Sun, 26 Apr 2015

The Jim Gordon Story

James Beck "Jim" Gordon was a famous Grammy Award-winning session drummer in the late 1960's and early 1970's. In the 60's and 70's, everybody in the music business was talking about him. He was the best of the best. Jim was the number one studio drummer in Los Angeles for many years. Jim's sound, groove, time, and feel was incredible, and the top artists wanted him to play the drums on their albums.

But sadly, Jim was mentally ill. He was arrested and imprisoned in 1983 for killing his mother because "her voice" tormented him for so long. In the years before the tragedy happened, Gordon developed schizophrenia, a form of psychosis characterized by hearing "voices" or hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized thinking and speech.

Due to the Insanity Defense Reform Act that caused changes to California law at the time of his trial, he was not allowed to use an insanity defense despite the acceptance of the trial court that Gordon had acute schizophrenia during the commission of the crime. He was sentenced to 16 years to life in prison on July 10, 1984 and he remains incarcerated in the California Medical Facility from his admission on July 13, 1984 up until now.

Jim Gordon Became One Of The Busiest Studio Drummers

Gordon is a tragic case in the history of rock music. He was born in California on July 14, 1945. He already showed a great talent with playing the drums as a boy but in 1963, when he was seventeen, he declined a music scholarship to UCLA to begin his career in rock music. Eventually, Gordon became one of Los Angeles' top drummers before the 1960's ended by working with some of the popular musicians and bands of that time including the Everly Brothers, Joe Cocker, Nancy Sinatra, The Beach Boys, Andy Williams, The Monkees, The Byrds, Cass Elliot, Mel Tormé, Tom Scott, and Glen Campbell. Jim Gordon shared nearly all the work with Jim Keltner, Hal Blaine, and later Jeff Porcaro, the drum legends of Los Angeles at the time.

Gordon became one of the busiest studio musicians at the height of his career that he would fly back and forth from Las Vegas to Los Angeles everyday for his recordings and performances the Caesars Palace's evening shows. As his drumming career progressed, he was recruited into the band Delaney and Bonnie - former band of Eric Clapton - when their drummer, Jim Keltner, suddenly pulled out right before a music tour. From 1969 to 1970, Gordon toured with the band where he was paired off with Carl Radle, a veteran bassist who became his musical double act for over a couple of years after the Delaney and Bonnie tour.

Co-Wrote Layla With Eric Clapton

Gordon and Radle worked with Eric Clapton for his first solo album along with Bobby Whitlock on the keyboards. They later formed the band Derek and the Dominos after playing with Clapton for George Harrison's album, All Things Must Pass, where Gordon was paired off with the famous Ringo Starr. The pairing brought Gordon to instant stardom and his drumming became widely recognized in the business. Derek and the Dominos was a short-lived band; however, they were able to come up with the hit single "Layla" and their album which became best-selling records in the 1970's. Besides playing for the album, Gordon personally co-authored the carrier single with Eric Clapton and contributed the song's instrumental ending.

In the spring of 1971, the band broke up before they even finished their second album's recording. Gordon also played for Dave Mason's album, Alone Together, and became part of Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs and Englishmen music tour in 1970. He played and toured with Traffic for two of their albums in 1971 and also played for Harry Nilsson's album, Nilsson Schmilsson, and John Lennon's album, Imagine.

Jim Toured With Frank Zappa

Gordon became part of Frank Zappa's Grand Wazoo and Petit Wazoo band tours in 1972. He played for Zappa until 1974 when the album Apostrophe (') was released. Gordon received a writing credit for the album, which was a jam with Frank Zappa, Tony Duran and Jack Bruce. In that same year, 1974, Gordon played for Steely Dan's Pretzel Logic album. He also worked as the drummer for the Souther-Hillman-Furay band from 1973 to 1975. In 1976 he played for Alice Cooper's album, Alice Cooper Goes to Hell.

Jim Gordon's Self-Destructive Behaviors

However, though his career continued to succeed and his star of fame continued to shine, Gordon experienced darkness in his life. Aside from being a seemingly a mismatch between his appearance and profession, he experienced a split within himself. As early as 1969, he started demonstrating self-destructive behaviors. For days, he would go off on bizarre and reckless endeavors. Few of his fellow musicians took into account that Gordon often heard "voices" in his head and these voices directed him to engage in unruly acts and he did not know where they came from.

Gordon was exposed and was an abuser of addictive substances. His excessive alcohol drinking and substance abuse led to the worsening of his psychological condition. Bobby Whitlock even recalled in a 2011 interview with the Telegraph that Gordon's alcohol and drug intake was way over the top and what went down was scary. In an email to Rolling Stone, Whitlock also recalled that Gordon used to talk to him about the voices he kept hearing; he told Gordon that it was his consciousness speaking to him but Gordon said the voices were from someone else. Eventually, his alcohol and drug addiction led to his family's destruction.

From 1977 to 1983, Gordon often checked himself into hospitals to control his addictions and deal with his problems of hearing voices. The hallucination problem was recurrent and the voices were abusive. One of the voices he kept hearing was determined to have come from Osa Marie, Gordon's mother.

Gordon Stabbed His Mother To Death Using A Butcher Knife

Gordon said that it was the most abusive of the voices he has heard, and in 1983, he suddenly went to his mother's house in North Hollywood and attacked her. He hit his mother on the head using a hammer and then stabbed her to death using a butcher knife. The day after the murder, Gordon admitted to the detectives that he "just snapped." When Gordon attempted to recall what he remembered about the tragedy in a 1994 interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, he described the scene as dream-like. He remembered going through what happened but seemed detached and felt like he went through it on some other plane. He said that it did not seem real at all.

Parole Denied

In April 2013, a hearing for his parole ended with the California board panel denying Gordon parole until at least 2018. The decision was due to the grounds that Gordon refused to comply with court-ordered medication and counseling, rendering him dangerous when released from prison. He also refused to show up at the hearing, which made his attorney to request that the hearing be postponed until 2014. However, the request was denied and the decision to deny parole for a five-year period was finalized in August.

Article updates Wed, 7 Nov 2018
From Wikipedia: "On March 7, 2018, Gordon was denied parole for the tenth time and is tentatively scheduled to become eligible again in March 2021".

Article updates Tue, 14 March 2023
At the age of 77, Gordon died in prison on March 13, 2023 in a prison medical facility in Vacaville, Calif.

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