THE EXPERIMENT - Click
here to order "The Best of BLX" CD
At age 58 you would think Bill Lordan would begin slowing down. Thats
hardly the case. This internationally famous drummer, song writer
and visionary is just finding himself. In 2004, Bill won the L.A.
music awards for lifetime achievement/distinguished career in drumming
as well as Independent Rock Album of the year for Here Comes
the Storm. In 2006 he was inducted into the Minnesota Rock/Country
Hall of fame for lifetime achievement and for a band he played in
from Minneapolis called The Mystics. In April 2007 he
will be inducted again to the Minnesota Rock/Country Hall of fame
for the time he spent in Gypsy. He is doing numerous Radio
program and is also being pursued for documentaries, writing his autobiography,
doing interviews, recording projects, producing and doing special
performances. He has recently released his new CD , The Best
of BLX (Bill Lordan Experiment) which is packed full of famous
artists with the exquisite song writing and style of this amazing
Of his extensive career, Bill said the following; When I was
in sixth grade, Sister Thomas Martin asked the class who wanted to
learn how to play drums after school. I was the third kid to raise
my hand and three students was her limit. So I started lessons with
her after school, about three days a week. When we started our lessons,
we used practice pads made of wood and rubber. She showed us the basic
rudiments. The one I remember most was the double stroke roll, which
she referred to as the momma- daddy... right, right; left,
left. It was Sister Thomas Martin who sparked my initial interest
in drumming. My first kit was a four-piece Gretch White Pearl. I have
a black and white snapshot of my first kit in my scrapbook, from 1961.
As a kid, I would go downtown and I was always intrigued by the display
window of the shop where I bought my set.
I had neighborhood friends, including Willy Murphy. He had a
piano and I had drums. My first jam was with Willy and that led to
our first band called the Valdons, a soul band. We played little places,
like the Boys Club or Mattys Barbeque, at Lake and Nicollet
across from Mr. Luckys and I would sit on the food side on the break
because I wasnt old enough to play in bars. I later played in
some soul bands in St. Paul. One was called the Blue Notes, the other
one (thats being inducted in the Hall of Fame) was The Amazers.
They had previously been a Gospel group from Dallas, Texas called
the Mighty Golden Voices. They came to Minneapolis and decided to
live here and started an R & B Band and my name came up as a drummer.
We recorded at K Banks Studio which later was Sound Eighty with Herb
Pillhoffer. We recorded Its You For Me which became a
number one hit on the soul charts. We recorded in Chicago with Curtis
Mayfield and the Impressions. Because we had a success, we played
some soul clubs and got some national exposure. After that run, I
had made contacts with the band the Esquires, in Milwaukee who had
a number one song Get on Up. We toured the entire United
States, played the Apollo Theatre in New York, the Twenty Grand, and
The Rooster Tail in Detroit, all the soul Theatres, nightclubs, college
circuit, like the Uptown in Philadelphia, and the Howard theatre in
Washington. We were in Washington DC when Martin Luther King was assassinated.
I was the only white guy in the band. I had to hide in the back of
the van due to the mass rioting, looting, and chaos in the inner city.
We finally did get out of town safely. We also played Boston at the
Sugar Shack. After the Esquires, I came back home to Minnesota. One
night I was with the Amazers and Mike and Butch Stokes (who were with
Michaels Mystics) came out to see Willie Weeks (The Amazers bass player)
and I. Willy has played with Donny Hathaway, Roberta Flack, Stevie
Wonder, everybody. He is national now and plays with big artists such
as Wynona Judd and Vince Gill. We made arrangements to audition with
them. We were moving up and changing and we had gone as far as we
could with the Amazers so we joined a group called Michaels Mystics.
