Bobby Whitlock YouTube video interviews

Are you familiar with Bobby Whitlock? He came out of the late-60’s Tulsa music scene (a very fertile breeding ground of musical talent), playing keyboards (organ, mostly) with Delaney & Bonnie, Don Nix, Sam & Dave, Booker T & The MG’s, and others. George Harrison then brought Bobby and some other Southern musicians over to England to play on his All Thinks Must Pass album. There Bobby reunited with Eric Clapton, as did drummer Jim Gordon and bassist Carl Radle. After hearing Music From Big Pink and realizing he didn’t want to do Cream anymore, Eric had gone out on the road as a hired gun in the Delaney & Bonnie band, whose members included Bobby, Jim, and Carl. After Harrison’s album was in the can, Eric, Bobby, Jim, and Carl formed Derek & The Dominos, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Bobby and his wife (and musical partner) Coco Turner have a YouTube video "channel", on which they post videos of Coco asking questions and Bobby answering them. They are fascinating! Lots of insights into musicians, their lives and careers, may be gleaned by watching them, so consider giving them a try.

Some of you may be familiar with my attempts here to enlighten ya’ll to the concept of ensemble playing: musicians playing in service to the song, the singer, or both, not to mention the greater good---the collective whole of the Band/Group---rather than for self-glorification. It is my opinion (and not mine alone) that the "best" musicians play in such a manner. Here is Bobby in one of the videos, speaking of the relative failure of the Derek & The Dominos album at the time of it’s release:

"Nobody wanted to hear it. They wanted to hear Cream and stuff like that. They weren’t interested in real songs and real singing."

Many still aren’t.

Speaking of JIm Gordon: When I recorded with Emitt Rhodes (he was engineering and producing a solo act), he told me Jim Gordon was the best drummer he ever worked with. I didn’t take offense (Jim is a favorite of mine as well), he praised my playing at the same time ;-) . By the way, Emitt played drums in his first band---The Palace Guard, turning pro while still in High School, switching to guitar for his second, The Merry-Go-Round (have you heard their great Pop song, "Live"?). He plays them on his great s/t debut album on Dunhill Records. Better than McCartney’s debut!

"Nobody wanted to hear it. They wanted to hear Cream and stuff like that. They weren’t interested in real songs and real singing."

I loved Derek and the Dominoes when it came out, and still think that it has many great moments as well as a few weak ones, but that sentence above is a bit puzzling. Maybe I'm not understanding what he meant, but I hope that he wasn't trying to say that Cream didn't produce great songs, or that the singing or musicianship were lacking in any way.
Regarding Jim Gordon, I was a little surprised at your assessment, knowing that you are a drummer. I wouldn't personally consider him one of the greats, even in the rock genre, although he was pleasing and certainly adequate for the band. His habits and devices always reminded me of a studio drummer; comfortable and fitting, but nothing surprising or unexpected.
Thanks for the heads up, and I will check that out on youtube.
Thanks for the heads up and will certainly check it out. Whitlock has always been on my radar as was the crowd he seemed to flow with. Enjoy the music
bdp24 thanks. I really enjoy your perspective and what you bring regarding good musicians. In about 1960 my grandfather got me a hand held transistor radio. Man I wore that out, had my 1 ear plug. Well at that early age I got tired of pop music, or music that was played all the time. Catchy stuff let me wanting.  So started listening to what was called alternative music, much better music to my ears. Still enjoy a lot of it today.  The test of time.  Shortly then about mid teens I had friends and their parents who played in their living rooms. I come to really appreciate the skill of a musician in trying to convey something valuable. And in that setting when they all supported one another there was some sublime stuff going on. 

@roxy54: Yes, that is exactly what Whitlock is saying. Eric Clapton, upon hearing Music From Big Pink, came to the same conclusion. That’s why he disbanded Cream and traveled to the Big Pink house in West Saugerties, New York, intending to ask to join The Band.

Clapton has numerous times talked about the effect hearing MFBP had on him---including in the speech he gave while inducting The Band into The Rock ’n’ Roll Hall Of Fame. Here’s a quote from Eric in the Martin Scorsese documentary the director and Band fan made on them:

"I listened to this album, and I thought ’This is it; this is where music has supposed to have gone for a long time and it hasn’t really got there. And now it finally.....someone’s finally gone and done it."

"There was no con, there was no bullsh*t. It was absolutely legitimate songwriting, without any kind of frills, and just performance with the best that they had to give."

Regarding Jim Gordon: there are different schools of musicianship, Gordon being of a specific one. It appears you don’t "get" that school (no offense intended ;-), or prefer a different one, which is your right. But let me tell you, amongst songwriters and singers (and Pro drummers), Gordon is considered as good as they get. That’s why George Harrison hired him to record his post-Beatles debut album All Things Must Pass. George had his choice of every drummer on Earth, and he chose Jim. You must be thinking "Why would George choose Jim Gordon?" Does George "know" something you don’t? Or is it simply a matter of taste?

