40 Responses

  1. Moi at |

    Good list, only Art “Garfunkle” from Simon & “Garfunkle”‘s last name is spelled Garfunkel. Anyways, I liked this list a lot!

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    1. Tanya Bennett at |

      thanks – fixed

      Reply
  2. Little_Sam at |

    Thank you for including The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section in this list. I was born and raised in Sheffield, AL (just North and West of Muscle Shoals) and I am very familiar with this group. What a lot of people do not realize is that many (although not all) of the songs associated with “The Muscle Shoals Sound” were actually recorded in Sheffield. For example “When a Man Loves a Woman” was actually recorded in Sheffield. Cher’s early recordings with The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section were actually recorded in Sheffield. Just thought everyone should know.

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  3. Zane at |

    Just a quick mention of Booker T and the MGs? And although generally derided, the members of Toto were all over late 70s/early 80s radio.

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    1. Jose Sanchez at |

      THANK YOU!! you might be the only real musician on this entire page. Toto’s members were the most requested musicians of the 70s and 80s. If you don’t recognize Jeff Porcaro, David Paich, Steve Lukather, Mike Porcaro or Steve Porcaro, you have a lot to learn… obviously you are the exception haha

      Reply
  4. Jotopsy at |

    A travesty that Jim Keltner isn’t on this list. Session drummer who’s played with (and not limited to) the following: Leon Russell, Gabor Szabo, Delaney Bramlett, Roy Orbison, Harry Nilsson, Jerry Garcia, Eric Clapton, Steely Dan, Joe Cocker, Van Dyke Parks, the Rolling Stones, Ronnie Wood, Bill Wyman, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Brian Wilson, Seals and Crofts, The Ramones, Bill Frisell, Neil Young, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Phil Keaggy, Steve Jones, Crowded House, Fiona Apple, Elvis Costello, The Bee Gees, Jackson Browne, The Manhattan Transfer, Randy Newman, Ry Cooder, Sam Phillips, Los Lobos, Pink Floyd, Warren Zevon, Rufus Wainwright, Tom Petty, Gillian Welch, the Steve Miller Band, Alice Cooper, Sheryl Crow and Lucinda Williams.

    I know it’s impossible to please everyone especially when it comes to music lists but common sense should have prevailed here!! Good list though ;-)

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  5. Lou at |

    Fact: The first time the Wrecking Crew was ever credited on a record was Marvin Gaye’s brilliant “What’s Going On” album.

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    1. John at |

      Marvin Gaye insisted on James Jamerson for bass on “What’s Going On”. The night of the recording they found him but he was unable to sit on his usual stool in the Hitstown USA (Motown) studio. He laid on the floor with his bass and laid down that classic bass line in one take. Thin of that next time you hear one of the best bass lines ever recorded.

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    2. James at |

      Nope, that was the Funk Brothers

      Reply
  6. Taco at |

    Love this site! I think Herbie Flowers needs to be mentioned too! Saw a documentary on Dutch TV about him once and was quite impressed.

    He played the bass on Lou Reed’s Transformer, including the famous Walk on the Wild Side intro. Flowers was paid 17 Pounds for his work (for the full album!). He was modest about his contribution to this and other songs. He once told Mojo writer Phil Sutcliffe about his role as a session musician, “You do the job and get your arse away. You take a £12 fee, you can’t play a load of bollocks. Wouldn’t it be awful if someone came up to me on the street and congratulated me for Transformer.”

    [From Wikipedia]
    He is noted as a member of Blue Mink, T.Rex and Sky and as one of Britain’s best-known session bass-players, having contributed to recordings by Elton John (Tumbleweed Connection etc.), David Bowie (Space Oddity), Lou Reed (including the prominent bass line of “Walk on the Wild Side”), David Essex, Allan Clarke, Al Kooper, Harry Nilsson, Cat Stevens, Serge Gainsbourg and George Harrison: he also played bass on Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds. By the end of the 1970s Flowers had played bass on an estimated 500 hit recordings.

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  7. MGS at |

    You should check at Gene Hoglan and Jorg Michael. Those two guys created landmark drum styles in metal.

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  8. Mike B at |

    Are you sure James Burton played for BOB Denver – Gilligan from Gilligan’s Island? Perhaps you meant JOHN Denver? Great list btw.

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  9. Ryan at |

    Man, ya gotta have James Jamerson on here, tis a damn shame you don’t. Motown’s bass player.

