Gordon's original musical instruction began with piano lessons at the age of 5. His mother, a classically trained pianist and organist, had significant aspirations for him. Any remote possibility of fulfilling those hopes was diminished by several years of piano instruction from a less-than inspired teacher, as well as Gordon showing an early predisposition to learning in non-academic ways. By the time Gordon was 14 he was at most able to coarsely execute the Clementi sonatinas. It was around that time that Gordon started playing guitar, which he learned by ear, opening up a new relationship to music. At that point he was familiar (from recordings and occasional  symphony concerts) with, and appreciative of, the general classical repertoire, and on that foundation was now hearing the lovely harmonies of Peter, Paul and Mary, the orchestral-style arrangements of Brian Wilson (the Beach Boys), and of course, the revolutionary sound of the Beatles. 

At the age of 16 (1968) Gordon left home in Middletown, Connecticut, to go to High Mowing School, a small Waldorf school in Wilton, New Hampshire. While he occasionally played guitar, mostly in the folk genre, his overall musical development did not really progress. This remained the case until 1975.