Session Musicians / A-Team / Funk Brothers / Wrecking Crew / Swampers

By Gary: 

This is MY story of a time period, The Sixties.  Think about all of the songs, music, singers and groups that you loved.  Well this is a story about the musicians who ‘really’ recorded these songs, and unfortunately they remain unknown and anonymous for the most part today.

You will have to indulge me (Gary) on this post.  I know that most of you just love the songs and singers. Well I do too, but even more, I really enjoy the people who created them. 

Little did I know, but most of the recordings that I enjoyed in the sixties were really done by a very select group of recording studio session musicians from different parts of the U.S.  I think the operative word to describe all of these musicians is just ‘Talented’. These people were simply very experienced and the best at what they did during that period of time. 

I have listened to various comments from some of the most experienced and knowledgeable people on this subject and the majority agree that we will never again see this much concentrated talent in recording Pop Music  from Four Main Areas; those areas being Nashville, Detroit,  Los Angeles and Muscle Shoals.

Now for the first area, Nashville Tennessee, I will state categorically that this is the group of session musicians that I know the least about.  I have heard statements made by some pretty significant musicians who always said, ‘record in Nashville’, but why was that? 

Well who knows, you could get Chet Atkins or Floyd Cramer or Boots Randolph or Hank Garland, who knew, but they where the best in the recording business at that time. 

There is very little written about the “A-Team”, or Motown’s  “Funk Brothers”, or the West Coast’s “Wrecking Crew”, or Alabama’s “Swampers” sound, but 40 years later some people have created films that chronical how much talent was in those areas back then; it’s all amazing.

I know that the Funk Brothers played on more #1 records than the Beatles, Stones and Beach Boys combined; 91 #1 recordings.  The A-Team really represented ‘Country & Country Pop’ of the day.

So, this is my project; I just love these studio musicians.  Yes, we will probably never see a group like these again, but I do not care, because I was there when Rock and Roll was born and when, in the sixties, we listened to these musicians, but I did not know that they really created the music, the singers were along for the ride, but got all of the credit.

Nashville had the “A-Team”

Notable members of “The Nashville A-Team”

  • Bass: Bob Moore, Ernie Newton, Henry Strzelecki, Junior Huskey, Floyd “Lightnin’ ” Chance[ Joe Osborne.
  • Drums: Buddy HarmanJerry CarriganFerris CourseyLarrie Londin (1970s)
  • Keyboards: Floyd CramerHargus “Pig” RobbinsOwen Bradley
  • Guitar: Grady MartinHank Garland, Ray Edenton (also mandolin, ukelele and banjo), Harold Bradley, Paul Yandell, Pete Wade, Jerry KennedyNorman Blake, Jimmy Capps, Fred Carter, Jr., Jimmy Colvard.
  • Fiddle: Tommy Jackson, Johnny GimbleBuddy Spicher, Dale Potter, Vassar Clements, Brenton Banks
  • Steel Guitar: Pete DrakeJerry ByrdBuddy Emmons, Ralph Mooney, Lloyd Green, Buck West, Shot JacksonJerry Kennedy, Maurice Anderson
  • Saxophone: Boots Randolph
  • Harmonica: Charlie McCoy
  • Harp: Mary Alice Hoepfinger
  • Backup singers: The Jordanaires, The Anita Kerr Singers, The Hardin Trio
The Station Inn or “Gulch” where they recorded…

Hank Garland

Buddy Harmon

Grady Martin

Boots Randolph

Hank Garland , Budd Harman, Chet Atkins and Boots Randolph

RCA Studio B

RCA Studio B

Everly Brothers

The Everly Bros. at Studio B with a Neumann U47 long body (tube) hanging in a 1950’s RCA yoke

Brenda Lee session at The Quonset Hut –  Brenda, Owen Bradley, Bob Moore Buddy Harman and Floyd Cramer in rear Grady Martin, Hank Garland and unidentified in front bass mic’d with an Altec 639A “Birdcage”



The A-Team / Nashville /


Motown had the ‘Funk Brothers’. 

The Funk Brothers was the nickname of Detroit, Michigan, session musicians who performed the backing to most Motown Records. 

These were 13 guys, not brothers, but they just ripped up the charts for decades, but the 60’s, for me were their most significant.  I own a totally instrumental Album, 12″ Vinyl, of Earl Van Dyke and the Soul Brothers (Funk Brothers).

The Funk Brothers – James Jamerson and drummer Uriel Jones in 1964

The Funk Brothers backing Stevie Wonder

The Funk Brothers – Collage

The Funk Brothers

Funk Brothers session: Robert White and Joe Messina in Studio A at Hitsville USA.



Do You Love Me /
The Musician’s behind the music /
What becomes of a Broken Heart / eith Joan Osborne /
Shotgun / Gerald Levert /

Do You Love Me /

The Funk Brothers with Ben Harper / I heard it through the Grapevine /
The Funk Brothers with Ben Harper & Jack Ashford / How the Music starts and “Ain’t to proud to Beg


Unfortunately, the Obituary /


Standing in the Shadows of Motown –
If you have not seen this movie or DVD, it is excellent.

