Jim Gordon (musician)

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For the Canadian musician, see James Gordon (Canadian musician).
Jim Gordon
Birth name James Beck Gordon
Born (1945-07-14) July 14, 1945 (age 69)
Genres Blues
Blues rock
Hard rock
Pop, psychedelic rock
Occupation(s) Drummer
Instruments drums
Years active 1963–1980
Labels Polydor and many others
Associated acts Alice Cooper
Derek and the Dominos
Delaney, Bonnie & Friends
Eric Clapton
George Harrison
John Lennon
Harry Nilsson
The Everly Brothers
The Beach Boys
The Beau Brummels
Mason Williams
Gene Clark
The Byrds
Joe Cocker
Frank Zappa
Souther–Hillman–Furay Band
Dave Mason
Incredible Bongo Band
Steely Dan
Gordon Lightfoot
Notable instruments
Camco Drums

James Beck "Jim" Gordon (born July 14, 1945)[1] is an American recording artist, musician and songwriter. The Grammy Award winner was one of the most requested session drummers in the late 1960s and 1970s, recording albums with many well-known musicians of the time,[2] and was the drummer in the blues rock supergroup Derek and the Dominos, Little Richard and Delaney & Bonnie. Gordon played drums on George Harrison and John Lennon recordings including Harrison's 1970 triple album All Things Must Pass and Lennon's 1971 Imagine album. In 1983, Gordon, at the time an undiagnosed schizophrenic, murdered his mother and was sentenced to sixteen years to life in prison.

Music career[edit]

Gordon was raised in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles and attended Grant High School.[3] He passed up a music scholarship to UCLA in order to begin his professional career in 1963, at age seventeen, backing The Everly Brothers, and went on to become one of the most sought-after recording session drummers in Los Angeles. The protégé of studio drummer Hal Blaine, Gordon performed on many notable recordings in the 1960s, including Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys (1966), Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers by Gene Clark (1967), The Notorious Byrd Brothers by The Byrds (1968) and the hit "Classical Gas" by Mason Williams (1968). At the height of his career Gordon was reportedly so busy as a studio musician that he would fly back to Los Angeles from Las Vegas every day to do two or three recording sessions, and then return in time to play the evening show at Caesars Palace.

In 1969 and 1970, Gordon toured as part of the backing band for the group Delaney & Bonnie, which at the time included Eric Clapton. Clapton subsequently took over the group's rhythm section — Gordon, bassist Carl Radle and keyboardist-singer-songwriter Bobby Whitlock. They formed a new band that was later called Derek and the Dominos. The band's first studio work was as the house band for George Harrison's first solo album, the three-disc set All Things Must Pass.

Gordon then played on Derek and the Dominos' 1970 double album, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, contributing, in addition to his drumming, the elegiac piano coda for the title track, "Layla." In later years, Whitlock claimed that the coda was not written by Gordon: "Jim took that piano melody from his ex-girlfriend Rita Coolidge. I know because in the D&B days I lived in John Garfield's old house in the Hollywood Hills and there was a guest house with an upright piano in it. Rita and Jim were up there in the guest house and invited me to join in on writing this song with them called 'Time.'... Her sister Priscilla wound up recording it with Booker T. Jones.... Jim took the melody from Rita's song and didn't give her credit for writing it. Her boyfriend ripped her off."[4] In his book, Graham Nash made the same claim for his one-time girlfriend.[5] "Time" was not released by Priscilla Coolidge and Booker T. until their 1973 album Chronicles.[6]

He also played with the band on subsequent U.S. and UK tours. The group split in spring 1971 before they finished recording their second album.

In 1970, Gordon was part of Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour and played on Dave Mason's album Alone Together. In 1971, he toured with Traffic and appeared on two of their albums, including The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys. That same year he played on Harry Nilsson's Nilsson Schmilsson album, contributing the drum solo to the track "Jump into the Fire". In 1972, Gordon was part of Frank Zappa's 20-piece "Grand Wazoo" big band tour, and the subsequent 10-piece "Petit Wazoo" band. Perhaps his best-known recording with Zappa is the title track of the 1974 album Apostrophe ('), a jam with Zappa and Tony Duran on guitar and Jack Bruce on bass guitar, for which both Bruce and Gordon received a writing credit (Zappa, when introducing Gordon onstage, frequently referred to him as "Skippy" due to his youthful appearance). Also in 1974, Gordon played on the majority of tracks on Steely Dan's album Pretzel Logic, including the single "Rikki Don't Lose That Number". He again worked with Chris Hillman of the Byrds as the drummer in the Souther–Hillman–Furay Band from 1973 to 1975. He also played drums on three tracks on Alice Cooper's 1976 album, Alice Cooper Goes to Hell. Gordon was the drummer on the Incredible Bongo Band's Bongo Rock album, released in 1972, and his drum break on the LP's version of "Apache" has been frequently sampled by rap music artists.[7]


Gordon developed schizophrenia and began to hear voices, including those of his mother, which forced him to starve himself and prevented him from sleeping, relaxing or playing drums.[8] In 1983 he attacked his mother with a hammer before fatally stabbing her.[7][9][10] Although at the trial the court accepted that Gordon had acute schizophrenia, he was not allowed to use an insanity defense because of changes to California law due to the Insanity Defense Reform Act.[8] On July 10, 1984 Gordon was sentenced to 16 years to life in prison.[11] According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's website (http://www.cdcr.ca.gov), as of October 2014, James Beck Gordon, prisoner #C89262, age 69, admission date July 13, 1984, is still serving his sentence at the California Medical Facility, a specialist medical and psychiatric prison in Vacaville, California.


During his career, Gordon played with a long list of musicians and record producers, including:


  1. ^ greggp (2009-07-14). "Happy Birthday Jim Gordon". Daily Kos. Retrieved 2012-07-08. 
  2. ^ "Jim Gordon". Drummerworld. Retrieved 2012-07-08. 
  3. ^ Kent Hartman, The Wrecking Crew: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll's Best-Kept Secret (Macmillan Publishers, 2012), ISBN 978-0312619749, p. 235. Excerpts available at Google Books.
  4. ^ "Layla’s 40th: The Where’s Eric! Interview With Bobby Whitlock". 
  5. ^ "Wild Tales" - Crown Publishing Group
  6. ^ http://www.discogs.com/Booker-T-Priscilla-Jones-Chronicles/release/2285764
  7. ^ a b Hermes, Will (October 29, 2006). "All Rise for the National Anthem of Hip-Hop". New York Times. Retrieved 2006-11-01. 
  8. ^ a b "The Haunted Talent Behind 'Layla' Jim Gordon Won A Grammy For Co-writing The Song That Eric Clapton Reprised In The '90s. But Honors Mean Little. Gordon Is Serving Time For The 1983 Slaying Of His Mother.". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 1 May 2011. 
  9. ^ Robinson, John (March 16, 2011). "The curse of the Dominos". Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 1 May 2011. 
  10. ^ Kirby, Terry (November 11, 2006). "Bloc Party's drummer is latest casualty of toughest job in rock". The Independent (London). Retrieved 1 May 2011. 
  11. ^ "Names.. In The News". The Union Democrat. 11 July 1984. Retrieved 1 May 2011. 

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