He was never released from custody after murdering his mother. He'll be remembered best for being the drummer with Derek and the Dominos, but he played with the Byrds, Beach Boys and others. I know that you're wearing black today @bdp24. Sad ending.
Jim Gordon had schizophrenia. He was misdiagnosed, left untreated and suffered repeated psychotic episodes. The killing of his mother was during one of these episodes. It's a tragic story of a supremely talented musician.
Damn. I just got home from a day out and about, and saw the heading of this post in my emails. I’m sure there will shortly be remembrances about Jim from Eric Clapton, Bobby Whitlock (organist/singer/songwriter of Derek & The Dominos, player and singer on Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, both of which feature Jim on drums as well as piano on the coda section of "Layla"), Hal Blaine (the two of them worked together in the L.A. recording studios), Steve Winwood (Jim was for a time drumming in Traffic), many others.
To say Jim was a great drummer is a massive understatement. Whitlock actually considers Jim the best drummer Rock ’n’ Roll has produced. He’s certainly amongst the handful of greatest. Emitt Rhodes said to me that Jim was the best musician he ever worked with. Not just drummer, but musician. One reason for that is that Jim played drums as a musical instrument, not just a percussion one. Extremely musical, with impeccable taste.
In the early-2000’s I was contacted by a woman who had become obsessed with Jim (what is it about being a murderer that attracts women? ;-) . She had an ongoing relationship with him by phone and mail, and even visited him at the California prison (Vacaville) in which he has been incarcerated since 1984 (39 years in prison; can you imagine?). She had learned I own one of Jim’s Camco drumsets, and wanted to know all about it (that is one drumset I will never sell). I made sure to not give her any information that might lead her to me ;-) .
Wow, what a double edged sword this “obituary” has turned out to be. I must say I never knew anything about his life apart from music. Still, all I can say is I hope he earned salvation with time served. And that his name always made me so happy when included in the album credits. He had a distinct drumming “flavor” that added so much to the songs he sat in on.
In the 1980’s, 90’s, and into the 2000’s there was a weekly buy & sell rag named The Recycler published in SoCal. It came out every Thursday morning, sold at convenience and liquor stores, and was full of everything you can think of that people were offering for sale. I like every other vintage drum collector/dealer and audiophile regularly checked it for bargains.
One Thursday there was a new ad: "FOR SALE: A set of Camco drums, formerly owned by Jim Gordon." I don’t recall the exact price, but it was more than I was interested in paying. I immediately called the number, interested in learning how the seller knew the set had been Jim’s. I already knew it was possible, as not that many guys were playing Camco’s, the one’s who were being mostly professionals, studio and Jazz drummers in particular. And each drum was the size Jim preferred: 24 X 14 bass drum, 16 x 16 floor tom, and 13 X 9 and 12 X 8 mounted toms. The owner told me he bought the building in which Jim stored some of his equipment, and that the old owner had told him the provenance of the contents of each room in the building. The Camco drumset had been stored in Jim’s locker since he had been arrested in 1983 for murdering his mother. What real estate investor would think to concoct such a story?!
He told me where the building was, and I was delighted to learn that location was right down Ventura Blvd. from my apartment in Sherman Oaks, in the San Fernando Valley of the L.A. area (Tom Petty, in "Free Fallin’": "And all the vampires, walkin’ through the valley, move West down, Ventura Blvd." The "vampires" were high school kids of the Goth persuasion, who could be seen walking home from school every weekday).
The owner said he was at the building, and to come on down if I wanted. I was there ten minutes later, and looked over the set of Camco’s. One thing I saw convinced me that the set had indeed belonged to Gordon: Camco’s were known for their unique proprietary drum shell design and construction, with interior "retaining rings" unlike anyone else’s. Well, this bass drum had no retaining ring (the toms all did), and had never had one (if one had removed there would be visible evidence). Camco would have made a custom bass drum only for a Camco endorser like Jim (he was pictured in all their ads). And very few guys were playing 24" bass drums in the 1970’s (mostly Rockers like Mitch Mitchell, John Bonham, and Carmine Appice), that size having gone out of fashion when the Big Bands died (only Buddy Rich and Louie Bellson continued playing that size kick). 24" is my preferred size as well, all my sets having that size bass drum.