Earl Van Dyke, was the original leader of the Motown Group.  There is very little recorded by just the “Groups”, but Earl did produce an Album in the Sixties, which I own, called Earl Van Dyke and the Soul Brothers.  These are the only songs recorded by “just” the musicians that I know of.

Image result for Earl Van Dyke

Earl Van Dyke and the Soul or Funk Brothers (60’s)
Nowhere to Run, Can I get a Witness & You’re a Wonderful One

Detroit Musicians

  • Keyboardists:
    • Joe Hunter (band leader, 1959–1964)*
    • Earl Van Dyke (band leader, 1964–1972)*
    • Richard “Popcorn” Wylie (1959–1962)
    • Johnny Griffith (1963–1972)*
    • Johnny Gittens (1963–1967)
    • Ted Sheely (1963–1967)
  • Guitarists:
    • Robert White (1959–1972)*
    • Eddie “Chank” Willis (1959–1972)*
    • Joe Messina (1959–1972)*
    • Larry Veeder (1959–1962)
    • Dave Hamilton (1959–1962)
    • Huey Davis (1959–1967, The Contours‘ road and studio guitarist)
    • Marvin Tarplin (1958–1973, The Miracles‘ road and studio guitarist).
    • Cornelius Grant (1963–1972, The Temptations‘ road guitarist/band leader)
    • Dennis Coffey (1967–1972)
    • Melvin “Wah Wah Watson” Ragin (1968–1972)
    • Ray Parker
    • Ray Monette
  • Bassists:
    • James Jamerson (1959–1972)*
    • Clarence Isabell (1959–1962)
    • Bob Babbitt (1967–1972)*
    • Edward Pickens (1968–1972)
    • Tweed Beard
    • Joe Williams
    • Michael Henderson
    • Joe James
    • Antonio “Tony” Newton
  • Drums:
    • William “Benny” Benjamin (1959–1969)*
    • Richard “Pistol” Allen (1959–1972)*
    • George McGregor (1959–1962)
    • Corey Jahns (1959–1967) bongos
    • Clifford Mack (1959–1962)
    • Marvin Gaye (1959–1962)
    • Uriel Jones (1963–1972)*
    • Frederick Waites (1963–1967)
    • Andrew Smith (1968–1972)
  • Percussion:
    • Jack Ashford (1959–1972, tambourine)*
    • Eddie “Bongo” Brown (1959–1972, various)*
  • Vibes:
    • Jack Ashford (1959–1972) (also listed above)*
    • Dave Hamilton (1959–1962)
    • James Gittens (1959–1962)
    • Jack Brokensha (1963–1972)
  • Trumpets:
    • Herbie Williams
    • John “Little John” Wilson
    • Marcus Belgrave
    • Russell Conway
    • Johnny Trudell
    • Floyd Jones
    • Maurice Davis
    • Billy Horner
    • Don Slaughter
    • Eddie Jones
  • Saxophones:
    • Henry “Hank” Cosby
    • Andrew “Mike” Terry
    • Norris Patterson
    • Thomas “Beans” Bowles
    • Teddy Buckner
    • Walter “Choker” Campbell
    • Ronnie Wakefield
    • “Lefty” Edwards
    • Eli Fountain
    • Ernie Rodgers
    • Kasuku Mafia
    • Eugene “BeeBee” Moore
    • William “Wild Bill” Moore
    • Angelo Carlisi
    • Dan Turner
    • Bernie Peacock
    • Larry Nozero
    • Lanny Austin
  • Trombones:
    • Bob Cousar
    • George Bohanon
    • Paul Riser
    • Jimmy Wilkens
    • Don White
    • Carl Raetz
    • Patrick Lanier
    • Bill Johnson
    • Ed Gooch
  • Flute:
    • Dayna Hartwick
    • Thomas “Beans” Bowles
  • Strings:
    • Gordon Staples and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Strings Section

