Friday, October 30, 2009


James Beck Gordon was already a highly successful drummer prior to his association with Eric Clapton. He was living the good life in Sunny 1960's Southern California, living that Hollywood lifestyle that only a first call musician could lead. He had a family and was making, at that time and even nowadays, great money for his drumming.

He then joined up with the Joe Cocker and then Delaney and Bonnie and their tours. After that, Derek and the Dominos came to be. A short lived band, it burned brightly, with Clapton more confident in his frontman role than ever before and the studio sessions featuring Duane Allman also on guitar.

As a drummer, I was always entranced with Gordon's drumming on the Derek and the Dominos albums, particularly the double live CD. He is technically masterful and manages to infuse that with a soulful delivery and surprising rhythms and solos.

His life, after the Dominos and the rest of the 70's, is a story of rock and roll excess and decline and tragedy. I'll not recount it here. It can be easily found at several sites that discuss his incarceration in a mental prison in california, found guilty by reason of insanity in the murder of his mother in the early 1980's.

But his work is worthy of study for the serious blues drummer. DVD's of the Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour with Cocker are particularly entertaining since they include his double buddy drummer Jim Keltner. They did a great job double drumming together, a formitable duo that really came off well together. And double drumming is hard to do, or at least to do well.

He did tons of sessions and if you are interested in listening to a great "feel" drummer with magnificent technical chops, then Gordon is a solid starting point.


  1. Utterly true. One of the best, most versatile drummers I've ever heard. There is some unsung work on D&D's "In Concert," notably "Why Does Love..." The vamp-out is some of the most soulful music yet to play across the ears, imo, and especially like Gordon's roll at the close.
    Sheer beauty.

  2. So true, Richard. Just gave that twin disc set a spin last night on the way back from Behind the Pine Curtain of East Texas. Old school style, with real CD's and everything, no ipod.

    Also listened to the studio version of Layla, which is epic rock if ever there was such a thing. Gordon's piano interlude on Layla is just, well, stunning and moving.

    That the turmoil that existed in his mind and yet the beauty that spoke from his playing is one of those yin-yang questions that really makes you think about life and music and how feelings come out through music.

  3. Yes,Jim Gordon's drumming was TASTY,which seemed to come easily to him-Check out ALONE TOGETHER by Dave Mason;Gordon split drum duties with Jim Keltner(another talented man)and the whole album has a great feel because of the drummers-LAYLA is a fave of mine as well;the drumming on Bell Bottom Blues,especially during the choruses with that funky jungle beat,is truly uplifting-Jim Gordon was always tasteful in his work with Steely Dan as well i.e. Rikki Don't Lose That Number-The man should still be working today,because WE NEED HIM BADLY!-I wonder if he looks back on his career and feels like a proud man,because he deserves too!

  4. I've always found it amazing that writers always laud clapton and allman on the Layla LP as if they were the whole band and nobody else mattered.

    If you really listen to the album you will see that Jim Gordon is as much a star on the album as Clapton. His drumming is real special, human, warm, and real rock'n'roll.

    Also Carl Radle was a great bass player. Check out his funky playing on "Let it Rain" on the Eric Clapton solo LP. Jim Gordon is also on it along with Bobby Whitlock.

  5. Thanks for the comments Dale and Anon. The late Carl Radle was indeed a great bass player, and any lack of mention of him by me was mere oversight and not intentional.

    Bobby Whitlock and his wife Coco have a weekly Sunday early evening gig at The Saxon Pub on Lamar just south of Downtown Austin. I've caught them once, and it was magical. To hear Bobby, one of the five who created the magic of Derek and the D's, do Layla with his very talented wife is great.

    They moved here several years ago, and their weekly gig gets major critical and popular acclaim. Everyone I know who has seen them, even if they were not born when D and the D's were doing their magic, thinks Bobby has a great act. He's not riding on the coat tails of his D and the D's fame and doing a tribute act, but does include a few numbers in their set.

    Bobby sorta has to do that. Everyone wants to hear him do some of the classics, but their own material is great as well. Highly recommended and five stars by El Fisho.

    The Dereks were one of those very rare bands where every member was a virtuoso, like Led Zeppelin.

    A reunion, of course, is impossible. Duane and Carl are deceased, Jim isn't likely to be gigging, and Eric and Bobby seem happy in their respective lives. You might be able (and I'm not so sure, really) to pull off The Who with Daltry and Townsend, but to omit Jim and Carl and Duane would make a Dereks reunion impossible.

    Oh well, after seeing and hearing of so many reunion acts, maybe The Dereks are a good one to stay as they were, forty years ago.

  6. And yes, Anon, Eric is all over ALL THINGS MUST PASS, as is Gordon, and the guest artists who play on that triple album are some of my favorite all time rock and rollers.

    The outtakes on the live bootleg of the ALL THINGS MUST PASS sessions, Harrison's first post-Beatles solo album, are quite impressive as well. Harrison is another of my favorite musicians.

    There is also a double cd bootleg that's been around for years featuring outtakes, instrumentals, jams and several unreleased tracks from the Derek sessions.

    They don't make new music like that anymore, and they haven't for a long time.

  7. i a drummer myself, playing clubs in ct, and new york in the seventies mostly, always had jim gordon in my thoughts, he was an extrodinary drummer, with amazing energy. you are truly missed.

  8. The most prolific drummer of his time and to my ears, the best. He had an accessable, cameleon like style that fit into every genre seamlessly yet was simultaneously present and integral. Never a wasted note. Stunning career and a huge influence on me as a drummer personally, and the world of contemporary music overall.