Dave Grohl On Jim:
"There was one day in a studio in L.A. about 8 or 9 years ago, we had a big room at Conway to ourselves for the day and we thought, let’s run tape and invite a bunch of our friends over. So we invited Josh from Queens of the Stone Age, Krist Novoselic was there, Matt Sweeney the amazing guitar player was there and I was like, let’s call Keltner. So I called up Keltner and said, “Hey man come down, we’re gonna mess around and roll tape.” He’s a legend you know, his meter, his vibe, he’s a real vibe player you know. So he comes out, sits down behind a drumset, and does everything sideways, and backwards. And as we’re jamming, I look over and he’s got a stick and a shaker in one hand, and a brush and a frying pan in the other and he’s playing the snare with his foot or whatever. It was fucking crazy what he was doing, but it had this sound. And I watched it and I thought, THAT is messed up! And then I listened to it, and I thought, “THAT is genius!” And then I realized, people call Jim Keltner because that’s what Jim does, he plays like Jim Keltner. And for years whenever I went into a studio to play with anyone I’d be really self conscious like, “God I hope I’m doing what they want me to do, I hope it sounds right, I hope I’m playing well.” And after watching Keltner do that I thought, “You know what, from now on I’m just gonna go in and play, like I would play.” I think it’s important to do that. You know, I never took any drum lessons so honestly, I don’t know much about what I’m doing. I can hear it in my head, and I can play most of the things I can imagine in my mind or hear in my head, but I don’t know what’s right or what’s wrong, so I don’t have any boundaries."
A.J. Croce on Jim:
.............Are there any memories from Jim Keltner, Ry Cooder, and Jim Gaines, which you’d like to share with us?
A.J.: I have great memories from all of them, though Keltner and I really got close. He is a really kind person. We would have deep conversations every day we worked together. He also has some of the greatest rock and roll stories ever.
Bobby Whitlock on Jim:
...........With Eric and you as the core founding members of Derek and the Dominos, how did the other members come to join?
BW: We originally wanted Jim Keltner as our drummer. Keltner was doing this Gábor Szabó album, and Eric and I were doing a session for P.P. Arnold that Carl was supposed to play on, but he couldn’t find it. As a result, we used Manfred Mann’s bass player instead. Jim Gordon was on that session, and we were going to have to wait another month for Keltner to finish up with Szabo. Eric and I were hot to play now, and we’d already worked with Jim, who was an incredible drummer. So Eric and I talked it over, and we said, “Why don’t we just go ahead and ask him (Gordon) now? He’s here. He’s eager to play, and besides it’s gonna be another month till Keltner can come over.” So, that’s s how we got Gordon. Then Carl agreed to be the bass player.
Marshall Crenshaw on Jim:
Renowned session drummer Jim Keltner (John Lennon, George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Carly Simon, Ry Cooder) is the embodiment of taste; he instinctively knows what to do, what not to do. "The thing that I like about him," Crenshaw observes, "is that there's an eccentricity there. Somebody once said of one of his drum fills that it sounded like he thought of it after he played it! He comes up with brilliant, off-the-wall stuff. That's what really appeals to me, the way he'll leap out at you sometimes with this crazy gesture, and it will really create a lot of interest within the song." Crenshaw cites the spontaneously created back-end of the album's opener ("Right on Time"): "The song fades out, and then it fades back in. Jim just goes bananas and does this Jackson Pollock thing, and we just sort of join in with him for that moment of madness. When I heard that, I said, 'that's gotta be on the record!'"
"When we did the track, I recorded it in Los Angeles. The Jaggedland sessions were really a ton of fun for me. I was in the room with the guys, with Jim Keltner and Greg Leisz and Sebastian Steinberg and Emil Richards. We just were in a circle playing these tunes. Jim Keltner, after we played it once, he got up from his drum stool, went over to his cases, and he pulled out a plastic toy snare drum and put it up on the stand. I recognized it because when I was a kid, there was a friend of mine from down the street who had an Ebony snare drum exactly like the one Keltner had. My friend’s had a drumhead on it that said “The Beatles Drum,” and it had a picture of The Beatles. Anyway, he put this plastic snare drum up there and hit it, and it sounded like an explosion. I guess you have to be Jim Keltner to make a toy snare drum sound that way, but that’s what’s on the record. I think it’s a really beautiful track. It’s one of my best songs I think."
Ian Mclagan on Jim:
Jim Keltner said to me, "wait a minute! Where's the piano?" "Oh, I'm going to overdub piano. I'm going to cut everything with guitar, because I wrote all the songs on guitar." He said, "Oh, no, man, you've got to play piano!" "Fuck no! I don't even know parts!" He said, "well, come on! Let's learn 'em!" He cracked the whip on me, but it was great because it worked out well. We set up with Jim and I facing each other, which you should never do: put the piano next to the drums. But we set up baffles and let the separation disappear, fuck it. We cut the album like that. It was great! Eye contact, it's very important. Otherwise, I'd have been in a booth, facing a wall!
