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 70)
Genres Blues, blues rock, hard rock, pop, psychedelic rock
Occupation(s) Drummer
Instruments Drums, percussion, piano
Years active 1963–1980
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, Traffic, Frank Zappa, Souther–Hillman–Furay Band, Dave Mason, Incredible Bongo Band, Steely Dan, Gordon Lightfoot, David Ackles, Burton Cummings
Notable instruments
Camco Drums

James Beck "Jim" Gordon (born July 14, 1945)[1] is an American musician and songwriter. Gordon was a popular session drummer in the late 1960s and 1970s, and was the drummer in the blues rock supergroup Derek and the Dominos. In 1983, Gordon, at the time an undiagnosed schizophrenic, murdered his mother and was sentenced to sixteen years to life in prison, where he remains to this day.

Music career[edit]

Gordon was raised in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles and attended Grant High School.[2] 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 flew 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."[3] Graham Nash (who also dated Coolidge) substantiated Whitlock's claim in his memoir.[4] "Time" was not released by Priscilla Coolidge and Booker T. until their 1973 album Chronicles.[5]

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.[6]

Mental health and murder of mother[edit]

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.[7] His physicians misdiagnosed the problems and instead treated him for alcohol abuse.[citation needed]

In 1983, he attacked his 72-year-old mother, Osa Marie Gordon, with a hammer before fatally stabbing her with a butcher knife, after claiming the voice told him to kill her.[6][8][9]

It was after he was arrested for murdering his mother that he was properly diagnosed with schizophrenia and, 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.,[7] dismissed by Lawrence Z. Freedman as "ineffective".[10]

On July 10, 1984 Gordon was sentenced to 16 years to life in prison.[11] While first eligible for parole in 1992, he was denied several times. At a 2005 hearing he claimed his mother was still alive. In 2014 he declined to attend his hearing, and was denied parole until at least 2018. A Los Angeles deputy district attorney stated at the hearing that he was still "seriously psychologically incapacitated" and "a danger when he is not taking his medication".[12] As of 2015 he is serving his sentence at the California Medical Facility, a specialist medical and psychiatric prison in Vacaville, California.[13]


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


  1. ^ "Happy Birthday Jim Gordon". Daily Kos. 2009-07-14. Retrieved 2012-07-08. 
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ "Layla’s 40th: The Where’s Eric! Interview With Bobby Whitlock". Whereseric.com. Retrieved 2015-06-20. 
  4. ^ "Wild Tales" - Crown Publishing Group
  5. ^ "Booker T.* & Priscilla Jones - Chronicles (Vinyl, LP, Album)". Discogs.com. 2011-09-17. Retrieved 2015-06-20. 
  6. ^ a b Hermes, Will (October 29, 2006). "All Rise for the National Anthem of Hip-Hop". New York Times. Retrieved 2006-11-01. 
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ Robinson, John (March 16, 2011). "The curse of the Dominos". Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 1 May 2011. 
  9. ^ Kirby, Terry (November 11, 2006). "Bloc Party's drummer is latest casualty of toughest job in rock". The Independent (London). Retrieved 1 May 2011. 
  10. ^ Lawrence Zelic Freedman (Mar 1983), The Politics of Insanity: Law, Crime, and Human Responsibility 4 (1), Political Psychology, p. 171178, JSTOR 3791182 
  11. ^ "Names.. In The News". The Union Democrat. 11 July 1984. Retrieved 1 May 2011. 
  12. ^ Flanary, Patrick (May 17, 2013) Jailed Drummer Jim Gordon Denied Parole Rolling Stone Magazine. Retrieved June 28, 2015.
  13. ^ "California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR)". Cdcr.ca.gov. 2010-11-30. Retrieved 2015-06-20. 

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