Home > Mix CD-Rs, Session Players > The Jim Gordon Collection Vol. 1

The Jim Gordon Collection Vol. 1

February 27th, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments


There are a few things you need to know about the great drummer Jim Gordon. He played on such classics as “You’re So Vain”, “Sara Smile”, Seals & Croft”s “Summer Breeze” and “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number”. He wrote and played that gorgeous piano coda on “Layla”. And he bludgeoned his mother to death.

Gordon, who once ranked alongside such giants as Hal Blaine and Earl Palmer in the roster of drummers in the session musicians’ collective known as the Wrecking Crew, is still a guest of the US government at the California Medical Facility, a psychiatric prison in Vacaville. The fact of his current domicile tips us off that Gordon’s is a profoundly tragic story, not just a sensational tale of a man gone bad.

Jim Gordon was born in 1945 and grew up in California’s San Fernando Valley. At the age of eight he built his first drum set, from trash cans. The kid showed such talent that his middle-class parents bought him a proper drum set and sprung for lessons by a professional drummer. By the time he was 15, Jim was already regarded by many as a prodigy. When he graduated from high school, UCLA offered him a musician scholarship. To the understandable consternation of his parents, he decided to hit the road instead, with the Everly Brothers on their 1963 tour of England.

Returning from the tour, Jim played for local bands and profited from small session jobs, like doing some percussion work for Sonny & Cher and the Everly Brothers. His talent was gradually attracting notice, until in March 1966 the big break came: Brian Wilson invited Jim, still only 20 years old, to play on the Beach Boys album that would become Pet Sounds (on which Hal Blaine, his mentor, did most of the stick work). Within a couple of years, Gordon ranked as an established member of the Wrecking Crew, playing with Crosby, Stills & Nash, The Byrds, José Feliciano, Mason Williams, and helping Linda Ronstadt get her break with the Stone Poneys.


As the 1960s turned into the 1970s, he played on some groundbreaking albums, such as George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass and Joe Cockers'” Mad Dogs & Englishmen. Among his steady gigs was that of drumming for the Delaney & Bonnie & Friends scene. Among Delaney & Bonnie’s pals was Eric Clapton. When Clapton decided to form Derek and the Dominos, Gordon was appointed the drummer. Clapton had high regard for Gordon, considering him the greatest rock drummer in the world — greater even than fellow Cream alumnus Ginger Baker! But it was as a pianist that Gordon made his most decisive contribution to the Clapton canon.

The sessions for “Layla” had gone very well. Clapton and Duane Allman had created a rock guitar anthem for the ages. But Clapton was at a loss as to how to end the thing. Then he heard Gordon doodling on the piano. He loved the chords the drummer was playing, and decided that this was exactly what was needed to play out the song. And he asked Gordon to play the piano part on the recording. And so the most famous bit of music one of the greatest drummers ever played was on the piano…

We”ll continue the story of Jim Gordon — for which I have drawn especially from Kent Hartman’s excellent book The Wrecking Crew: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll”s Best-kept Secret (2012) — with Volume 2.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes coverts. PW in comments. Fans of Earth, Wind & Fire will be interested in the arrangement of the Thelma Houston track.

1. Mason Williams – Classical Gas (1968)
2. The Everly Brothers – Hello Amy (1964)
3. The Beach Boys – I’m Waiting For The Day (1966)
4. The Byrds – Wasn’t Born To Follow (1968)
5. The Dillards – Reason To Believe (1968)
6. The Stone Poneys – Different Drum (1967)
7. Mama Cass – California Earthquake (1970)
8. John Lennon – Power To The People (1971)
9. Leon Russell – Alcatraz (1971)
10. The Friends Of Distinction – Grazing in The Grass (1969)
11. Thelma Houston & Pressure Cooker – Got To Get You Into My Life (1975)
12. Minnie Riperton – Simple Things (1975)
13. Bill LaBounty – Lie To Me (1975)
14. Steely Dan – Rikki Don’t Lose That Number (1974)
15. Art Garfunkel – The Same Old Tears On A New Background (1975)
16. Joan Baez – Please Come To Boston (live, 1976)
17. Chi Coltrane – Let It Ride (1973)
18. The Souther-Hillman-Furay Band – Believe Me (1974)
19. Crosby Stills & Nash – Marrakesh Express (1969)
20. George Harrison – Let It Down (1970)
21. Traffic – Rock & Roll Stew (1971)
22. Delaney & Bonnie & Friends – They Call It Rock & Roll Music (1970)


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Previous drummer collection:
The Bernard Purdie Collection Vol. 1
The Bernard Purdie Collection Vol. 2
The Ricky Lawson Collection Vol. 1
The Ricky Lawson Collection Vol. 2

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  1. halfhearteddude
    February 27th, 2014 at 08:10 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. Peerke
    February 27th, 2014 at 09:59 | #2

    According to Yvonne Elliman, who was Gordon’s girlfriend during Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmens tour, the coda to ‘Layla’ was something she was working on at the time. Gordon “forgot” to mention that to Clapton.

  3. dogbreath
    February 27th, 2014 at 17:04 | #3

    Some of my favourite songs from the 60s and 70s are included here and I freely admit that I never knew who was on percussion, so many thanks for the education! Good work as usual.

  4. Dave
    February 28th, 2014 at 00:03 | #4

    I thought it was gonna be Earl Palmer next! I love the drummer series; keep ’em coming.

  5. Frank
    February 28th, 2014 at 01:11 | #5

    I love these drummer series! It’s so nice and intelligent history writing, thanks for this!

  6. halfhearteddude
    February 28th, 2014 at 08:47 | #6

    Hal Blaine will come before his friend Earl Palmer.

  7. February 28th, 2014 at 20:35 | #7

    Sweet collection, highlighting the guy’s amazing versatility. How terribly sad that his mental illness took him from us.

  8. Rhod
    February 28th, 2014 at 22:13 | #8

    Thanks for the Jim Gordon share, some great tracks that he played on.



  9. HW
    March 1st, 2014 at 14:08 | #9

    …Rita Coolidge, according to Graham Nash (well, according to Wikipedia).

  10. Garth
    March 2nd, 2014 at 17:18 | #10

    Absolutely fantastic Major Dude. You NEVER disappoint. I look forward to opening your page and discovering more music marvels!! Many Thanks for your efforts, it’s truly appreciated.

  11. halfhearteddude
    March 2nd, 2014 at 21:56 | #11

    Thanks for all the kind words. I thought the mix came out really well; I’m glad to know that I’m not alone in that opinion.

  12. David
    March 4th, 2014 at 08:24 | #12

    Another great but almost unknown drummer & prime candidate for this series: Clem Cattini – 40+ UK number 1 singles (http://www.coda-uk.co.uk/clem_cattini.htm).

  13. halfhearteddude
    March 4th, 2014 at 19:05 | #13

    Wow, that is one impressive career. I’ll have to to feature him at some point.

  14. Misisipi Mike
    June 7th, 2014 at 01:27 | #14

    I think I have found my own personal heaven – digging through Any Major Dude and getting a really great schooling on 20th Century music. Thank you for these amazing posts.

  15. halfhearteddude
    June 8th, 2014 at 13:39 | #15

    Thanks for the kind words, Mike.

  16. AM
    December 3rd, 2015 at 10:41 | #16

    i believe you mean Rita Coolidge…:)

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