Half of Jim Gordon’s Drumstick

Half of Jim Gordon’s Drumstick

What I Most Recall from a Classic Rock Concert

Derek and the Dominos — guitarist/vocalist Eric Clapton, keyboardist/vocalist Bobby Whitlock, bassist Carl Radle, and drummer Jim Gordon — toured the U.S. only once. On December 6, 1971, the band played the final show of that tour at Suffolk Community College in Selden, NY. Although I was there that night, I have only a vague recollection of the concert itself (this was, after all, nearly a half century ago). A poor-quality audience recording provides an echo of the performance.

My strongest remembrance of the night, however, occurred after the band left the stage.

Jim Gordon had a canister of extra drumsticks close at hand in case he accidentally dropped one during the performance. Since this was the last night of the tour, at the end of the band’s concluding number, Gordon grabbed the extra sticks and hurled them into the crowd. Hands flew up as fans attempted to grab a prized souvenir. I, alas, failed to catch one.

After the band left the stage and the house lights came on, fans on the floor dutifully filed out through aisles on either side of the long rows of seats. As I did so, I spotted a drumstick on the floor near the center of the row. I made a beeline for the item, but a fan on the other side had also spotted it and beat me to the drumstick.

I shrugged and turned, prepared to depart empty-handed, when the other person said, “No — Wait.” He lifted his knee, snapped the drumstick in two, and handed me half.

With their only official studio release, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, Derek and the Dominos created one of the most iconic albums in rock history. Things didn’t end well for everyone in the band, however. In the subsequent years, drummer Jim Gordon’s life turned into a nightmarish tragedy of mental illness and murder.

As I look back at this shattered drumstick, it’s tempting to view it as a metaphor for his life’s calamitous path.

But I prefer to view it differently. For me, it’s a remembrance of an unexpected act of generosity from an anonymous stranger.

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