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Tunetown Studios

Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.

Jim Gordon, Session Drummer, Enigma


Jim Gordon, born James Beck Gordon on July 14th 1945, is an American drummer who's session work in the late 60's and 1970's included a who's who of recording artists of the era. Gordon developed schizophrenia which ultimately led to the murder of his own mother in 1983.

Most famous for his contributions on the Derek and the Dominos recordings and resulting tour (he Co-wrote Layla with Eric Clapton), Gordon was seemingly the drummer on every album I purchased in the early to mid 70's. Reportedly the protégé of legendary studio drummer Hal Blaine, he was known for his combination of solid technical prowess, power, flair and impeccable timing and could play nearly any style of music as well. 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. 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. The list goes on and on (see the discography below).





Gordon began his career in 1963, at the age of 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 legendary studio drummer Hal Blaine, Gordon performed on many notable recordings in the 1960s, Jim_Gordon_Rolling_Stoneincluding 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 the elegiac piano coda for the title track, "Layla", co-written by Gordon and Clapton. 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.

Behind his fame and success, however, was a dark side to Gordon's persona that few listeners and few fellow musicians ever knew about. Gordon had always seemed an improbable match to his profession and era, a wide-eyed, all-American-looking California type who only fit in with the late-'60s rock fast lane by virtue of his talent. In retrospect, that division between his appearance and demeanor, and his career and environment, seemed to reflect something more serious in the way of a split within Gordon himself. Behind that all-American mask was a personality torn by serious psychological demons -- the details are sketchy at best, but involve schizophrenia and other aspects of mental illness. As early as 1969 he would go off for days in spurts of bizarre, self-destructive private behavior. According to some accounts, he often heard a "voice" inside of his head that directed him at various times to act out -- whatever the particulars and the pathology, by 1981, he was unable to continue in music, and finally, in 1983, the voice told Gordon to kill his mother, which he did. He was sentenced in 1984 to a term of 16 years to life, and remains in prison today.

Highlights from a July 3, 1994 Washington Post article containing quotes from Mr. Gordon


JimGordon (1)


So, the next time you hear John Lennon's "Imagine", Stephen Bishop's "On and On", Glen Campbell's "Wichita Lineman" or Steely Dans "Rikki Don't Lose That Number", listen, if you will, to one of the greatest session drummers ever.


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

  • Duane Allman Anthology (organ, piano, drums)
  • Renee Armand "The Rain Book" (producer, co-writer, drums, guitar)
  • Hoyt Axton My Griffin Is Gone
  • JimGordon (5)Joan Baez From Every Stage; Diamonds and Rust; Gulf Wind
  • The Beach Boys Good Vibrations; Spirit of America; Pet Sounds
  • Stephen Bishop On and On: Hits of Stephen Bishop
  • Bread Bread
  • Teresa Brewer 16 Most Requested Songs
  • Jackson Browne Saturate Before Using (organ); The Pretender
  • Jack Bruce Out of The Storm (tracks 1,7 & 8)
  • The Byrds The Notorious Byrd Brothers
  • Glen Campbell Wichita Lineman
  • The Carpenters Horizon; A Kind of Hush
  • Eric Clapton Eric Clapton; Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs; Derek and the Dominos in Concert; Derek and the Dominos: Live at the Fillmore
  • Gene Clark Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers
  • Joe Cocker Mad Dogs and Englishmen
  • Judy Collins Who Knows Where the Time Goes
  • Alice Cooper Alice Cooper Goes to Hell; Lace and Whiskey
  • Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Box Set
  • Burton Cummings
  • Delaney & Bonnie On Tour with Eric Clapton and Friends; To Bonnie From Delaney; D&B Together
  • John Denver
  • Donovan Life Is a Merry-go-round; Yellow Star; Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth; Lazy Daze
  • Neil Diamond Beautiful Noise (conga, drums, harmony vocals)
  • Everly Brothers Heartaches and Harmonies
  • Art Garfunkel Angel Clare
  • David Gates First
  • Lowell George Thanks I'll Eat It Here
  • Hall & Oates Bigger Than the Both of Us
  • Merle Haggard Same Train, Different Time
  • George Harrison All Things Must Pass; Extra Texture; Living in the Material World
  • JimGordon (4)Jim Henson The Muppet Movie
  • John Lee Hooker Endless Boogie
  • Jim Horn Through the Eye
  • Thelma Houston I've Got the Music in Me
  • Incredible Bongo Band Apache
  • Dr John Sun, Moon and Herbs
  • Carole King
  • B. B. King In London; The Best of B. B. King
  • John Lennon Imagine; Sometime in New York City
  • Gordon Lightfoot Sundown; Gord's Gold; Cold on the Shoulder; Summertime Dream
  • Manhattan Transfer Pastiche; Anthology: Down in Birdland
  • Country Joe McDonald Classics
  • Dave Mason Alone Together
  • The Monkees Monkees; More of the Monkees; Instant Replay
  • Maria Muldaur Maria Muldaur; Waitress in a Donut Shop
  • jim_gordonElliott Murphy Elliott Murphy; Lost Generation
  • Tracy Nelson Time is on My Side
  • Randy Newman Randy Newman; Songs
  • Harry Nilsson Nilsson Schmilsson; Aerial Ballet
  • Van Dyke Parks Discover America
  • Tom Petty Playback
  • Emitt Rhodes American Dream
  • Minnie Riperton Adventures in Paradise
  • Johnny Rivers Last Boogie in Paris; Blue Suede Shoes; L.A. Reggae
  • Linda Ronstadt Don't Cry Now
  • Leon Russell The Shelter People; Will o' the Wisp
  • Seals & Crofts Humming Bird
  • John Sebastian Tarzana Kid
  • Carly Simon No Secrets
  • Phil Spector Back to Mono (1958–1969)
  • B. W. Stevenson Pass This Way; Calabasas
  • Barbra Streisand Barbra Joan Streisand
  • Souther-Hillman-Furay Band
  • JimGordon (3)Redeye Redeye
  • Steely Dan Pretzel Logic
  • John Stewart Phoenix Concerts
  • Mel Tormé Mel Tormé Collection
  • Traffic Welcome to the Canteen; The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys
  • John Travolta Best of John Travolta
  • John Valenti Anything You Want, 1976
  • Andy Williams
  • Judee Sill Heart Food
  • Tom Waits The Heart of Saturday Night
  • Mason Williams Classical Gas; Phonograph Record
  • Frank Zappa Apostrophe; Läther; "Grand Wazoo" (tour) and "Petit Wazoo" (tour); Imaginary Diseases; Wazoo
  • Phil Keaggy Love Broke Thru;

credits:, and the Washington Post