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Jailed Drummer Jim Gordon Denied Parole

Gordon co-wrote 'Layla' with Eric Clapton years before murdering his mother in 1983

May 17, 2013 11:00 AM ET
 Jim Gordon
Jim Gordon recording in the years before his arrest.
Keith Morris/Redferns

Rock drummer Jim Gordon, who killed his mother in June 1983 after claiming her voice had tormented him for years, was denied parole until at least 2018 at a hearing this April. A California board panel deemed the musician "a danger to society if released from prison," citing his resistance to court-ordered medication and counseling, according to a hearing transcript obtained by Rolling Stone.

Thirty years after Gordon confessed to stabbing his 71-year-old mother to death at her North Hollywood home, he continues to shows symptoms of schizophrenia and is "medically and psychologically noncompliant," Los Angeles County deputy district attorney Alexis de la Garza told the three-member panel. "This is one of the saddest cases that we have in prison. We have an individual who is seriously psychologically incapacitated, and he is a danger when he is not taking his medication."

In 2005, Gordon told the panel he believed his mother was alive, a concern highlighted during last month's hearing, which he declined to attend. Now 67, Gordon has also refused to meet with his attorney, who asked for a hearing postponement until 2014, citing an online support community petitioning for his release. "It's my hope that in a year's time those people can reach out to Mr. Gordon and help him develop parole plans," Jeremy Valverde said. The panel denied his request.

During the 1960s and 1970s, Gordon racked up dozens of credits as one of music's most in-demand session drummers – including work on albums by the Beach Boys, John Lennon, the Carpenters and Carly Simon. But his substance dependence and reputation for abusing women led to problems including hallucinations and in-studio confrontations. In 1979, he turned down a tour with Bob Dylan. Between that time and his arrest, Gordon checked himself into hospitals more than a dozen times for treatment. His mother's voice had grown louder and more relentless in his head, Gordon said, even threatening to destroy his gold records.

"I just snapped," he admitted to detectives the day after the murder. Following his trial, the judge sentenced Gordon to 16 years to life, with his first eligibility for parole in 1992.

"He used to talk to me about hearing voices, but I told him that it was his consciousness speaking to him. He said it was someone else," Bobby Whitlock of Derek and the Dominos tells Rolling Stone in an email. "Evidently he never stopped or even lightened up on his drug and alcohol intake. The end result was the destruction of his family."

Gordon is perhaps best known for playing the piano climax of Derek and the Dominos' 1971 hit "Layla," which he wrote with Eric Clapton. The song still pays him well; California's deputy district attorney said that for years inmates have solicited money from Gordon, which he has allegedly given them.

"In terms of parole plans, because of his condition it is our opinion that, not only for the good of society but for his good, what needs to be done is work on getting him a conservator, because I do believe he has a substantial amount of income," de la Garza said at the hearing. "The question is, would people be preying on him on the outside, as they have on the inside, because of his finances?"

The panel recommended Gordon seek substance abuse self-help, and will finalize its decision to deny parole for a five-year period in August.

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