This is one of the saddest stories in the history of Rock and Roll.Today, July…

Written by on July 14, 2018

This is one of the saddest stories in the history of Rock and Roll.

Today, July 14, James Beck “Jim” Gordon turns 73 years old. Jim is a recording artist, musician and songwriter. The Grammy Award winner was one of the most requested session drummers in the late 1960s and 1970s, recording albums with many well-known musicians of the time, and was the drummer in the blues rock supergroup Derek and the Dominos, Little Richard, and Delaney & Bonnie. In 1983, Gordon, who at the time was an undiagnosed schizophrenic, murdered his mother and was sentenced to sixteen years to life in prison.

Here is Jim’s history. He began his 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 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 includedEric 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.” 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 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. In 1983 he attacked his mother with a hammer before fatally stabbing her. 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. On 10 July 1984 Gordon was sentenced to 16 years to life in prison. According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s website (, as of July 2014, James Beck Gordon, prisoner #C89262, (then) age 68, admission date 13 July 1984, is still serving his sentence at the California Medical Facility, a specialist medical and psychiatric prison in Vacaville, California.

Happy Birthday Jim!! We hope all is well with you and Thank You for your body of work. w/ Chris O’Dell

Here is a partial list of who Jim played and recorded with.

Duane Allman Anthology (organ, piano, drums)

Renee Armand The Rain Book (producer, co-writer, drums, guitar)

Hoyt Axton My Griffin Is Gone

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 Jackson Browne (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)

The Everly Brothers Heartaches and Harmonies, Beat and Soul

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

Albert Hammond It Never Rains in Southern California

George Harrison All Things Must Pass; Extra Texture; Living in the Material World

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

Elliott Murphy Elliott Murphy; Lost Generation

Tracy Nelson Time is on My Side

Randy Newman Randy Newman; 12 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 and 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

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 —

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