Session musicians, studio musicians, or backing musicians are musicians hired to perform in recording sessions or live performances. Session musicians are usually not permanent members of a musical ensemble or band. They work behind the scenes and rarely achieve individual fame in their own right as soloists or bandleaders. However, top session musicians are well known within the music industry, and some have become publicly recognized, such as the Wrecking Crew and Motown's The Funk Brothers.
Many session musicians specialize in playing common instruments such as guitar, piano, bass, or drums. Others are specialists, and play brass, woodwinds, and strings. Many session musicians play multiple instruments, which lets them play in a wider range of musical situations, genres and styles. Examples of "doubling" include double bass and electric bass; acoustic guitar and mandolin; piano and accordion; and saxophone and other woodwind instruments.
Session musicians are used when musical skills are needed on a short-term basis. Typically session musicians are used by recording studios to provide backing tracks for other musicians for recording sessions and live performances; recording music for advertising, film, television, and theatre. In the 2000s, the terms "session musician" and "studio musician" are synonymous, though in past decades, "studio musician" meant a musician associated with a single record company, recording studio or entertainment agency.
During the 1950s and 1960s, session players were usually active in local recording scenes concentrated in places such as Los Angeles, New York City, Nashville, Memphis, Detroit, and Muscle Shoals. Each local scene had its circle of "A-list" session musicians, such as The Nashville A-Team that played on numerous country and rock hits of the era, the two groups of musicians in Memphis, both the Memphis Boys and the musicians who backed Stax/Volt recordings, and the Funk Brothers in Detroit, who played on many Motown recordings.
At the time, multi-tracking equipment, though common, was less elaborate, and instrumental backing tracks were often recorded "hot" with an ensemble playing live in the studio. Musicians had to be available "on call" when producers needed a part to fill a last-minute time slot. In the 1960s, Los Angeles was considered the top recording destination in the United States — consequently studios were constantly booked around the clock, and session time was highly sought after and expensive. Songs had to be recorded quickly in the fewest possible takes. In this environment, Los Angeles producers and record executives had little patience for needless expense or wasted time and depended on the service of reliable standby musicians who could be counted on to record in a variety of styles with minimal practice or takes, and deliver hits on short order.
Alfred V. De Lory (January 31, 1930 – February 5, 2012) was an American record producer, arranger, conductor and session musician. He was the producer and arranger of a series of worldwide hits by Glen Campbell in the 1960s, including John Hartford's "Gentle on My Mind", Jimmy Webb's "By the Time I Get to Phoenix", "Wichita Lineman" and "Galveston". He was also a member of the 1960s Los Angeles session musicians known as The Wrecking Crew, and inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in 2007.Brent Rowan
Brent Rowan (born May 28, 1956 in Waxahachie, Texas) is an American session musician and record producer who works primarily in country music. Active since the 1970s, Rowan began working with John Conlee through the recommendation of record producer Bud Logan. Rowan first played on Conlee's "Friday Night Blues", and later became the only guitarist for Conlee's recordings.He also played guitar for Alabama, Alan Jackson, Chris LeDoux, Clay Walker, Confederate Railroad, and others. In 1989, Rowan was awarded Guitarist of the Year by Academy of Country Music.Rowan produced Joe Nichols' Man with a Memory. He has also produced for McHayes, Julie Roberts, and Blake Shelton.Chad Wackerman
Chad Wackerman (born March 25, 1960) is an American jazz, jazz fusion and rock drummer, who has played with performers including Frank Zappa and Allan Holdsworth. He has worked as a band member, session musician, sideman, and leader of his own ensembles. He is the older brother of Brooks Wackerman, the current drummer of Avenged Sevenfold and formerly of Bad Religion.Dan Dugmore
Dan Dugmore is an American session musician known primarily for playing steel guitar.
Dugmore was raised in Pasadena, California. Influenced by the Flying Burrito Brothers, he learned to play steel guitar after Flying Burrito Brothers member Sneaky Pete Kleinow sold him one. Dugmore then joined John Stewart's road band, and then Linda Ronstadt's; he also played for several James Taylor albums. In the 1990s, he moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where he began playing steel guitar on country music albums. He self-released a Beatles cover album in 2003 titled Off White Album.Dugmore also plays Dobro, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, banjo and mandolin.David Paich
David Frank Paich (born June 25, 1954) is an American musician, songwriter, singer, and record producer, best known as co-founder, principal songwriter, keyboardist, and occasional singer of the rock band Toto since 1976. Paich wrote or co-wrote much of Toto's original material, including the band's three most popular songs: "Hold the Line," "Rosanna," and "Africa." With Toto, Paich has contributed to 17 albums and sold over 30 million records. Additionally, Paich has worked as a songwriter, session musician, and producer with a host of artists including Boz Scaggs and Michael Jackson.
