The Session Musicians Behind Pop Music History
On our blog last week, we touched on some of the more memorable music documentaries to come out in 2014, many of which featured lesser known studios and musicians. With films like Muscle Shoals highlighting backing bands like The Swampers, many underrated session players are finally getting their due.
With that spirit in mind, we set about shining a light on five backing groups whose work have stood the test of time. While some of them have amassed more attention than others, all of these musicians have made an undeniable impact on the history of pop music throughout the past century.
Racking up 75 gold and platinum hits is no easy task, but The Swampers did so with an ease and grit that has been untouchable since the late 1960s. The backing band created a sound that was so specific to their location, major artists from all over the world began traveling to Muscle Shoals, Alabama, including Aretha Franklin, Rod Stewart and Bob Seger.
The sound of New Orleans was funkified in the late 1960s when Allen Toussaint began using The Meters as the house band for his record label, Sansu Enterprises. While the group would have major hits with the oft-sampled "Cissy Strut" and "Sophsticated Cissy," The Meters biggest successes would come working under Dr. John, Professor Longhair, Betty Harris and Lee Dorsey.
The Section never truly was named the house band of Asylum Records, but the number of early 1970s records from the label that the group appears on is astonishing. Working with the likes of James Taylor, Carole King and Jackson Brown, the session musicians gained their aptly-named moniker of "The Mellow Mafia," but also created unique instrumental records of their own.
The Funk Brothers finally got their due with Standing in the Shadows of Motown, but the backing vocal group The Andantes still go largely unrecognized by the general public. Featuring Marlene Barrow, Louvain Demps and Jackie Hicks, the trio sang the backing vocals on a majority of Motown's hits including "Reach Out I'll Be There" and "My Guy." The trio would cut singles for other labels, including the song below "Like A Nightmare," but they never gained the same traction of the singers that they backed.
The Wrecking Crew
It's true, some players in The Wrecking Crew would come into their own fame later (Leon Russell, Dr. John and Glen Campbell among them), but together these underrated players created the sound of California in the 1960s. Working on the records of The Mamas & The Papas, The Byrds and The Beach Boys, the influential group of session musicians featured memorable players such as Carol Kaye, Hal Blaine and Jim Keltner.