Example: [Reuters, 1994]
Father Dennis Ackroyd of Ewhurst, England, doing his duty as a conscientious vicar, was calling on parishioners when his eye fell on a guitar in "a particularly grand house." In the course of a friendly chat he asked the owner of the house, a man called Eric, if he would considering playing in the church. Eric agreed and Father Ackroyd told him: "Good! I'll give you a couple of months to practice." An embarrassed Father Ackroyd realized later that the man was rock star Eric Clapton, who turned up at the tiny church in the Surrey village to play hymns such as "Amazing Grace" to a thrilled congregation.
Origins: The story of the "red-faced vicar" and Eric Clapton first appeared in the British press in February 1994 and was quickly picked up by American newspapers as well.
Charming though the story may be, inconsistencies in the details indicate that it may be apocryphal. Although most accounts don't mention when this encounter supposedly took place, one report from June 1994 stated that had occurred "earlier this year." If the incident indeed took place during the same year in which it was reported to the press — and was reported accurately
This tale is an example of the "unrecognized celebrity" genre: a story about an ordinary person who makes an embarrassing request of a celebrity he fails to recognize, either because the celebrity also appears to be unremarkable when removed from his usual milieu (e.g., tourist mistakes casually-dressed film star for gardener), or because he is famous in a field not familiar to the person (e.g., housewife mistakes an NFL or NBA star for a porter at an airport). It also plays on a related stereotype of clerics as isolated and out of touch with popular culture — a feature which may even have helped the legend spread. After all, who would disbelieve a man of the cloth?
Last updated: 6 May 2007
Bendoris, Matt. "Clapton Finds God." [Scottish] Daily Record. 18 June 1994 (p. 11). Weale, Sally. "Inquest Set for Clapton's Son." Press Association. 25 March 1991. "Play At Church But Practise First, Vicar Tells Clapton." Press Association. 9 February 1994. "Village Vicar Drops Clapton Clanger." Reuters. 9 February 1994.
Also told in:
Flynn, Mike. The Best Book of Bizarre But True Stories Ever. London: Carlton, 1999. ISBN 1-85868-558-3 (p. 197).