Paich is the son of jazz composer, musician, and arranger Marty Paich, and is of Croatian descent.Donald "Duck" Dunn
Donald "Duck" Dunn (November 24, 1941 – May 13, 2012) was an American bass guitarist, session musician, record producer, and songwriter. Dunn was notable for his 1960s recordings with Booker T. & the M.G.'s and as a session bassist for Stax Records. At Stax, Dunn played on thousands of records, including hits by Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Rufus Thomas, Carla Thomas, William Bell, Eddie Floyd, Johnnie Taylor, Albert King, Elvis Presley and many others. In 1992, he was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Booker T. & the M.G.'s. He is ranked number 40 on Bass Player magazine's list of "The 100 Greatest Bass Players of All Time".Duane Allman
Howard Duane Allman (November 20, 1946 – October 29, 1971) was an American guitarist, session musician, and founder and leader of the Allman Brothers Band until his death following a motorcycle crash in 1971, at the age of 24.
The Allman Brothers Band was formed in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1969. The band had great success in the early 1970s. Allman is best remembered for his brief but influential tenure in the band and in particular for his expressive slide guitar playing and inventive improvisational skills. In 2003, he was ranked number 2 in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time, second only to Jimi Hendrix. In 2011, he was ranked number 9. His guitar tone (achieved with a Gibson Les Paul and two 50-watt bass Marshall amplifiers) was named one of the greatest of all time by Guitar Player.A sought-after session musician both before and during his tenure with the band, Duane Allman performed with such established stars as King Curtis, Aretha Franklin, Herbie Mann, Wilson Pickett, and Boz Scaggs. He also contributed greatly to the 1970 album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, by Derek and the Dominos.
Duane Allman's skills as a guitarist were complemented by personal qualities such as his intensity, drive and ability to draw the best out of others in making music. He is still referred to by his nickname "Skydog".Greg Phillinganes
Gregory Arthur "Greg" Phillinganes (born May 12, 1956) is an American keyboardist, singer-songwriter, and musical director based in Los Angeles, California, U.S. A prolific session musician, Phillinganes has contributed keyboard tracks to numerous albums representing a broad array of artists and genres. He has toured with notable artists, such as Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton, David Gilmour and Toto, served as musical director for Michael Jackson, and has released two solo studio albums.J. T. Corenflos
J. T. Corenflos (born in Terre Haute, Indiana) is an American session musician who plays guitar. Before graduating from Terre Haute North Vigo High School, he worked as a backing musician for Opry star Jean Shepard, then Joe Stampley before joining the band Palomino Road in 1992. This band recorded one album for Liberty Records. After leaving Palomino Road, Corenflos worked on demos in the mid-1990s with Kenny Chesney. He then began work as a session musician, primarily playing electric guitar.Corenflos has eight nominations for Guitarist of the Year from the Academy of Country Music.Jimmie Lee Sloas
Jimmie Lee Sloas is an American session musician, producer, and songwriter, who plays bass guitar.Kenny Malone
Kenny Malone is an American drummer/percussionist from Nashville, Tennessee. He has been, since the 1970s, and continues to be a prominent session musician in folk, country and many other acoustic-based genres.Larrie Londin
Ralph Gallant (October 15, 1943 − August 24, 1992), better known by the stage name Larrie Londin, was an American drummer and session musician.List of people who performed on Beatles recordings
Aside from John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, numerous musicians and other people featured on official recordings by the Beatles. These include friends and family of the group, the band's entourage, and numerous session musicians. Original members Pete Best (drums) and Stuart Sutcliffe (bass guitar) appeared on early recordings; the former on the group's recording of "My Bonnie" with Tony Sheridan, and both on various tracks released on Anthology 1.
