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Hidden Hit Makers: History’s Most Iconic Session Musicians

There are a lot of musicians today who want to make a name  for themselves in the music industry and become famous.   Behind the successful musicians in the industry there are backing musicians that brought some of your favorite classic recordings to life.

You can build a great career as a session musician if you can play and you’re cool with not being in the spotlight.  Many classic recordings were actually made by the same teams of musicians.

The Funk Brothers

When Berry Gordy needed musicians for his new Motown label in 1959, he got them from blues and jazz clubs in Detroit and hand-picked musicians as the core of his in-house band.  James Jameson was one of the main bass players for Motown and his work could be heard on many classic hits like “My Girl”, “You Can’t Hurry Love”, “For Once in My Life” , “Dancing in the Streets’, What’s Going On” and many other hits.   The Funk Brothers provided the back-beats for many hit artists like Marvin Gaye, The Four Tops, and The Supremes.

Earl Palmer

When Motown relocated to Los Angeles in 1972, drummer Earl Palmer landed on the label’s short list of local studio musicians.  Palmer played on classics like Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti” and Ritchie Valens (“La Bamba” and “Donna”). He also played on songs by The Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra, The Mamas and the Papas and played drums for TV themes like “The Flinstones” and “Mission: Impossible:

The Wrecking Crew

If you pick a record to come out of Los Angeles in the 60s there is a good chance The Wrecking Crew is involved. Dr. John, Leon Rusell and Glen Campbell also had solo careers later on and Hal Blaine is considered by many to be the most recorded drummer in history.

Carol Kaye is one of the few women to achieve success in the studio musician scene and is one of the most widely heard bass guitarist in history.  She played on an estimated 10,000 recording sessions and played with many artists such as The Beach Boys, Barbra Streisand, Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, The Doors and Tina Turner.  She can also be heard playing during some classic TV Shows like the Brady Bunch, Mission Impossible, Hawaii 5-0 and Wonder Woman.

You may be focused on playing music in front of thousands of people and that’s great.  Just make sure you know that there are other avenues you can consider exploring in the music industry…like becoming a versatile and sought after session musician.





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