Music

Jamie Oldaker, Rock Drummer and The Tractors Co-Founder, Dead at 68

Musician Jamie Oldaker holds a hat that once belonged to Western swing musician Bob Wills at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, July 16, 2014. Oldaker said itís just simple math for Oklahoma to have a museum dedicated to showcasing the contributions of the musicians, actors, writers, cartoonists and other artists who claim ties to the state. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Jamie Oldaker, original drummer of country-rockers The Tractors and a backing musician for multiple classic rock legends, died on July 16 at the age of 68.

According to Ultimate Classic Rock, Oldaker had battled cancer in recent years.

Like many in his age range, Oldaker's interest in music dates back to when he saw The Beatles perform on The Ed Sullivan Show.

The Tulsa, Oklahoma native joined Eric Clapton's band for the 1974 album 461 Ocean Boulevard. Before that, Oldaker played drums for Bob Seger (on the 1973 album Back in '72) and Leon Russell (Stop All That Jazz). Oldaker helped Clapton score chart hits and cover the likes of J.J. Cale ("Cocaine") and Bob Marley ("I Shot The Sheriff") across a multi-album stretch, culminating with the 1978 album Backless. Oldaker returned as a percussionist on Clapton's 1985 album Behind the Sun. During his second run with Clapton, Oldaker performed at Live Aid.

"He has the best snare sound I've ever heard, he has the best restrained fills I've ever heard, and his bass drum is as solid as rock," Clapton told Tulsa World in a statement. "He is unique, and the pocket is always perfect. The kind of man he is matches his drums."

After his initial stint with Clapton, Oldaker became a studio drummer, touring musician and friend of Peter Frampton.

"Jamie Oldaker has been my dear friend and brother for over 40 years," Frampton said in a statement provided to Tulsa World, as quoted by Ultimate Classic Rock. "He was a very warm, caring, true friend with a gentle heart. He cared about us all almost more than he did himself. Most will know him as the drummer on Eric Clapton's albums. His playing was unique; a laid-back style of drumming with an incredible feel. We traveled the world, played many wonderful shows and great recordings together. He was a much loved person and I will miss him for the rest of my time here. Love you, Jamie."

Oldaker also recorded with blues musician Freddie King, pop tastemakers The Bee Gees, funk legends and fellow Tulsa natives The Gap Band and former KISS guitarist Ace Frehley's band Frehley's Comet.

Country artists to record over the years with Oldaker include The Bellamy Brothers and Asleep at The Wheel. His 2005 Concord Records release Mad Dogs & Okies expanded that list to include Ronnie Dunn, Vince Gill and Willie Nelson.

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His most obvious contribution to country music came when The Tractors, a group he formed with Steve Ripley and other veteran backing musicians. The group's multi-platinum selling, self-titled debut album from 1994 and signature hit "Baby Likes to Rock It" impacted the charts at the time and the shape of Red Dirt music to come.

Oldaker, a member of the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame, used his fame to make a difference back home. He played a role in starting the OKPOP museum in Tulsa and hosted annual fundraiser MOJO Fest with his wife, Mary, to raise money for the Tulsa Day Center for the Homeless.

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Jamie Oldaker, Rock Drummer and The Tractors Co-Founder, Dead at 68