Wilson and Alroy's Record Reviews We listen to the lousy records so you won't have to.

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Guitar/Keyboard Session Players

Guitar and keyboard players on this page:

Robbie Buchanan - Ry Cooder - Jesse Ed Davis - Andy Fairweather Low - Buzzy Feiten - Victor Feldman - Mike Finnigan - Eric Gale - Albhy Galuten - Marlo Henderson - Nicky Hopkins - Paul Jackson - Ben Keith - Sneaky Pete Kleinow - Larry Knechtel - Danny Kortchmar - Mike Landau - David Lindley - Steve Lukather - David Paich - Ray Parker Jr. - Dean Parks - Greg Phillinganes - Steve Porcaro - Billy Preston - Melvin "Wah Wah Watson" Ragin - Leon Russell - Benmont Tench - Waddy Wachtel

There are an awful lot of successful musicians out there who aren't substantial songwriters, don't produce, don't perform in public much, and never formally join a band - namely, session players. There are so many of them it's hard to keep track, but we thought we would document the careers of at least a few top-notch session musicians with a set of cool cross-references to their guest appearances on records we've reviewed. There undoubtedly are many other such appearances we simply don't know about, but it's a start... and the biggest session player of them all? Paulinho Da Costa, of course. (JA)

Robbie Buchanan

Keyboards. (DBW)

Ry Cooder

American guitarist, master of the slide and closely associated with the Rolling Stones. Has released numerous solo albums, including a series of instrumental movie soundtracks, and recently scored a huge success by producing the album Buena Vista Social Club and appearing in the film of the same name that followed. (JA)

Jesse Ed Davis

Guitarist in Taj Mahal's backing band.

Andy Fairweather-Low

Co-founder (with Blue Weaver, another popular session player) of Amen Corner, a late 60s British rock band that scored a half-dozen domestic hits, dumped its horn section and put out an album called Fair Weather that also included a hit single ("Natural Sinner"), and split in about 1971. But the really interesting thing about him is the people he plays sessions for; it's not every day that someone like Eric Clapton or Pete Townshend lets someone else play guitar on one of their records. (JA)

Buzzy Feiten

Guitar player known for his warm sound. (DBW)

Victor Feldman

It's not that there are two Victor Feldmans out there; it's just that the man has had a very strange career, alternating between jazz and light rock, piano and percussion (mostly vibes). (JA)

Mike Finnigan

Keyboards and frequently unpleasant backing vocals. Famous for his appearance on Electric Ladyland, closely associated with CSNY, and a member of Dave Mason's band through much of the 70s when he wasn't doing sessions. Also played on a couple of Big Brother records after Janis Joplin died. Annoyingly, you never know when his name is going to be spelt "Finnegan" or "Finnigan." (JA)

Eric Gale

Electric guitar, from jazz to R&B. (DBW)

Albhy Galuten

Keyboards. (JA)

Marlo Henderson

Session guitarist, can play loud rock leads but is usually featured in R&B rhythm mode. (DBW)

Nicky Hopkins

Hopkins is the prototypical hired-gun piano player, cutting influential sessions on some of the earliest British Invasion albums and sticking with the Stones for decades (next to Ian Stewart he was the closest thing to a sixth member). Hopkins is important because he had better connections than anyone and made a major contribution to the sound of several important artists, but of course he's obscure anyway. He did release solo albums in 1966 and 1973, both of which are hard to find. And he also joined Quicksilver Messenger Service in the early 70s, but only for a couple albums. (JA)

Paul Jackson Jr.

The number one R&B session guitarist, master of the unobtrusive rhythm scratch. Not related to fusion bassist and Headhunter Paul Jackson. (DBW)

Ben Keith

Nashville steel guitarist, member of the Stray Gators. (JA)

Sneaky (or "Sneeky") Pete Kleinow

Originally a country-western pedal steel player, Kleinow's good rock pedigree - he was a founding member of the Flying Burrito Brothers - led to him becoming a hot commodity as a session man in the 70s. (JA)

Larry Knechtel

A member of the Wrecking Crew, like the others he appears uncredited on many L.A. rock records of the 60s. Three decades later he still surfaces occasionally, usually on keyboards. (JA)
Knechtel, who died in September 2009, also arranged "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and won a Grammy for it. (DBW)

Danny Kortchmar

L.A. session guitarist, part of the 70s CSNY/Jackson Browne/James Taylor scene. (JA)
There's an excellent fan site. (DBW)

Mike Landau

A guitar player who can stretch from R&B to pop to rock. (DBW)

David Lindley

Mandolin, fiddle, and most of all slide guitar. Best known as lead guitarist for Jackson Browne and the mid-70s Crosby-Nash band, but he also cut a couple of gimmicky, if commercially successful solo albums with his band El Rayo X in the 80s - I have them and haven't reviewed them yet. (JA)

Steve Lukather

A big-name guitarist, Lukather may be the most famous person on this page, having been a member of the "session cats revenge" band Toto. (DBW)
The list of this guy's appearances is endless, and as usual we just abstract the good stuff here; for endless boring deatils see the Toto home page. (JA)

David Paich

Keyboards; yet another Toto founding member/omnipresent L.A. studio guy with a huge resume, and Marty Paich's son. For more details, see the Toto site. He was involved in all sorts of 70s soft rock too awful to mention - okay, how about Seals & Crofts, Steely Dan, and Dusty Springfield? And that's just the letter "S"... (JA)

Ray Parker, Jr.

Guitar player who scored several hits of his own, both as a solo artist and with his band Raydio. (DBW)

Dean Parks

Guitarist. (JA)

Greg Phillinganes

A top-notch session keyboardist for decades, turning up mostly on R&B sessions but also some pure pop material. (DBW)

Steve Porcaro

Jeff's keyboard-playing younger brother and an eventual member of Toto (middle brother/Toto guitarist Mike wasn't involved with any of the artists we've reviewed, except the Jefferson Airplane). Like the other Totoers, he's got a full resume at the Toto web site. (JA)

  • Earth, Wind & Fire, I Am
  • Michael Jackson, Thriller; Bad; Dangerous; History: Past, Present & Future Book One
  • Jacksons, Victory
  • The Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Airplane (with Mike)
  • Chaka Khan, I Feel For You
  • Brenda Russell, Love Life
  • Rod Stewart, Vagabond Heart
  • Donna Summer
  • Yes, Union

Billy Preston

Preston has put out numerous solo records over the years, and we've actually reviewed one of them on our odds and ends page, but he's done session work all over the place (mostly on keyboards) and we figured a listing was called for. (JA)

Melvin "Wah Wah Watson" Ragin

Like the nickname says, he's a guitar player known for his unmistakable way with a wah-wah pedal. (DBW)

Leon Russell

Keyboard player, composer, and performer in his own right, Russell put out a string of solo records in the 70s after working very successfully as an L.A. studio musician throughout the 60s. Because we don't have any of his solo albums, but he does appear frequently throughout the site, we're listing him here for the moment. (JA)

Benmont Tench

Keyboard player; longtime member of Tom Petty's Heartbreakers. Not to be confused with singer/guitarist Bob Tench. (JA)

Waddy Wachtel

Guitarist. Worked extensively in the late 70s with Warren Zevon as both guitarist and producer. Otherwise I don't know much else about him, but he sure turns up a lot. (JA)

It's only rock 'n' roll...

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