Joachim Cooder on Jim:
He has a crazy list of credits. He played drums on John Lennon and George Harrison records, Traveling Wilburys—I probably don’t even know half the things he’s done. He’s, like, Mr. Session Guy—like, top-notch guy. But he and Ry, since they have such a long history,Â whatever something that Ry was striving for rhythmically, it seems that he found Jim. And whatever it was that he was looking for, a kind of left-of-center way of playing, Jim was really right there with him, I guess. And I don’t know what it was, but watching him play—I never played the guitar, I never had one, absolutely not one iota of guitar-playing.
It completely baffles me, but watching Jim, that’s what I took to, and Jim saw that and gave me my first kit. And it was just crazy. It was big, lots of hardware; it was the ’80s, so he had weird electronic triggers. He’s always done weird sampling, stuff, which I got into as well, and always worn sunglasses to look cool. He wore boots. So, yeah, he’s been sort of a semi-mentor-teacher.
Donovan on Jim:
.........Also, another of my favorite tracks at the moment is your version of the 'Cuckoo' the classic version of the song. I remember the Pentangle doing a version of this one many years ago.
Donovan: Oh yeah. Well, Danny, of course was in the Pentangle.
...........It was, maybe an idea from Danny Thompson to record?
Donovan: No, it's a famous song, of course. We, who come from the folk scene, love it. People jam on it because it's so simple and infectious. It's great. So the idea came... I didn't have a plan. No plan to make 'Cuckoo', but of course the Bohemian Cafés have jazz, blues, classical, poetry, painting, sculptures, dancers and they have folk musicians. So when we heard this in the studio, it was a jam. Jim Keltner heard me tuning up and I started picking for the tuning up. I started picking the 'Cuckoo' and he said to me 'What's that mountain thing?' You know, 'mountain' meaning Appalachian mountain/banjo coz he knows a lot about music. I said it's called 'The Cuckoo' and he said 'Why don't we record it?' So we went in the studio and we played it twice and that was it! The masters, Danny already knew it from the Pentangle, of course. I already knew it and Jim learned it and so it was great. At one point we said 'Should we put it on the album? It sounds so different' and Jim Muscleman of Appleseed records said 'It MUST go on the album! It's part of the 'Beat Café' and so the 'Cuckoo' is one of my favorites now, also and when Jim Keltner listened to the track he was so pleased. I said, 'Why are you smiling?' Jim Keltner said 'I've finally outcashed Johnny Cash!' Because Jim always wanted to make a record with Johnny, but he never did and now he gets a chance and it sounds when I listened to it playing just like the drummers on the Johnny Cash records.
Chrissie Hynde on Jim:
On the end of one song on the album you hear Jim Keltner, who is obviously one of the gods, and at the end of the song [laughs you can hear him going [in a low voice], “Oh, I’m just getting worse and worse now.” And I laughed my ass off when I heard that, so I insisted that that had to be on the record. Of course, Keltner was horrified. But then when we came in and listened to “Chinese Plastic” and you can hear me going “dat dat dat dat…” of course, I was mortified listening back to it. And everyone else was laughing and said we have to keep that in, and I was, like, “Oh, give me a break,” and they said, “No, no, no, we have to keep it in.” Because I had got my way. So at that point, it became sort of a lurid free-for-all. Like you can hear me clearing my throat and coughing and stuff, and I said, “Just leave it all fucking in.”
Also, Keltner’s so solid, that you don’t need much else on that track – his drumming is so good—
Josh Haden on Jim:
Not many people know this but Jim Keltner played drums on the track "Every Time I Try" performed by my band Spain for the soundtrack of Wim Wender's 1997 film End Of Violence. Not the version that appears on the second Spain CD She Haunts My Dreams (Joey Waronker plays drums on that one), but the original version which can be found here and here.
We were introduced to Mr. Keltner through our association with former Dreamworks Records president Lenny Waronker (Joey's dad). I remember at the session (which took place at Conway Recording Studios in Hollywood) thinking how great he sounded and how he made the song come alive. At one point myself and one of the band members had a little argument about how we should play and/or arrange the song, and we asked Mr. Keltner what he thought, to which he replied, "Its a great song...I'll play it however you like!"
Anyways, Mr. Keltner isn't credited on either the soundtrack or the CD single version of the song, so I thought I might write about it here. It was one of the most memorable recording sessions I've been a part of and I'm so thankful he was able to play on one of my songs. I am truly blessed!