The instruments contributed to Beatles recordings range from traditional orchestral instruments—such as violin, viola and cello—to an alarm clock and a pile of gravel.The first half of the Beatles' career—from the early 1960s until 1966—rarely saw the band use any extra musicians, though George Martin (their producer) occasionally added keyboard instruments to augment their sound. As their career progressed and their influences widened, the group began to experiment in the studio. Martin started to orchestrate for the band; his first major orchestration for the group was the string quartet on "Yesterday". In 1966 the band stopped touring and concentrated on studio experimentation, creating soundscapes and orchestrations that required numerous musicians (the orchestra on 1967's "A Day in the Life" was accommodated in Abbey Road's large Studio One, rather than the group's usual room in Studio Two). It was also around this time that the Beatles visited India, and—particularly Harrison—became influenced by Indian culture and music, leading to the group's use of traditional Indian instruments in their arrangements. Shortly before the groups demise at the end of the decade, keyboardist Billy Preston was brought in to add to their sound while they tried to return to their rock 'n' roll roots. The group wanted what was to become their final album, Let It Be, to be raw with minimal overdubs. After producer Glyn Johns left the project, Phil Spector hired in numerous session musicians to provide orchestral overdubs, in contrast to the group's original back-to-basics ideas.Mark Hart
Mark Hart (born July 2, 1953 in Fort Scott, Kansas), is an American musician and multi-instrumentalist best known for being a member of both Supertramp (1986–1988, 1996–2002, 2015-present) and Crowded House (1993–1996, 2007–present). As well as being a group member, touring and session musician, Hart has composed film scores and is a record producer.Mel Collins
Melvyn Desmond "Mel" Collins (born 5 September 1947, Isle of Man) is a British saxophonist, flautist and session musician.
Collins is perhaps best known for his work in progressive rock, having been a member of King Crimson on two separate occasions (the first from 1970 to 1972 and the second from 2013 to the present day) and having played with Camel, the Alan Parsons Project and Chris Squire. He has also worked in a wide variety of contexts ranging from R&B and blues rock to jazz.Paul Franklin (musician)
Paul V. Franklin (born May 31, 1954 in Detroit, Michigan) is an American multi-instrumentalist, known mainly for his work as a steel guitarist. He began his career in the 1970s as a member of Barbara Mandrell's road band; in addition he toured with Vince Gill, Mel Tillis, Jerry Reed and Dire Straits. He has since become a prolific session musician in Nashville, Tennessee, playing on more than 500 albums. He has been named by the Academy of Country Music as Best Steel Guitarist on several occasions. In addition to the pedal steel guitar and lap steel guitar, Franklin plays Dobro, fiddle, and drums, as well as three custom-built instruments called the Pedabro, The Box, and the baritone steel guitar.Peter Gordeno (musician)
Peter Dean Gordeno (born 20 February 1964 in Kensington, London) is an English songwriter and producer who in his time has also been a live and session musician, and has, since 1998, toured with Depeche Mode. He performs keyboard parts in lieu of departed Alan Wilder, as well as occasional backing vocals and bass guitar. He and Andrew Phillpott went as backing musicians along with Martin Gore on a brief tour called "A Night with Martin L. Gore" in 2003. His father was the choreographer and dancer Peter Gordeno. His mother is Angela Wallace. He also has a brother and a sister.He has been credited since the early 1990s, for writing, playing instruments, producing and providing backing vocals on several singles and full albums of an array of artists from the pop scene. He was also the musical leader on the track "Miss Sarajevo" from the Songs from Last Century project of George Michael.
Since 2003, the publishing interest of Peter Gordeno’s catalog has been represented by Reverb Music/Reservoir Media Management.Prairie Prince
Charles Lempriere "Prairie" Prince (born May 7, 1950) is an American drummer and graphic artist. He came to prominence in the 1970s as a member of the San Francisco based rock group the Tubes, was a member of Jefferson Starship from 1992-2008, and has worked with a wide range of other performers as a session musician.Randy Jackson
Randall Darius Jackson (born June 23, 1956) is an American bassist, singer, record producer, entrepreneur and television personality.
Jackson began his career in the 1980s as a session musician playing bass guitar for an array of jazz, pop, rock and R&B performers. He moved on to work in music production and as A&R at Columbia Records and MCA Records. Jackson is best known from his appearances as a judge on American Idol and executive producer for MTV's America's Best Dance Crew. Jackson has won a Grammy Award as a producer.