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    1. jfauser at |

      He goes right with the Funk Brothers entry but he does also deserve his own spot

      Reply
  10. Heidi_Heidiho at |

    Drummer Steve Gadd should have been on this list over Thomas Lang. As technically proficient as he is, I’m sure Mr. Gadd has been on more recordings that Mr. Lang. And I also agree with the James Jamerson observation. As great as she was, I’m sure Mr. Jamerson has been in at least as many recordings as Ms Kaye. Nice of you to mention her though.

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    1. John at |

      and more creative!

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    2. Tommy D at |

      I actually googled “Best Studio Drummers” because I couldn’t remember Steve Gadd’s name. I was really surprised he wasnt on the list, then reading your post flipped the switch for me. I think I learned of him after hearing “Aja” by Steely Dan, the percussion is just amazing, and I had to know who played drums on it. Anyone who has heard “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” by Paul Simon, (one of a very short list of pop songs instantly recognizable by a drum intro) has also heard the ever-tastfully precise Steve Gadd.

      Reply
  11. GrogNerd at |

    WADDY WACHTEL has played with The Everly Brothers, Jackson Browne, Kim Carnes, Rosanne Cash, The Church, The Cowsills, Bob Dylan, Gilby Clarke, Melissa Etheridge, Bryan Ferry, Bernard Fowler, Andrew Gold, Don Henley, Carole King, Miranda Lambert, The Motels, Maria Muldaur, Randy Newman, Steve Perry, Iggy Pop, Bonnie Raitt, Keith Richards, Linda Ronstadt, Adam Sandler, Bob Seger, Carly Simon, The Rolling Stones, James Taylor, Tom Waits, Warren Zevon and Laura Allan.

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    1. desertswo at |

      When you look for a definition of “ubiquitous” in Webster’s Dictionary, you’ll find a picture or Waddy in all his be-speckled, bad hair day, glory. It’s far easier to list who he hasn’t recorded and toured with than who he has. The latter list goes on for days. Who created that 16 beat per bar guitar riff that continues from start to finish in Stevie Nicks’ classic, “Edge of Seventeen?” That’s right, Waddy Wachtel.

      Credit is given to Carol Kaye and Hal Blaine and it is well deserved, but then they include the Wrecking crew. Well who the hell were the Wrecking Crew but Hal Blaine, Carol Kaye, Glen Campbell, Leon Russell, etc., etc.? It’s not that Blaine and Kaye don’t deserve credit; they obviously do; but to break them out apart from the band of studio musicians with whom they recorded most often makes no sense whatsoever.

      Likewise, decrying the absence of James Jamerson, and he certainly belongs on the list, but HE ALREADY IS as a founding member of Motown’s Funk Brothers. Again, people ought to be credited within the context in which they most often performed in the studio; and Blaine and Kaye are to the Wrecking Crew as Jamerson was to the Funk Brothers.

      Meanwhile, leaving out guitarist Danny Kortchmar, and most especially bassist Lee Sklar and drummer Russ Kunkel, along with keyboard aces Don Grolnick and Craig Doerge, informally referred to as “the Section” doesn’t pass the “60 Minutes” test. Ditto, multi-instrumentalist Andrew Gold, and drummer Jim Gordon. Sadly Grolnick was lost to non-Hodgkins Lymphoma back in 1996, and Gold to a heart attack last year. and perhaps saddest of all is Gordon, who wrote and played the beautiful piano coda at the end of Derek and the Dominos’ (Eric Clapton) “Layla,” and was at the time suffering from an un-diagnosed case of paranoid schizophrenia. He is now a guest of the State of California having executed a perfect paradiddle on his mother’s skull with a claw hammer, after his voices told him to.

      Regardless, what has transpired here in this list is that a whole lot of LA session hired guns whose playing in the studio, and on tour with major acts to this day, has informed the music of the Baby Boom generation every it as much as the Swampers, Funk Brothers, and the Wrecking Crew; but they have been basically written out of existence by the revisionist history encapsulated in this list.

      Reply
  12. YouRang? at |

    I’m not sure, but didn’t Blaine do the drum part on Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover?”

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  13. Lou at |

    No, that was Steve Gadd on “50″.

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  14. asd at |

    Nathan East!