With them we recorded a song called Painand won the Connie
Awards (which later became The Minnesota Music Awards). This was in
1969. I won the best drummer, the band won the best band, and Willie
won the best bass player. We stayed with the Mystics for a year or
We met Joey Davis Southern, who was a friend of Buddy Miles
and through him, Joey knew Jimi Hendrix. One day Willie and I, on
kind of a bet or a dare, said to Joey that we were tired of what we
were doing and can he get us a jam with Jimi Hendrix because we were
big fans. Joey didn't say much, but came back a week or so later with
a limousine and said we were going to New York. Joey had made a call
through Buddy Miles. Willie, Joey and I flew to New York and stayed
at the Penn Garden hotel across from Madison Square Garden. That is
where Buddy stayed. We proceeded to the Cafe Au-Go-Go in Greenwich
Village where it was all set up through Joey and Jimi for us to come
down and jam. It was a jam audition. Jimi was looking for members
to be in his dream band Gypsy Suns and Rainbows, that he told us about
after dinner the first night. Jimi wanted musicians on his level who
could hear what he was doing and compliment it without him having
to tell them what to do. We jammed three days in a row with Willie
on bass and myself on drums. The sessions were in the mid afternoon
and lasted until evening. After the sessions, we went across the street
to a restaurant to eat with his entourage. I met Floyd Rose (who was
inventing special effects pedals for Jimi at the time and invented
the first locking guitar system) There were lots of women coming by
the table introducing themselves, who were all interested in meeting
the star. On another night, Buddy Miles and Billy Cox were there as
well as the large group of people who always seemed to be around Jimi.
After the evening dinners, we drove in Jimi's limousine and went back
to Jimi's hotel to hang out and talk for awhile before returning to
our hotel. One evening, we went down to the club called The Scene.
We saw a relatively unknown band at the time: The band was Sha Na
Na! At the end of most evenings, Jimi would go back to one of his
places.... he had more than one place to get away from everyone and
find some peace and have some space. On the third night, we were at
the dinner table and Jimi turned to me and said, I want you
to play drums. Jimis drummer Mitch Mitchells wife
was having a baby back in England. After Willie and I left New York
the agency who booked us received a call from Hendrix management wanting
me to play Woodstock. Unfortunately, I didnt get the message
in time. His drummer Mitch Mitchell, who did play at Woodstock knew
his music much better than I did, so it all worked out ok. It was
an incredible experience to be around someone like Jimi. He was so
far ahead of his time, a true Star child of the universe
and here for such a short time.
After coming back to Minnesota and leaving the Mystics, Willie
and I went to New York again to play with Eric Mercury. He wrote with
Bobby Bloom who wrote Montigo Bay on Avco Embassy Records. He was
called the Electric Black Man. He had a very good album
out and we had a great band. The guitar player was Elliott Randall,
who played with Steely Dan. (Reeling in the Years). So
with that band, Eric Mercury and Birth Right, we played the Fillmores
on both coasts. I went to L.A. for the first time. Saw the Ocean,
the palm trees and fell in love with the West Coast. We toured a while
and I returned home. Willy had an offer to join Chaka Khan with a
band called Ask Rufus in Chicago. He left and I stayed to join a band
called Gypsy. They had original music, and were guys from Minneapolis
who lived in LA. I met them in Minneapolis and they already had a
drummer but wanted to make a change. They moved back to LA. I played
with a guy named Terry Furlong in Los Angeles who was a guitar player
in the The Grass Roots. They came to a club to hear me with Terry
and decided they wanted me so, I moved in their house in Laurel Canyon,
and boom we moved back to Minnesota. I had a ton of material to learn.
We had two big concerts in Minneapolis, one with Steppin Wolfe at
the Minneapolis Auditorium and [another] later with the Guess Who.
The Guess Whos manager, Don Hunter, had picked up our contract.
We were on Metro Media, which [also] had Bobby Sherman. That label
folded and we got with RCA and got a 2 or 3 album deal. We recorded
with Jack Richardson as Producer; the company was called Nimbus Nine.
