Chicago man sets the stage for Eric Clapton’s live shows

CHICAGO -- If you ever find yourself driving the long and quiet roads of the far western suburbs and suddenly music starts playing in your head, it might not be your imagination.

Tucked away in an unsuspecting home office behind huge monitors and rows of speakers is an Irishman who lights up Eric Clapton and makes him look good on the world stage.

On an average day, Dave Maxwell is a husband and father of two young boys. But his life is anything but average. He is often managing different time zones and demands as the show designer and video director --everything to do with the visual when Slowhand hits the stage.

He's on the road an average of six months a year. But Chicago keeps Maxwell centrally-located for the crazy rock-and-roll life he leads when he works with arguably one of the greatest guitar men of all time.

Years ago, he started his career with the band Oasis and somehow got an introduction to Clapton that changed the course of his life. That was 20 years ago. And at 45 Maxwell still feels like one of the new guys in this incredibly tight and loyal group of artists.

"At 20 years, I'm still the young guy. Everybody that's been with Clapton, you stay with them for a long time because they are good people," Maxwell said.

Maxwell has completed 1,350 shows with Clapton. He's also done documentaries and other videos of Clapton along the way. The front man tells him he doesn't want to know how many times he's taken the stage over the years. But on the road, together, Maxwell says his boss is just a regular guy.

"It's family, kids, football, football, football, family, kids again," Maxwell said.

At 71, Clapton has now been entertaining generations of fans. Maxwell says the showman beat drugs and alcohol and now stays focused on family. But his health is good and his guitar still a blank canvas when it comes to making good music - even as age sets in. And for that reason, finally, Clapton wants to talk about it. And Maxwell is at the ready. Poised to record.

"His outlook on life, given the life he's had, it's a lesson to all because he lives life to the full, and when these shows come around, like these shows coming up, it's a real treat," Maxwell said.

Maxwell said he'll be back behind the scenes when Clapton goes on tour next March.