan in the love-binding times of the 1960s below.

Cream – “Strange Brew” – 5/20/1967

[Video: Beat-Club]

Cream – “Crossroads” (Live in 1968)

[Video: Kreso Ivic]

Cream – “Sunshine Of Your Love” (Official Music Video)

[Video: Rocksonz1]

Cream – “White Room” – Farewell Recording (1968)

[Video: Creamer 1968]