Well yeah, I wanted the set! It took some doing, but I got it at a substantially reduced price. Jim’s stalker woman was VERY interested in obtaining the set, but finally gave up when it became evident that was never going to happen. Obviously one of my favorite vintage sets! (twenty of them, from the early-50’s through the early-70’s).
Nobody had better sounding drums than Jim Gordon. He was a master at drumhead tuning/tensioning, damping of the heads (to get rid of excessive "ring"), cymbal selection (I’d love to get a hold of some of his Zildjians!), how to hit the heads to get the best sound, etc. And then there was his playing! He played "for the song", his parts increasing the musical quality of every song he played on. Jim’s stalker told me she had talked to Jim Keltner, who was very critical of Gordon. Professional jealousy? ;-)
A few years later I saw a Recycler ad for ASC Tube Traps: 14 of them, sizes 9", 11", and 16". Ten bucks apiece! The seller had bought a house in Reseda (also mentioned in "Free Fallin’". Tom was a Valley Boy ;-), and found the Traps in the attic. Yeah, I bought them all. ;-)
Mental. Illness. Not a “lifestyle choice”. The tragedy is how poorly the medical profession and our society cope with the reality that some people are unbalanced and potentially dangerous to the people in their lives.
By your reckoning we should also “erase” the Phil Spector “Wall of Sound” productions like Walking in the Rain, RiverDeep, Mountain High, and You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling. IMO it’s better to keep sight of the positive contributions of troubled people. Yeah, I know…John Wilkes Booth was a hell of an actor….
Great story bdp24. So sad to hear another of the great R&R drummers of that era passing on. Keith Moon, Charlie Watts, and John Bonham immediately come to mind. Like others, I’d no idea of his psych history and incarceration for killing his mother.
I’m sitting here thinking about that aspect, Back in the 1980’s I spent ten years working on and supervising Corrections psychiatric treatment and admissions units. Sadly his story would not sound unusual in that setting. I know nothing about the particulars of his case but wonder how much substance abuse contributed to his psychoses.
Typically schizophrenia manifests itself on it’s own in the late teenage, maybe early twenties years. Just a speculation, but Jim Gordon’s skill level as a drummer gets me to thinking he might have induced his psychosis later in life using drugs, well after his skill as a drummer had had a chance to fully develop. I understand from watching documentaries on Eric Clapton that substance abuse was rampant among the Derek and the Dominos group. Substance abuse and mental illness are a common mix and so often lead to the tragedy to his family, and himself, this gifted drummers life became.
Getting on drugs and becoming schizoid after is pure fault of the one getting on drugs, because drug addiction consequences are known to everyone including R/R drummers from LONG time ago.
Killing mother under influence of drugs or alcohol or consequential influence of schizophrenia is definitely punishable offense. Drugs or even drug dealers aren't guilty at all. The guilty one is whoever abused them to the point of psychological instability. Fortunately he was locked up and bothered no one with his occasional schizoid aggressions.
Im 74+. I left home in 1966 at 17 (by 2 just months). My alcoholic mother would beat the crap out of me for no cause other than she was an angry drunk. The night I left she was in my face (literally), screaming all manner of profanities. I finally snapped, and without realizing it, I pushed her into a corner with my hands around her neck, chocking her. Fortunately, I snapped out of it,pushed her away, grabbed my things and left. I lived out of my car for 30 days, bumming nights with friends. Never came back. I found similar aged boys on the streets with similar reasons, but mostly from alcoholic fathers
Derek and The Dominoes is one of the best Rock LPs in my opinion. Full of good music and great passion induced by talent, heart break, joy and lots of drugs.
