Thursday, July 23, 2009

Beatle People: Jim Keltner

Jim Keltner (born April 27, 1942, Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States) is a session drummer who has contributed to the work of many well-known artists.


Keltner is best known for his session work on solo recordings by three of The Beatles, working often with George Harrison, John Lennon (including Lennon solo albums, as well as albums released both by the Plastic Ono Band and Yoko Ono), and Ringo Starr. He and Starr were the drummers on the Concert for Bangladesh, rock's first charity benefit, initiated by George Harrison and Ravi Shankar, in August, 1971 at Madison Square Garden in New York; he also performed at the Garden in 1972 for John Lennon's "One To One" benefit for the Willowbrook State School. Keltner later joined the 1974 George Harrison/Ravi Shankar tour, after many phone calls on the road from Harrison to him. His first gig on the tour was Memphis November 20, 1974.

Keltner's relationship with the former Beatles was such that he was parodied on albums released by both Harrison and Starr in 1973. Early that year, Paul McCartney, the only Beatle not to have worked with Keltner, included a note on the back cover of his Red Rose Speedway album, encouraging fans to join the "Wings Fun Club" by sending a "stamped addressed envelope" to an address in London. Later that year, both Harrison's Living in the Material World and Starr's "Ringo" contained a similar note encouraging fans to join the "Jim Keltner Fun Club" by sending a "stamped undressed elephant" to an address in Hollywood. Keltner plays the role of the judge in the video for George Harrison's 1976 Top 30 hit, "This Song."

As a percussionist, Keltner started out in jazz, although his first session was recording "She's Just My Style" for the pop group Gary Lewis and the Playboys. In addition to his work with three of the Beatles, Keltner, as a free-lance drummer, has also worked with Jerry Garcia, Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker, Van Dyke Parks, the Rolling Stones, Ronnie Wood, Bill Wyman, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Brian Wilson, Seals and Crofts, Bill Frisell, Neil Young, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Phil Keaggy, Steve Jones, Crowded House, Fiona Apple, Elvis Costello, The Bee Gees, Ry Cooder, Sam Phillips, Los Lobos, Pink Floyd, Warren Zevon Steely Dan, Rufus Wainwright, Tom Petty, Gillian Welch, the Steve Miller Band and Lucinda Williams among many others. He is featured on Carly Simon's 1971 album, Anticipation.


In the late 1980s, Keltner toured with Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band. He also played drums on both albums released by Harrison's 1980s supergroup, the Traveling Wilburys, playing under the pseudonym Buster Sidebury.

He has specialized in R&B, and is said to have influenced Jeff Porcaro and Danny Seraphine of Chicago. His drumming style typically melds deceptively simple drum patterns and a casual, loose feel with extraordinary precision. Demonstrations of his style and range can be found from Jealous Guy on John Lennon's Imagine, the hit single Dreamweaver by Gary Wright, Josie on Aja by Steely Dan, Watching The River Flow by Bob Dylan and The Thorns' debut, in which he provides a master class in sensitive musicianship alongside Matthew Sweet, Pete Droge and Shawn Mullins. Has performed as a session artist on many of the classic recordings by J. J. Cale. Often double billed with bassist Tim Drummond - a formidable combination.

In 1987 Keltner, along with guitarist Ry Cooder, and bassist Nick Lowe came together to play on John Hiatt's Bring the Family. Five years later the four musicians reunited as the band Little Village, recording an album of the same name.

In 2002, he played in Concert For George, a tribute to Harrison a year following his death. He reprised his role as the Wilburys' drummer, joining Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne for "Handle with Care."

In 2006 he toured with T-Bone Burnett in The True False Identity tour and featured on Jerry Lee Lewis' album Last Man Standing.

In 2007 Money Mark's, Brand New by Tomorrow, was released featuring Keltner and bassist Carol Kaye.

In 2008 Keltner appeared on Break up the Concrete by The Pretenders and on One Kind Favor by B. B. King: He played the drums on Oasis' "The Boy with the Blues", available on the deluxe edition of Dig Out Your Soul.


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