James Lee "Jim" Keltner (born April 27, 1942) is a session drummer who has contributed to the work of many well-known artists. He is originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma.
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 music'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. His first gig on the tour was Memphis November 20, 1974.
Keltner's relationship with the former Beatles was such that his name was used to parody McCartney on albums released by 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 played the role of the judge in the video for George Harrison's 1976 Top 30 hit, "This Song".
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 Leon Russell, Gabor Szabo, Delaney Bramlett, Roy Orbison, Harry Nilsson, Jerry Garcia, Eric Clapton, Guthrie Thomas, Steely Dan, Joe Cocker, Van Dyke Parks, the Rolling Stones, Ronnie Wood, Bill Wyman, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Brian Wilson, Roger McGuinn, Seals and Crofts, The Ramones, Bill Frisell, Neil Young, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Phil Keaggy, Steve Jones, Crowded House, Fiona Apple, Elvis Costello, The Bee Gees, Jackson Browne, The Manhattan Transfer, Randy Newman, Ry Cooder, Sam Phillips, Los Lobos, Pink Floyd, Warren Zevon, Rufus Wainwright, Tom Petty, Gillian Welch, the Steve Miller Band, Alice Cooper, Sheryl Crow and Lucinda Williams among many others. He is featured on Carly Simon's 1971 album, Anticipation. In 1973, Keltner was the session drummer on Bob Dylan's Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, which includes the hit "Knockin' on Heaven's Door". Keltner says that session "was a monumental session for me because it was such a touching song, it was the first time I actually cried when I was playing".
In the late 1980s, Keltner toured with Starr's All-Starr Band. He also played drums on both albums released by the 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 "Dream Weaver" by Gary Wright, "Josie" on Aja by Steely Dan, "Watching the River Flow" by Bob Dylan and The Thorns' debut, in which he sensitively accompanies Matthew Sweet, Pete Droge and Shawn Mullins. Keltner performed on many classic recordings by J. J. Cale, and often worked with bassist Tim Drummond.
In 1987, Keltner, along with guitarist Ry Cooder, and bassist Nick Lowe played on John Hiatt's Bring the Family. Four years later the four musicians reunited as the band Little Village, recording an eponymously-named album.
He played on four Richard Thompson albums: Daring Adventures (1986), Amnesia (1988), Rumor and Sigh (1991) and you? me? us? (1996).
1990s to present
In the mid 1990s, Jim joined the London Metropolitan Orchestra on its recording of "An American Symphony", on the movie soundtrack for Mr Holland's Opus.
In 2000, he toured with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young on their "Tour of America".
In 2002, he briefly joined Bob Dylan's band during the European gigs while its main drummer, George Receli, recuperated from a hand injury. Later in the year, Keltner played in Concert For George, a tribute to Harrison a year following his death. Wearing the sweatshirt with a Bob Dylan logo, he reprised his role as the Wilburys' drummer, joining Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne for "Handle with Care."
In 2003, he toured with Simon & Garfunkel in their Old Friends tour.
In 2006, he toured with T-Bone Burnett in The True False Identity tour and was featured on Jerry Lee Lewis' album Last Man Standing.
In 2006, he also worked with Phish keyboardist Page McConnell on his self-titled solo debut album.
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, on One Kind Favor by B. B. King and on Oasis' "The Boy with the Blues", a non album-track from Dig Out Your Soul. Also, Keltner participated in the production of the album Psalngs, the debut release of Canadian musician John Lefebvre.
In 2010, Keltner produced Jerry Lee Lewis' Mean Old Man duets CD. He played drums on Fistful of Mercy's debut album, As I Call You Down, which one of the band's members, Dhani Harrison, described in an interview as the first project of his that he felt worthy to bring to Keltner, who was an old family friend (Dhani is the son of George Harrison). Keltner also played on The Union by Leon Russell and Elton John, produced by T-Bone Burnett and released on October 10, 2010. He also appeared on the eponymous Eric Clapton album, on 8 of the 14 tracks.
Joseph Arthur's latest album The Graduation Ceremony (released May 24, 2011) features Keltner on drums, reprising a partnership that began with the Fistful of Mercy project.