Special thanks to ThisDayinMusic.com.

In the summer of 1966, Melody Maker writer Chris Welch received a phone call from Ginger Baker: “Me and Jack are forming a group with Eric,” he said, referring to bass player Jack Bruce and guitarist Eric Clapton. Welch, realizing this was a tip from the heavens, ran a news story as soon as he could.

The Melody Maker announced: “A sensational new ‘groups’ group’ starring Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker is being formed. Top groups will be losing star instrumentalists as a result. Manfred Mann will lose bassist, harmonica player, pianist and singer Jack Bruce; John Mayall will lose brilliant blues guitarist Eric Clapton; and Graham Bond’s Organisation will lose incredible drummer Ginger Baker. The group say they hope to start playing at clubs, ballrooms and theatres in a month’s time. It is expected they will remain as a trio with Jack as featured vocalist.”

The announcement was little premature and, given that all three were currently involved in other projects, denials had to be made. But Welch was always correct. Clapton, Baker and Bruce were about to start the greatest supergroup of all time, Cream. It was all official on this day in 1966.

Cream lasted just over two years, but what’s most surprising is that they ever got beyond a first rehearsal. Musical differences were there from the start. Bruce and Baker were dyed in the wool jazz guys; Clapton was steeped in the blues. Moreover, Bruce and Baker had a history. In 1964, Baker fired Bruce from the Graham Bond Organization. And when Bruce questioned his right to make such a decision, Baker pulled a knife on him.

Baker and Clapton, however, had a bond from their first meeting. Baker recalled the circumstances to Music Mart magazine: “We were playing a gig with The Yardbirds. We were outside having a spliff, and this young bloke came up to me and said: ‘I know you, Baker... You’re not a [expletive] hard-nut at all.’ I had a reputation for doffing people. It was Eric, and I got on with him immediately. He was a really cool bloke, and he used to come and sit in with the Graham Bond Organisation.”

Then, one night, Baker went to see the Bluesbreakers. “The gig wasn’t really happening at all, but when I sat in, Eric sort of exploded. After the gig, I said to Eric – ‘I’m getting a band together, would you be interested?’ And he said yes straight away. Well, then Eric suggested Jack, and I thought – ‘Oh no’.”

Bruce decided to give it a go. “I spent the whole journey home with my wife discussing whether I should talk to Jack,” Baker said. “My wife was quite fond of Jack, because he can be a very charming guy.”

So the most gifted power trio of them all started to rehearse, in a church hall in London.

Welch, ever the diligent reporter, went along to watch this “thunder of blues” in front of “their first audience – some Brownies, a caretaker, and manager Robert Stigwood.”

He also chatted with the trio over a cup of tea in a local café. Bruce told him they were playing “Sweet and Sour Rock and Roll” while Clapton described their music as “blues, ancient and modern,” adding, “What we want to do is anything that people haven’t done before. Pete Townshend is enthusiastic and he may write a number for us. Most people have formed the impression of us as three solo musicians clashing with each other. We want to cancel that idea and be a group that plays together.”

A far as stage presence, however, Clapton was surely tongue-in-cheek when he described his vision for Cream’s live shows: “We want a turkey on stage while we’re playing. Yeah, we just want a turkey on stage while we’re playing. We all like turkeys and its nice to have them around. Another dada thing – I was going to have this hat made of a brim with a cage on top and a live frog inside. It would be very nice to have stuffed bears on stage. We’d ignore them – not acknowledge their presence at all.”

Cream topped the charts, impressed critics and peers and, in a brief period, established themselves as one of the all-time great ’60s bands. Sadly, history books do not report any bears, frogs or turkeys on stage with Cream. The band broke up in 1968, only to reform to much hullabaloo in 2005 where an older and wiser Cream played London and New York shows, before bowing out gracefully.