Derek and the Dominos drummer Jim Gordon dead at 77

Jim Gordon in the studio
(Image credit: Estate Of Keith Morris)

Jim Gordon, the renowned session drummer who played with Derek and the Dominoes and many more, but was later jailed after murdering his mother, has died at the age of 77. 

The news was confirmed in a statement from publicist Bob Merlis, who said Gordon died "after a long incarceration and lifelong battle with mental illness.”

Gordon was a member of the so-called Wrecking Crew in the 1960s, playing on dozens of hits and on albums like The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds in 1967 and the following year's Byrds album The Notorious Byrd Brothers. After touring with Delaney & Bonnie in 1970 he joined Eric Clapton – who called him "the greatest rock’n’roll drummer I have ever played with" – plus Carl Radle and Bobby Whitlock in forming Derek and the Dominoes.

During his time with Derek and the Dominoes, Gordon received a co-writing credit after coming up with the lengthy piano coda on the classic Layla, although his contribution did not sit well with Whitlock.

“It taints the integrity,” Whitlock told Classic Rock. “It has nothing to do with the rest of the song. It just sounds like a mess." Whitlock also claimed that Gordon lifted the piano part from Time (Don’t Get In Our Way) , written by his then-girlfriend Rita Coolidge, which was later released as a single by Rita’s sister Priscilla. 

Gordon later played with Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs & Englishmen band, and his career also brought him session work with the likes of John Lennon, Alice Cooper, George Harrison, Traffic, Leon Russell, Tom Petty, Randy Newman, Nils Lofgren, Jackson Brown, Jack Bruce, Cher, Crosby, Stills & Nash, BB King, John Lee Hooker, Frank Zappa and many more.

In 1983, Gordon was convicted of murdering his mother during a schizophrenic episode, and was sentenced to 16 years to life in prison. He spent the rest of his days at maximum-security facilities run by the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation, and was denied parole on multiple occasions. 

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.