He had done Alice Cooper the Guess Who and now Gypsy. We used Chicagos
horn section on the album Unlock the Gate. We had some
success with radio play and I stayed with Gypsy 4 or 5 years [traveling]
back and forth from Minnesota to L.A..
I went back to L.A. and was at Paramount Studio. I had met Bobby
Womack who wanted me to play drums with him. I had done some sessions
with him and I wanted to pick up some free lance work. While I was
waiting for Bobby, Sly and the Family Stone came into studio A. One
of the body guards, Bubba Banks, who was Sly's Sister, Rose's, husband,
came out of the studio and asked me if I was a drummer, because he
had seen me sitting there with drum sticks in my hand when they came
in. He asked me if I would like to come in and play on some tracks
that Sly was working on at the time. I said that I would.... so I
went into the studio with Bubba where I met Sly. Sly told me, Go
out behind the drums and put on the headphones and see what you can
come up with to play on this track. There were two songs that
night, Livin' While I'm Livin and Say You Will, which are both on
the Small Talk album which I later recorded with Sly on Epic Records.
I played on the songs and when the track came to an end, I looked
up and saw that in the control room there was all this commotion.
So I got up from the drums and went in to see what was up. That's
when Sly turned to me and said, You are in the Family Stone.
I got the job, but I didn't know that I was auditioning. Sly did not
have a regular, full-time drummer at the time. He needed somebody
to do both studio and live shows. The ironic part to this story is
that I was in the studio at that time to meet Bobby Womack to see
about playing with his band, but Bobby was late getting there. So
I guess that there is something to the old saying about being in the
right place at the right time. We worked at Paramount for a few hours,
and then Sly decided to get us all into his limousine and go to another
studio where we worked on tapes until the wee hours of the morning
and then we finally all went home. Sly helped me develop my own drumming
Sly gave me his concept of how to interpret his uncanny sense
of rhythm. Sly said to me, Lord of the Drums, (which was the
nickname that Sly gave me because he never called me Bill Lordan)
play sloppy tight and raggedy clean. Then Sly sat down behind
my drums and showed me what he meant. It was kind of a disjointed,
loose but tight placement of the beats on the drums. It was how he
placed the kick drum and snare that was unlike the way a normal drummer
would play it, but made so much sense and was very musical. Then when
he got up from the drums, he'd tell me to take what he showed me and
put my 'polish' on it. He wanted me to take the concept and add my
precision chops into it. I think that Sly would have played it himself,
but at that time, he preferred to use my chops. Interestingly enough,
did you know that Sly did indeed play the drums and all the instruments
on his album Theres a Riot Goin On. Sly was most intrigued with
a drum beat I came up with that we later titled, Stick N' Lick.
We worked on it at the record plant in Sausalito. We just laid down
a backing track of it without any words. This Stick N' Lick
groove was an inspiration from listening to Jabo Starks, who was the
original drummer for James Brown. Just working with Sly Stone was
encouraging. Working in a band with this level of world-class musicians
helped to inspire and develop my drumming style. Sometimes when we
were playing live, I thought that we were the greatest band in the
world. Everyone in the band held their own and were exceptionally
talented players; there wasn't a weak link in the band. Playing with
these great players and working with Sly helped me to develop my own
sense of what was unique.
My best Sly story is when Sly got married on stage at Madison
Square Garden in front of 23,000 people. Before our show, they flew
in a Baptist Minister from Oakland, CA. to perform the service. After
Sly and Kathy were married, we found out [afterwards] that the wedding
was not legal because the Minister was not registered in the State
of New York. So, Sly had to fly the Minister back to New York, to
fill out papers to make the wedding valid. There were many celebrities
at the concert and backstage that night. I remember seeing Miles Davis
there. He was a big fan of Sly's and loved his music. Halston was
also there. He had designed our gold sequined jackets for that night.
Halston had given me an expensive roll of Mylar [which was used
for making jewelry], to wrap my drums so that it would match our outfits
and it would look like my drums were made of gold. Sly was always
outrageous.... flamboyant and flashy in his dress and in his production.