When I recorded with Emitt Rhodes (if you aren’t familiar with him, get with it!), he told me Jim was the best drummer he ever worked with. If you don’t understand why Emitt and George would feel that way, I don’t think I can explain it to you. I will say this: when I don’t understand something (like when I myself first heard Music From Big Pink), I assume it is a personal failing, and work to understand what it is that others seem to know that I don’t.

It didn’t happen until a year after MFBP came out, but while watching and listening to Dewey Martin (Buffalo Springfield drummer) performing live I had the great epiphany: the school of musicianship that makes musical, ensemble playing the metric by which a musician is judged. As Miles Davis said: "The notes you DON’T play are as important as those you do." Musical wisdom!

bdp24, I'm not attacking the point you're making, I understand and enjoy ensemble playing, but maybe you can explain this to me.  Why is Cream considered self indulgent blather while Charlie Parker and John Coltrane are considered brilliant musicians?
I have no misunderstanding of Jim Gordon's style. I have been studying drummers for 50 years and am a rank amateur myself. I "get" him, but find him ordinary. It is, as you said a matter of taste. So for that matter is The Band. I am very familiar with Music From Big Pink, and it has never touched me. I don't even own it. 
On the other hand, I still listen to, and am moved by Cream's works, especially Disraeli Gears and Wheels of Fire. Jack Bruce was an amazing musician, and he brought out the best in Eric I believe. It was an interesting time, and they were at an age when artists often do their most daring work.
I don't need to learn anything else about The Band. I have given them a fair audition, and as a matter of personal orientation, they just don't do anything for me, even though I respect their work.

I watched a few more of the videos tonight, and one of them contained this quote from Bobby about Jim Gordon:

"What a great, great drummer. A magnificent drummer. At one time we (Delaney & Bonnie, with whom Bobby first worked with as a trio) had a pretty serious band, and Jim Gordon was the engine that drove that whole thing."

Yes, Jim plays "like" a studio drummer. In fact, JUST like a studio drummer, for the studio is where he did most of his playing. Another studio drummer beloved in the same way as Gordon is Roger Hawkins, also a Southern boy (Alabama). Hawkins was the house drummer at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, and is heard on Aretha’s Atlantic recordings, and on Boz Scaggs’ debut (along with Duane Allman). Jim Keltner (Dylan, Lennon, Ry Cooder, Bill Frisell, Randy Newman) said in a Modern Drummer interview that he wished he played more like Hawkins. Easier said than done ;-) .

Jim Capaldi, himself a wonderful drummer, loved both Gordon and Hawkins, and at one point hired both to play in Traffic---at the same time! Now THERE’S a band I would like to have seen and heard live!!

The Rock drummers I have seen and heard live include a lot apparently preferred by most here to Gordon and Hawkins (and perhaps Keltner), including Keith Moon, Ginger Baker, and Mitch Mitchell. But the "best"---and by a country mile---was Earl Palmer, the inventor of Rock ’n’ Roll drumming. Listen to his playing on Little Richard’s "Keep A Knockin" to learn from where Bonham "borrowed" his intro to Zeppelin’s "Rock And Roll".

Throughout the 1990’s Earl’s Jazz trio played at Chadneys, a restaurant in Burbank (directly across the street from the NBC studio in which The Tonight Show is filmed) two blocks from my then house. I and numerous other drummers sat at the bar and listened to him play, some traveling from far-off lands. He played like no one else, impossible to duplicate. Bonham tried, but failed. Earl played slightly ahead of the pocket ("leading the charge", as they say), Bonham way behind. Sluggish, like Charlie Watts, though not as severely.

It’s funny that you should mention Charlie Watts. I’’ve always thought that he was just terrible; and that was even in his prime! Listen to his performance carefully on one of the Stones best songs form Sticky Fingers, "Sway". He actually stumbles at one point, and I can’t understand why they didn’t do another take. Of course, for their music, he was usually good enough.
I will check out Earl Palmer on youtube. Thanks.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Here is that of Eric Clapton:

"I was in absolute awe of these people (the three musicians who comprised The Dominos---Bobby Whitlock, Jim Gordon, and Carl Radle). And yet they made me feel on the same level as them. We were kindred spirits, made in the same mold."

"To this day I would say that Carl Radle---the bass player---and the drummer Jimmie Gordon are the most powerful rhythm section I have ever played with. They were absolutely brilliant."


