Eric Clapton got the idea to form the band after they played together on George Harrison's first solo album, All Things Must Pass.
The 3 members who are not Clapton were in the band Delaney And Bonnie, and got to know Clapton while they were touring with Blind Faith in 1969.
After playing in high-profile groups Cream and Blind Faith, Clapton wanted to keep a low profile, and insisted that he remain anonymous while they were touring. At first, most people had no idea Clapton was in the band.
They released only one studio album, Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs. It flopped when it first came out in 1970, probably because it wasn't promoted using Clapton's name. Two years later, when people knew it was Clapton's project, the album was re-released and became a huge hit.
Duane Allman played on some the sessions. A huge fan of Clapton's, he was invited to come by the studio. Clapton asked him to sit in, and they became good friends. Allman died a year later in a motorcycle accident.
told us: "We were going to call ourselves The Dynamics. That was the one we came up with since we couldn't think of a name. Our very first gig was Dr. Spock's Lyceum. Ashton, Gardner and Dyke opened it up for us. Tony Ashton, real funny guy, was going to introduce us, but we didn't have a name, so we said, "Well, we're The Dynamics." We used to call each other nicknames, and Eric was "Derek," so we said, "How about Derek and The Dynamics." He said, "That's fine" and went out on stage to introduce us - he said "Ladies and gentlemen, Derek and the Dominos." My heart went to the floor, I couldn't believe it. I could see myself in a zoot suit - we'd be wearing one color suit and Eric would be wearing another. Where I grew up, if the name was The Dominos, you were going to be wearing matching suits. That was the first thing that flashed through my mind, but it stuck, and that was that. That was the first time we were ever called Derek and the Dominos, but always after that."
Dave Mason was a Domino for a day. He played the Dr. Spock benefit show with the band before going solo.
They tried to make a second album, but drugs and other personal problems got in the way. Whitlock explains:
"The road and substance abuse killed it, but mostly ego killed that band. Eric had a big ego and so did Jim Gordon. Eric had an inferiority complex. Those things don't mix, especially when you put alcohol and drugs with them. We were doing those sort of things. We were all indulging in our own form of egotism. I wanted to do my own thing. The premise of Derek and the Dominos was that we could play together as a band and still do our own solo stuff. That didn't work. Everything just got out of hand with the drugs and all that, so eventually everyone just drifted after the initial blow up with Jim Gordon and Eric. When the band broke up, he refused to play with Jim Gordon ever again. They had a falling out right in the middle of the session, so that was that. That was fine with me, because what we were recording was garbage. They have it out now as the jams and alternate Dominos stuff, the second album - it's garbage. I've heard garage bands that sound better than us. You can really hear it on there, it's just a lot of ego with Eric and Jim. I didn't want to get in the middle of it - a great deal of the stuff I didn't even play on. It was like who could play the most and get the most complicated. When that whole thing broke up, I decided - "Shoot, here I've got everybody I've ever played with, I'm going to record my own record." I wanted to play. I was used to playing. I wasn't used to sitting around looking at my picture on my own wall. That wasn't my idea of doing what we were supposed to be doing. I decided to do my own record, so I called Jerry Wexler and Tom Dowd and talked to them about doing a deal, and we did. I had done a deal with Atlantic with Jerry. They said, "Go on in and do it," so I asked everybody - I asked Jim, Carl, Klaus Voorman, George Harrison, Bobby Keys, Delaney and Bonnie, Eric - I asked everybody I'd ever done anything with to give me a hand with this thing, so my first record was really Derek and the Dominos."
Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs, is a double album. After touring small concert halls in Europe, they flew to Miami, recorded the album in 10 days, and began touring the US.
Along with Stephen Stills, the band backed up Clapton on his first solo album in 1970.
Radle died of heroin-related kidney failure in 1980. Gordon developed severe mental problems and was institutionalized after murdering his mother in 1983.
In 2003, Whitlock released an album called Other Assorted Love Songs, which is taken from a show he did with his wife, Kim Carmel. The album contains tracks from the original Layla album with acoustic arrangements. It was released on The Domino Label, which he and Kim run from their home in Sheffield, Alabama. To learn more, check out www.bobbywhitlock.com. (thanks for Bobby for speaking with us about the band)
Richard Feld worked for The Festival Group, which supplied the sound systems and sound crew for the Layla tour in 1970 - the company later morphed to Activated Air Audio Services, and toured with Hot Tuna, Traffic, J. Geils Band and many others. Richard gives this account:
"The tour, unlike the music, was somewhat a failure with poor crowds. Clapton, when not on stage, was high in the motel playing with slot cars. Few in the band got along and most always complained. It is great that Eric cleaned up his act and is still one of the best rock and roll guitarists in the business."
Clapton asked the 15-year-old Neal Schon to join the band as a guitarist, but Schon turned him down, joining Santana instead. Schon formed Journey in 1973.