He is a drummer born James Beck Gordon raised in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles who passed up a UCLA music scholarship so he could start drumming for The Everly Brothers in the mid-’60s and made his mark with Mason Williams’ “Classical Gas” in 1968 and The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds.
At the turn of the decade, Gordon was touring with Delaney & Bonnie, where he met Eric Clapton. The two of them, along with Carl Radle and Bobby Whitlock, formed Derek & The Dominos. Their first gig was George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass. Gordon co-wrote the band’s biggest hit, “Layla”, and is credited with the piano coda in the song. The band toured briefly until breaking up in 1971.
By then, Gordon was already touring with Joe Cocker and Traffic. He toured with Frank Zappa in 1972. A year later, he joined the Souther-Hillman-Furay Band, and stayed with them for two years. Things went south from there.
Gordon, a cocaine addict, began hearing voices, namely his mother’s. Doctors diagnosed him as an acutely paranoid schizophrenic, and he was in and out of hospitals. The illness precluded him playing the drums by the turn of the decade, and in 1983, Gordon murdered his mother in particularly grisly fashion, beating her to death with a hammer and stabbing her in the ribs with a butcher knife. He is currently serving the “to life” portion of a sixteen years plus sentence in California.
Joan Baez recordings
A&M 1516-S, 2633-S (US 45)
Here he is drumming with Derek & the Dominoes on “It’s Too Late”.