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A Clapton superfan: Where rock icon plays, Salisbury physician is sure to follow

SALISBURY — Dr. Stephen Proctor knows he has a problem, and he even describes it in medical terms, using words such as “pathological.”

“It’s a disease,” he adds.

Proctor, an internist specializing in pulmonary functions, likens his obsession with rock icon Eric Clapton to an infliction.

Over the decades, the 63-year-old Proctor has been to 70 — yes, 70 — Clapton concerts, including shows at London’s Royal Albert Hall and New York’s Madison Square Garden.

Along the way, Proctor’s penchant for paying good prices to get up-front seats has led to his concert photographs being published in guitar auction magazines, Clapton tour programs, and “Where’s Eric!” fan club pages and magazines.

His pictures of Clapton also have appeared in two Rolling Stone magazine issues.

Just two weeks ago, Proctor got Clapton’s signature on a photograph he took of Clapton and B.B. King during a 2010 Crossroads Guitar Festival in Bridgeview, Illinois.

The magazine paid him $150 for the rights to use the photo, which it grabbed off the Where’s Eric! fan page, littered with many of Proctor’s concert snaps. The photo appeared on Page 39 in the Random Notes section of the Aug. 5, 2010, issue.

Proctor attended a B.B. King concert in Charlotte in January 2012, and from the stage, King signed Proctor’s copy of that Rolling Stone magazine — specifically, the 2010 photograph of King with Clapton.

As he attended more Clapton concerts, “I carried the magazine with me for seven years,” Proctor says, always looking for the opportunity to grab Clapton’s autograph.

“Occasionally, I would see Eric Clapton,” Proctor says. “However, he was always with family members, so I did not approach him.”

His chance came Sept. 19 at a Dallas hotel.  “We chatted for a good three minutes,” Proctor says.

“Are you a photographer?” Clapton asked him at one point.

“No, a physician,” Proctor answered, but he acknowledged that two of his photos of Clapton had appeared in Rolling Stone.

“Your talent helped me discover a talent of my own,” Proctor further told the musician.

With the Sharpie Proctor had ready, Clapton signed the Rolling Stone picture of him and King.

• • •

Proctor has an encyclopedic memory when it comes to Clapton, considered one of the great guitar players of all time and maybe best known for songs such as “Layla” and “Sunshine of Your Love.”

Proctor will tell you Sept. 19 was not the first time he met Clapton in person.

“He and I passed each other in a hotel lobby on June 4, 2005, and spoke briefly,” Proctor says. “Then on July 27, 2007, Eric Clapton and three other men came to an outdoor restaurant where I was eating.”

Proctor realized they were waiting for a table, so he quickly cleared his and offered it to Clapton and the others.

“I couldn’t resist taking a cellphone picture as I was leaving,” he says. “It was a year before I realized that I had also captured Steve Winwood in the photo.”

Proctor’s first Clapton photograph in Rolling Stone was published as part of a Q&A with the musician in the June 11, 2009, issue, which had Lady Gaga on the cover.

Working on a deadline, a Rolling Stone representative named Deb Dragon liked one of Proctor’s photos on the Where’s Eric! site and contacted Proctor by email, asking permission to use it for $150.

“I thought it was some idiot friends of mine pulling a joke,” Proctor says,

He called the number supplied in the email and found out Dragon and her request were legitimate.

• • •

Proctor attended his first Clapton concert in 1974 — the summer after his graduation from high school in Shelby — and he actually was disappointed in Clapton himself. Clapton went through fairly public periods of drug addiction and alcoholism in the 1970s and 1980s before going clean in 1989.

Held in Greensboro, the 1974 concert was saved, in Proctor’s opinion, by the guest appearances of Keith Moon and Pete Townshend of The Who.

“Their appearance was memorable,” Proctor says, “but Eric Clapton’s playing was hampered by his intoxication. Between this and the demands of my education, I would not see Eric Clapton again until 1990.”

If you do the math, that means Proctor has seen an average of 2.4 Eric Clapton concerts a year since then.

Almost always, Proctor goes solo, though there have been three times when his son accompanied him to the Crossroads Guitar Festival, where Clapton plays and is host for many other top performers.

Proctor’s wife, Rita, goes to other concerts with him — just not the Clapton ones.

“She thinks I’m too intense,” says Proctor, who has a personalized “Clapton” license plate on his Lexus.

Proctor’s adoration of Clapton probably goes back to when Clapton was still playing with the band Cream. He once vowed if Cream ever reunited, he would pull out every stop to attend that concert.

He ended up seeing two of Cream’s four reunion concerts in London.

Proctor says he simply likes Clapton’s music and the personal story behind it — a story of redemption.

“Every time he does a guitar solo, it’s a song within a song,” Proctor adds. “He also has a gorgeous tone with his guitar.”

His favorite Clapton song is “Motherless Child.”

• • •

Proctor’s first published photograph — and story — was in a music industry publication called “Goldmine” in 1994, when the publication was celebrating its 20th anniversary. For the magazine, Proctor wrote about that first Clapton concert he attended in 1974 with friend Bob Lucas.

A photograph Proctor shot of Lucas back then ran with the story. But the magazine identified Lucas as Proctor.

Clapton actually signed a copy of that Goldmine article for Proctor, but Proctor never witnessed him doing it. A cameraman took it backstage and came back with the signature.

It doesn’t hold the same weight for Proctor as the Sept. 19 autograph.

A Proctor photograph also appeared in a 2004 Christie’s Guitar Auction publication because it showed Clapton playing the guitar that was up for auction.

The same friend and Clapton fan who had arranged for the Christie’s photo also secured the Proctor photos used in a 2011 Bonhams Guitar Auction catalog.

“He used seven of my photographs,” Proctor says. “Some are good, but some are included simply to show the guitar or amplifier being auctioned.”

Proctor turned scribe again when he wrote an article for a 2010 issue of the Where’s Eric! magazine titled “The View From the Front.” It was Proctor’s account of taking in the Crossroads Guitar Festival in 2010 and included his photos.

His photos appeared in the magazine again in 2011, and Proctor considers the 2010-11 images to be some of his best.

He’s also especially proud that three of his photos were included in the 2015 Eric Clapton tour program. In the credits, Proctor’s name is listed directly under Olivia Harrison’s.

Harrison is the widow of George Harrison of the Beatles.

As you might have guessed, because he’s such a familiar face at Clapton concerts, Proctor has numerous friendships with other fans, some of whom have seen more concerts than he has.

And for the record, Proctor’s son’s name is Eric. But it’s not what you think.

Eric was named for a friend from medical school and a cousin on his mother’s side of the family.

You can take an obsession only so far.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263 or mark.wineka@salisburypost.com.

 

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