Shortly after recording that album, the band toured.
Then, they broke up. Clapton went into hibernation and the band scattered.
Jim Gordon went home to his mother’s house. Schizophrenia and drugs and lost in the universe, was a terrible place to be, especially after a year of hanging with The Dominoes (Bonnie and Delaney before that, who opened for Blind Faith. After that tour Clapton realized what a great band/family could be. Both bands broke up and The Dominoes came to be).
I believe it was on that Blind Faith tour that Clapton visited The Band at The Big Pink. He enjoyed the family vibe so much that Robbie Robertson jokes that he thought he was going to lose his job to Clapton.
Skyscraper is right.
Jim Gordon was an excellent drummer musician. Never flashy. But always driving the song with tune, texture, finesse and time.
bdp24, I feel you, man. I share your appreciation for such a wonderful musician.
RIP Jim Gordon.
Well said Greg. Illness is not an excuse to commit crimes, kill people, let alone your mother. He was not found insane at trial. I don't understand why society praises and highlights POS people just because they are famous or had some success.
From the article: At times, he also would disappear on drug and alcohol binges.
From what I’ve read, Jim’s drug use aggravated his mental illness, which had been long undiagnosed. According to Bobby Whitlock, Clapton and Jim did not get along, especially when they went on tour. After their first tour Whitlock remained in England (waiting for Clapton to come out of his own house---where he was shooting heroin---and start working on a second Derek & The Dominos album. When it bacame apparent to Bobby that that was not going to happen, he returned to the States, getting himself his own record deal.), living in one of Ringo’s houses.
Bobby and Keith Moon became drinking buddies, but when asked about playing music with Moon Whitlock said no, it was Bobby’s style of drumming that he preferred. Bobby had started out as a drummer, and loved that Southern "feel", also heard in the playing of Roger Hawkins, the drummer of The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section/aka The Swampers.. To hear Roger’s drumming, listen to "Loan Me A Dime" by Boz Scaggs, Paul Simon’s There Goes Rhymin’ Simon album, or any of the Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett albums on Atlantic Records (Atlantic record producer Jerry Wexler took both to Muscle Shoals expressly to record with The Swampers). A master’s class in drumming!
Did ya’ll know that Jim Gordon and Roger Hawkins were for a time the 2-drummer rhythm section (along with fellow Swamper David Hood on bass) of Traffic? Seeing Jim and Roger playing together? Daaaaamn!
Czarivney. you stated "Fortunately he was locked up and bothered no one with his occasional schizoid aggressions." As a person who spent many decades working in Corrections, I can assure you the risk correctional staff live with being around such folk 24 hours a day, every day qualifies those brave staff as being way more than "no one".
No offense taken, but when dangerous people are incarcerated they don’t disappear, or no longer present a danger. That’s a common misperception. But try being around a whole institution of them on a daily basis, and in short order you’ll not feel that way any more. Sorry if I’ve gotten to far afield on this thread, but it struck a chord in my life.
it took some psycho therapy and Adult Child of Alcoholic classes, but thanks. I came to peace with it long ago. I should have closed with that and don't criticize until you've walked a mile in their shoes
.........I read once that Jim Gordon along with girlfriend at that time ; Rita Coolidge wrote the piano / ending part of Layla. Rita was never given any credit and or royalties for her efforts on that part of the song. If anybody knows if that is in fact true, please chime in.
I tried to play drums for 17 years and yes ; Jim Gordon was a really good drummer. I enjoyed the way he approached them. A troubled but talented soul.....
Whether the "Layla" story is true, I don't know, but it's been repeated many, many times. The Delta Lady gives a detailed account in her autobiography. Personally, I believe her. A related story is that she broke off her relationship with Gordon because of physical abuse.
In one of his YouTube videos, Bobby Whitlock recounts the writing of the coda in "Layla". Go onto YouTube, do a search for Bobby Whitlock, and all his videos will become available for viewing. He's quite a character!