I didn’t manage to see and hear Jim Gordon live, but his playing on records is one of my gold standards. And his recorded drum and cymbal sound is the best I’ve ever heard. I did manage to acquire one of Jim’s Camco drumsets, left in a storage locker when he was committed and sent away. It’s not for sale. ;-)

Oh my God!
I really and truly have a hard time believing that anyone would consider Jim Gordon to be the greatest. I’m not the typical American I suppose; I don’t look at everything as a contest where there has to be a "best" or a Number 1. I look at it as each having his or her own individual style, and then how they develop and express that style, and by that standard, I find Jim Gordon a solid average. Not innovative, and while certainly a clean player, by no means an amazing technician.
As far as Eric Clapton is concerned, he’s a guitarist with his own opinion, and that opinion carries no weight with me and doesn’t change mine in the least.

As I said, everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. The notion that one opinion may "carry more weight" than another is also an opinion, one that I have found to have merit.

But beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder. There was a time when I preferred other composers to J.S. Bach. I no longer feel that way, and in fact consider JSB to be "the best" who has ever lived. There was a time when I loved the drumming of Ginger Baker, a player Buddy Rich called "a clown." Turns out Buddy was right, it just took me a while to realize it. ;-) Others are free to have their own opinion, don't bother me none.

"Liking" one thing over another is one thing; saying it is "better" quite another. Jim Keltner has said he wishes he played more like Roger Hawkins. Does the opinion of someone who has never heard of Hawkins carry as much weight as does Keltner's? Of course not. To take it a step further: does the opinion of a "lesser" drummer than Keltner carry as much weight? Or the opinion of a non-drummer?

The answer to those questions are themselves opinion, opinions based upon one's personal idea of what constitutes superior drumming. Eric Clapton has his idea, one I happen to share. My intent in discussing Jim Gordon is not to convert anyone, but rather to provide an inspiration to ya'll to consider why a  musician of Clapton's caliber (I myself like EC, not love him) considers Jim Gordon "the best." It's not for no reason.

bdp24, thanks for starting this thread.  It's always a pleasure to read your thoughts on various musicians.  I wonder though about the context of some of your drummer preferences.  I would imagine that a drummer playing in an ensemble with multiple guitarists, keyboards, a horn section , other percussionists, background singers and a string section would play differently than if he were playing in a power trio.  Sometimes there's space to be filled and other times there's not.
Regarding Jim Gordon, my mind is blown.  He was a drummer in an Eric Clapton rock band before becoming the police commissioner of Gotham!
If you get a chance give a listen to a Jack Bruce album "Out of the Storm".  It's a power trio format with Bruce on bass, Steve Hunter on guitar and either Jim Gordon or Jim Keltner on drums.  I'd be interested in your opinion of their playing in that format.

@onhwy61: Good points. Yes, a musician is called upon to provide whatever the music being made calls for. Very, very few musicians are proficient in all styles. Guys like Steve Gadd are thin on the ground. It pains me to hear Rock drummers trying to play Jazz, or even Country. When The Byrds went Country, they unfortunately took in Gene Parsons, a drummer who did not understand what was appropriate for that genre of music. For me his drumming ruined The Byrds albums he played on. Waaay too busy---"fiddly", with syncopated kick drum. Dude, you’re stepping all over the other player’s parts, not to mention the vocals.

In one of the Bobby Whitlock videos he is asked about Keith Moon, with whom Bobby during his residence in England became close friends (Bobby lived with Clapton for a year, then with George Harrison at Friar Park for about six months, eventually getting his own house). He is asked if he and Keith ever played music together, and he immediately says "Oh no", then goes on to explain why.

Bobby was the 1st-chair drummer in his High School marching band, and very well understands drumming. Bobby then plays "air drums", displaying the drumming style that Keith was unable to play in, the style that is required in the music Bobby makes. He then says Keith could play other stuff, but not the meat ’n’ potatoes Rock ’n’ Roll/Blues/R & B that Bobby plays. He mentions Al Jackson (Booker T & The MG’s), Jimmy Karstein (a great, great Tulsa drummer who played with Dylan, J.J. Cale, T Bone Burnett, Delaney & Bonnie, Leon Russell, etc.), and the astoundingly-great Roger Hawkins (that’s him on Boz Scaggs’ debut album, Paul Simon’s Kodachrome, and all of Aretha’s Atlantic albums). Horses for courses, as the expression goes. English drummers are notoriously inept at playing American Roots music, not understanding how to create the deep pocket/groove/feel absolutely essential for the music. Listen to Hawkins drumming on Wilson Picket’s "634-5789". Sounds easy? Try to replicate it!

Though born and raised in Southern California, Jim Gordon could play as if he was a Southern boy. That’s especially mystifying as he came out of the L.A. studios, playing on an Everly Brothers date at age 17 (!). Jim Keltner was the drummer in Delaney & Bonnie’s band, and he switched places with Gordon, Keltner moving into the studio, Gordon going on the road with D & B, where he first met and played with Clapton. Not commonly known, Jim Gordon also had enough technical ability to work with Frank Zappa, a very demanding gig.