I always liked Sly's use of the colors red, white and black. The story
behind that is that Sly wanted to change the colors of the U.S. flag
from red, white and blue, to red, white and Black. He had the idea
of having the colors of the flag to represent the colors of the people
in this country. He had a good message in his music and in his philosophy
about all races getting together and living in harmony. While with
Sly we were on television programs like Soul Train, Mike Douglas,
and Midnight Special.
After a year and half or so with Sly, he decided to take some
time off and I got the information that Studio Instrument Rentals
was auditioning drummers for Robin Trower, who had been in Procol
Harem and played the Jimi Hendrix style. I got a hold of him at the
Hotel Continental Hyatt House on Sunset and talked to him and he said,
come on down. I played, got the job and moved to England in 1974.
I was with Robin 10 years.
Robin had said this about Bill Lordan: Bill's a great drummer,
y'know. He's got to be one of the best drummers there are. I mean,
you can't play with someone like that and not have it change you.
I feel a lot better about the whole thing. These are our first gigs
we've played with Bill, and y'know, the first night was classic! We
went on, he was right for us. He knew he was right for us before we
did. He'd been into us from the time the first album came out and
he's been trying to get hold of me ever since, 'cause he knew he was
The Drummer. He phoned me up and said, 'I'm the guy you want. Don't
listen to anybody else.' And he was right. He was absolutely perfect.
See, he's been into it right from the first album. Bill, on drums,
has added so much, a completely new dimension."
We had four Gold records, a Platinum and Silver. We had multiple
albums and live recordings and did radio shows for the BBC, television
shows like Don Kirschners Rock Concert. This was pre MTV there was
no video. After Robin Trower (he took some time off) I did some independent
work around Los Angeles. I lived with another Drummer, Jack White,
from Detroit, who played with Rick Springfield. Then I moved back
to Minneapolis and was living in Richfield. I got a call from Robin
to go back on tour. Smaller clubs, theatres, as he was making somewhat
of a comeback. Also to record demos for his upcoming demos called
In the Line of Fire on Atlantic Records. I went to London, did the
demo work, went on a small tour of the US and we did that for a few
months came back to Minneapolis then through a roady of Trower I met
Dave Steffen a guitarist from Wisconsin. He would go to northern California
and play a club where I played with Robin called New Georges. I once
again, went out to California and hooked up with Dave Steffen. We
played winters in California and summers in Wisconsin doing Summerfest
in Milwaukee. We recorded 3 CDs of original music. He was a prolific
writer and a good guitar player, singer and songwriter.
During that time I had also made contacts in California for
contemporary Christian music. My friend Eric Turner from Florida was
a rock musician who had been on Atlantic records, with the band Fortress.
We recorded some music with Fortress that didnt get released
on Atlantic which is now being released on Escape records out of the
UK. He was involved with Christian music with a guy named Denny Correll
who sang in the Blues Image. They had a hit Ride Captain Ride. I got
involved with Christian Music with the Darrell Mansfield Band (Darrell
plays harmonica and sings) and Denny Correll. Darrell wrote and produced
and sang the songs for Maranatha Records, where I did an album called
The Vision. Recorded in Orange County at IAM studios in Irvin Calif.
Then the church they were involved in, Calvary Chapel, who ran the
label sent us on tour. We went to Israel, the Philippines, and Hawaii.
We played prisons, high schools and churches. I did that almost 7
years. When the Christian band had run its course, I stayed around
California for awhile, then returned to Wisconsin for a time and got
back with Dave Steffen again. We did one more recording and a little
touring. I met a young blues guitar player named Chris Aaron in Wisconsin.
He was an up and coming blues player and got involved with his music.