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  15. Brave Sir Robin at |

    I dig that you put Carol Kaye on here. She really was a trailblazer in the sense that women weren’t often at the forefront of studio players; she opened up the door for later legends like Sheila E. and Tina Louise.

    I do wish you had put James Jamerson on here as well; if it came out of Motown in the ’60s, you could bet a tenner on it being Jamerson on bass.

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  16. John at |

    Tommy Tedesco deserves more than a mention under “Wrecking Crew”.

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  17. Malik at |

    Man, WAH WAH WATSON is not included!!! The best guitar tracks ever recorded from this maestro.Second to none.. Barry White, Marvin Gaye Maxwell, The list goes on into infinity,do all a favor and include this man while he’s still alive ( I hope ).

    Reply
    1. desertswo at |

      You aren’t wrong, but it is Dennis Coffey who is most often credited for bringing the Wah-wah sound to Motown. The theme for the movie “Shaft,” and the Temptations “Ball of Confusion” are just a couple of the sessions his playing brought to life. He and Wah-wah Watson collaborated a lot, so it isn’t surprising that their playing influenced each other’s styles.

      Reply
  18. Stewdog at |

    What, no mention of Jimmy Page? He was one of the most in demand session musicians along with Big Jim Sullivan during the 1960s, before he joined the Yardbirds. You don’t even mention John Paul Jones in this list either!

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    1. Jose Sanchez at |

      I believe he mentioned them all before the list itself. He may be focusing on session musicians that might not have gotten the level of recognition that Jimmy Page and Jim Sullivan got

      Reply
  19. BAnanko at |

    AND WHERE ARE STEVE GADD,NATHAN EAST,ANDY FAIRWEATHER-LOW,JARRY PORTNOY,GORDON EDWARDS, etc,etc,etc?

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  20. Vivid Drive at |

    Great list. I had the opportunity to work with Hal Blaine in the mid 90′s. He is a great guy who provided the beat for some of the best pop music ever recorded. Other incredible musicians are mentioned above, but I do believe that Hal belongs at tha top of this list. Nice job.

    Reply
  21. Malik at |

    Thanks Deserts, Dennis Coffey was a badd cat with the Motown sound.The Funk Brothers were the main ones though. Sadly their services diminished when Motown went Hollywood from Detroit. Wah Wah revolutionized the paddle all throughout the industry with and beyond Motown.Psychedelic soul was a term coined to best describe his riffs,He gave instant creditability to Any rhythm section,absoulutely the Best.

    Reply
  22. Patrick at |

    Very entertaining list, but I’m disappointed by the absence of Nicky Hopkins.

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  23. Joe Cogan at |

    Bernard Purdie, James Jamerson, Donald “Duck” Dunn, David Lindley

    Reply
  24. Stuart at |

    Where are the world’s greatest house band Booker T and The MGs?

    And from Reggae, Lee Scratch Perry’s Black Ark house band, The Upsetters. Or Sly and Robbie, who have played on something like 200,000 records.

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  25. Jose Sanchez at |

    Someone wanna tell me where the hell are Jeff Porcaro, David Paich, Steve Lukather, David Hungate and Greg Phillinganes??

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    1. fred perillo at |

      And Nathen East to.

      Reply
  26. fred perillo at |

    Were is TOTO!….HEARD OF BOZ SCAGGS THATS TOTO,, STEELY DAN, THATS TOTO…HALF MICHEAL JACKSON THRILLER ALBUM…YEA TOTO TO…HELLO REDO LIST, can add more george benson, micheal mcdonald ,kenny loggins even lional ritchie songs, come on guys. And get’em in the hall of fame already.

    Reply
    1. fred perillo at |

      At Least Jeff Pocoro And Steve Lukather, and paich wrote a lot of hits.

      Reply
  27. Stephanie at |

    I watched Standing in the Shadows of Motown in film school and it actually brought a tear to my eye. It’s one thing to simply be a musician who plays on a track something that someone else wrote, but another to not be credited with music you made up. That is sadly the case with many of these studio musicians who sometimes bring us the most famous riffs of all time.

    Reply
  28. Patrick G at |

    This comment is coming way too late, but I’m not going to criticize Evan Andrews for not getting every important session player on here – it’s a daunting task to bring it down to just 10. For instance, the man who currently holds the record for most recorded drummer in history is John JR Robinson. Hey may not have the iconic list that Hal Blaine boasts, but he definitely has a place. He’s one of my favorites – that’s for sure.

    Reply

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