Few rock guitarists have ever reached the same level of international fame as Eric Clapton, who was already deified by fans at the age of 20. So it's no surprise that Clapton's biography is rich in rock lore. Here are five things you probably didn't know about Eric Clapton, who turns 72 today.

1. Clapton is part-Canadian

Eric Clapton's father was Edward Fryer, a Canadian soldier who had a brief affair with Eric's mother - Patricia Clapton - in 1944 while stationed in England during World War II. Fryer returned home to Canada following the war and died in 1985 without ever knowing that he was the father of one of the biggest rock stars in the world. Clapton didn't find out who his father was until it was too late for them to meet.

But in 1998, Clapton paid tribute to Fryer by reflecting on their estranged relationship in the song, 'My Father's Eyes'.

2. He quit his first band to protest their hit single

For most aspiring musicians, their band's first hit-single is a cause for celebration. But Eric Clapton promptly quit his first group - The Yardbirds - after the release of the chart-topper For Your Love in 1965 because he felt the pop-oriented song betrayed the band's blues roots.

3. He was afraid of only one rival guitarist

Few guitarists have the chops to challenge Clapton's skill with the ax. After all, he's been listed by Rolling Stone as the second greatest guitar player of all time. But #1 on that list blew Clapton offstage when they first met at a concert in 1966.

"Eric was a guitar player, Jimi was a force of nature," Clapton's bandmate Jack Bruce later recalled.

Hendrix allegedly left Clapton so dumbstruck that he let go of his guitar and walked off stage. "Is he really that good?" a trembling Clapton supposedly asked afterward.

4. His claim to being 'The Fifth Beatle'

Clapton is one of many musicians who can lay claim to the title of the Fifth Beatle. In 1968, Clapton played guitar with George Harrison on The Beatles' 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps'. Ironically, John Lennon later suggested replacing George Harrison with Clapton a year later when the 'Quiet Beatle' stormed out of a recording session in 1969.

Clapton also teamed up with Lennon as well as Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones and Mitch Mitchell of The Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1968 to record a cover of The Beatles' 'Yer Blues' for a TV special produced by the Stones. And those are only three of his many collaborations with The Fab Four.

5. Hall-of-Fame Hat Trick

Eric Clapton is the only artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three times -- as a member of The Yardbirds in 1992, as a member of Cream in 1993 and as a solo artist in 2000.

But those aren't the only bands he's been part of. Others include John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, Blind Faith, Delaney & Bonnie and Friends and, of course, Derek and the Dominoes (who recorded 'Layla', one of Clapton's best known songs).

Which group do you think stands the best chance of giving Clapton his fourth entry into the rock HOF?

Banner image: Clapton performing in Munich, Germany on 5 June 2010