His wife Lisa was the singer at the time. We cut a very good second
CD in Chicago at CRC called Five Miles to Freedom with a singer Cory
Sterling from Canada (from The Kenny Wayne Shepard band). We cut an
EP and then a full out CD. We did the Madison Blues Festival to promote
the CD and other top jobs in the state.
Eric Turner says: I remember being a fan of Trower before I
knew Bill. The first time I met him was at a club in Topanga Canyon.
He was jamming with my friend Mike Pinera of Blues Image fame. When
I talked to Bill he was a very cool, friendly person. My thoughts
were to put some gigs and recording together so we could play. So
I called Bill and Ruste Allen to play on Denny Corrells first album.
I was in Fortress then and just coming off Atlantic records and Bill
was kind enough to record some songs to try to get another deal. Bill
and I also joined the Darrell Mansfield band and did world tours.
That led to BLX and the independent CDs. Bill always wanted
to write together so these were the ideas we came up with. Bill is
a legend and I have been blessed to know him.
When it ran its course, I decided to go out to California one
more time where I lived in the dessert, outside of Palm Springs, which
is where I wrote and recorded my 3 solo CDs, The Bill Lordan Experiment.
A friend built a studio, we recorded, wrote, produced and got to do
things I never did before. I was in the desert for 5 years and won
the LA music awards. I was involved in different projects and bands,
and did some Christian gigs with Mansfield. When it all dried up,
I was in touch with my son Je-Ray. I returned to Minneapolis and immediately
doors started to open that never dreamed possible
My new CD, The Best of BLX , is Blues and R & B with my
son, Eric Turner on Guitar and Vocals and life long friend and legend
Don Breedlove on guitar. It is a culmination of works over the last
10 years since Robin Trower and a couple nice surprises of older un
released numbers from Sly & Robin.
On Nov. 26th Bill Lordan was the special guest at a local Jimi
Hendrix Tribute. Many fans came out to hear him play. Some even
came with old Trower albums and memorabilia from 30 years ago. When
Bill was on stage, it seemed nothing else was important. Yes, there
were great guitar players up there with him but his presence and professionalism
far out-shined anyone and once he played, the drums were the focus.
In his waist jacket (Black with real gold threads) he stole the show.
This jacket was made by Michael & Toni Designs of Tampa Florida,
the same designer who made Jimi Hendrixs beautiful clothing.
It was designed with a beautiful flowing gold pattern that has a rhythm
fitting for a drummer. There were four numbers in his set and after
hearing some loud playing wah-wah pedal driven songs in the previous
group, his set opened by bringing the pace down with Up From
The Skies. Playing with only brushes, Bills technique and emotion
were strong and appreciated. In the other songs of his set, Spanish
Castle Magic, Little Wing and You Got Me Floatin, at times he
hit the drums so hard, his arms and body all over the place, I expected
something to explode. I was moved by his performance. His set featured
Jim Anton on bass (from Johnny Lang) and Paul Holland on lead guitar
(from The Supafuzz and a finalist in Marino De Silvas Worldwide
Blues Idol Contest) and Bill. Other sets included such artists as
, Kip Blackshire (Prince, New Power Generation), Jelly Bean Johnson
(The Time), and many other well known local musicians.
On his website the following day was this comment from a fan: Hi
Bill, caught your show tonight at the Cabooze, all I can say is...DAMN!!!
Man, you really know how to 'play' a room. You got those Slingerlands
sounding nice, the way they were designed to sound.
Bill mentioned he had a little trouble and had to adjust the snare
and other parts because he was using house drums, but once he was
set-up, he was flawless. Bill Lordan is a very successful and talented
man just coming into his own time.
The Best of The Bill Lordan Experiment not only features his son but
includes eight different vocalists, a Spanish song, blues, rock, two
beautiful ballads, a drum solo, a live Sly number from Soul Train
and a live Robin Trower song. Its got everything. Bill continues
to write and play his drums like noone else can. It is truly just
the beginning of his lifelong experiment.
Editing assistance by
Kurt Koehler, TC Blues News