Derek and the Dominos

Derek and the Dominos  were a blues rock band formed in the spring of 1970 by guitarist and singer Eric Clapton, keyboardist and singer Bobby Whitlock, bassist Carl Radle, and drummer Jim Gordon.  Another participant at their first session as a band was George Harrison, the recording for whose album All Things Must Pass marked the formation of Derek and the Dominos.  The band released only one studio album, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, produced by Tom Dowd, which also featured notable contributions on slide guitar from Duane Allman.  Although released in 1970, it was not until March 1972 that the album’s single “Layla” (a tale of unrequited love inspired by Clapton’s relationship with his friend Harrison’s wife, Pattie Boyd) made the top ten in both the United States and the United Kingdom.  The album is often considered to be the defining achievement of Clapton’s career.  (More from Wikipedia)



Eric Clapton continued to keep a relatively low profile in order to counter the star worship that he was attracting.  In 1970Eric Clapton assembled another band consisting of the rhythm section from Delaney & Bonnie and Friends – Bobby Whitlock (keyboardist and vocals), Carl Radle (bass) and Jim Gordon (drums) – plus Dave Mason on guitar.  This quintet backed George Harrison on his monumental debut solo album, All Things Must Pass


Eric Clapton was then interested in turning them into a proper band; he first suggested the name Eric Clapton and Friends, but that seemed too much like Delaney & Bonnie and Friends to suit others in the group.  There are several stories as to how they took the name Derek and the Dominos, but “Derek” seems clearly derived from “Eric”, and Fats Domino might have inspired the band name.  As it happened, Dave Mason was present only at their first concert in June 1970, before they even took that name. 


Like Blind FaithDerek and the Dominos only released one studio album, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (1970), though it was a double album.  A few days into the sessions for the album, Eric Clapton first heard Duane Allman play with the Allman Brothers Band at an outdoor concert in Miami.  Eric Clapton and Duane Allman had an all-night jam session soon after that; Allman was invited to join Derek and the Dominos as a fifth member, but he declined in order to remain loyal to his band.  However, Duane Allman played slide guitar on all but 3 of the 14 songs on the album.  My brother Tom Winfree is a huge Duane fan; he says that most people are hearing Duane Allman on this album when they think they are hearing Eric Clapton – those opening notes on “Layla”, for instance, are from Duane.  As reported in Wikipedia:  “Many critics would later notice that [Eric] Clapton played best when in a band composed of dual guitars; working with another guitarist kept him from getting ‘sloppy and lazy, and this was undeniably the case with Duane Allman’.”  


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The Derek and the Dominos album includes of course their massive hit Layla, but the album was not a big seller right away – in fact, Layla and Other Love Songs didn’t make the record charts in England until 2011 (for one week).  However, Layla was included on an album called The History of Eric Clapton and was released by Atlantic Records as a single in 1972; the song then made the Top Ten in both the U.S. and the U.K..  (By this point, Derek and the Dominos had broken up during the recording sessions for their second album).  Layla was a hit again in 1982; and after Eric Clapton reworked the song into a ballad for his MTV Unplugged sessions in 1992 – preserved on the album Unplugged – the song made #12 on the Billboard charts. 


As the years have gone by, appreciation of Layla and Other Love Songs – which wasn’t even a critical favorite at the time – has grown, and the album makes several best-album lists.  VH1 named it #89, and Rolling Stone has it at #115.  


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The short life of Derek and the Dominos was beset with tragedy – Jimi Hendrix died just eight days after the band laid down one of his songs for the album, “Little Wing”; and one year later, their near-bandmate Duane Allman was also gone.  Eric Clapton was settling into heroin addiction while the band was on tour, and he sank into despair when this band too broke up. 


(May 2014)


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Items:    Derek and the Dominos 


Last edited: July 19, 2021