List of hit songs The “Funk Brothers” Recorded

  • “Please Mr. Postman” – The Marvelettes
  • “Fingertips Pt. 2” – Stevie Wonder
  • “My Guy” – Mary Wells
  • “Where Did Our Love Go” – The Supremes
  • “Baby Love” – The Supremes
  • “Come See About Me” – The Supremes
  • “My Girl” The Temptations
  • “Stop! In the Name of Love” The Supremes
  • “Back in My Arms Again” The Supremes
  • “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” – The Four Tops
  • “I Hear a Symphony” – The Supremes
  • “You Can’t Hurry Love” – The Supremes
  • “Reach Out I’ll Be There” – The Four Tops
  • “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” – The Supremes
  • “The Happening” – The Supremes
  • “Love Child” – Diana Ross and the Supremes
  • “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” – Marvin Gaye
  • “I Can’t Get Next to You” – The Temptations
  • “Someday We’ll Be Together” – Diana Ross and the Supremes
  • “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” – Diana Ross
  • “The Tears of a Clown” – Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
  • “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)” – The Temptations
  • “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” – The Temptations
  • “Let’s Get It On” – Marvin Gaye
  • “Midnight Train to Georgia” – Gladys Knight and the Pips
  • “Just a Little Misunderstanding” – The Contours
  • “Shop Around” – The Miracles
  • “Shotgun” – Junior Walker & the All Stars
  • “How Sweet it Is (To Be Loved by You)” – Marvin Gaye
  • “The One Who Really Loves You” – Mary Wells
  • “The Way You Do The Things You Do” – The Temptations
  • “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” – Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
  • “(I’m A) Road Runner” – Junior Walker & the All Stars
  • “Ain’t too Proud to Beg” – The Temptations
  • “I Wish It Would Rain” – The Temptations
  • “Reflections” – Diana Ross & The Supremes
  • “(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave” – Martha & the Vandellas
  • “Hitch Hike” – Marvin Gaye
  • “What’s So Good About Goodbye” – The Miracles
  • “I Was Made To Love Her” – Stevie Wonder
  • “It’s The Same Old Song” – The Four Tops
  • “You’ve Really Got A Hold on Me” – The Miracles
  • “Standing In The Shadows Of Love” – The Four Tops
  • “If I Were Your Woman” – Gladys Knight and the Pips
  • “Going To A Go-Go” – The Miracles
  • “Heaven Must Have Sent You” – The Elgins
  • “Dancing In The Street” – Martha & The Vandellas
  • “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” – Marvin Gaye
  • “Cloud Nine” – The Temptations
  • “What’s Goin’ On” – Marvin Gaye
  • “Do You Love Me” – The Contours
  • “Get Ready” – The Temptations
  • “Function At The Junction” – Shorty Long
  • “My World Is Empty Without You” – The Supremes
  • “The Tracks Of My Tears” – The Miracles
  • “Can I Get A Witness” – Marvin Gaye
  • “Nowhere To Run” – Martha & the Vandellas
  • “Here Comes The Judge” – Shorty Long
  • “Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours)” – Stevie Wonder
  • “Beachwood 4-5789” – The Marvelettes
  • “Bernadette” – The Four Tops
  • “Two Lovers” – Mary Wells
  • “What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted” – Jimmy Ruffin
  • “My Cherie Amour” – Stevie Wonder
  • “I Second That Emotion” – Smokey Robinson & the Miracles
  • “(I Know) I’m Losing You” – The Temptations
  • “First I Look At The Purse” – The Contours
  • “Ooo Baby Baby” – The Miracles
  • “25 Miles” – Edwin Starr
  • “I’ll Be Doggone” – Marvin Gaye
  • “Pride and Joy” – Marvin Gaye
  • “Ball Of Confusion (That’s What the World Is Today)” – The Temptations
  • “It Takes Two” – Marvin Gaye & Kim Weston
  • “This Old Heart Of Mine (Is Weak For You)” – The Isley Brothers
  • “Uptight” – Stevie Wonder
  • “Devil With A Blue Dress On” – Shorty Long
  • “Jimmy Mack” – Martha & the Vandellas
  • “Since I Lost My Baby” – The Temptations
  • “War” – Edwin Starr
  • “Stubborn Kind Of Fellow” – Marvin Gaye
  • “Don’t Mess With Bill” – The Marvelettes
  • “You Beat Me To The Punch” Mary Wells
  • “Shake Me, Wake Me (When It’s Over)” – The Four Tops
  • “Mickey’s Monkey” – The Miracles
  • “Ain’t That Peculiar” – Marvin Gaye
  • “Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Da-Day” – Stevie Wonder

West Coast had the “Wrecking Crew”

The West Coast did not get that much respect, but there was a group of session musicians, primarily in Los Angeles,  who re-defined what great musicians were; they were some of the best Rock Musicians this world will see.  It is very difficult to believe that all of those songs with all of those artists, came from this group.

The Wrecking Crew
Los Angeles

The name came from Drummer Hal Blaine, who heard some of the older and more stanch music people say “It looks Like these guys are going to wreck the place” [smoking in the studio, etc].  Thus the name “The Wrecking Crew“.

Carole Kaye in session.


The Wrecking Crew, Glen Campbell

The Wrecking Crew; Brian Wilson, Hal Blaine

The Wrecking Crew – Tommy Tedesco and Carol Kaye


Wrecking Crew Session Men
Extended version of Wouldn’t it be Nice, the Beach Boys /
The Wrecking Crew Trailer /
Good Vibrations / took over 3 months /
The Wrecking Crew on Jeopardy /
A good look at Denny Tedesco’s film and his Dad /

Members of the “The Wrecking Crew”

  • guitar: Glen CampbellBarney KesselTommy TedescoAl CaseyCarol KayeBilly StrangeDon PeakeHoward RobertsJames BurtonJerry Cole, Bill Aken, Mike Deasy, Ray Pohlman, Bill Pitman, Irv Rubins
  • saxophone: Steve DouglasJay MiglioriJim HornPlas JohnsonNino Tempo, Gene Cipriano
  • trumpet: Roy Caton (contractor), Tony TerranOllie Mitchell
  • trombone: Lou Blackburn, Richard “Slyde” Hyde, Lew McCreary
  • keyboards: Leon RussellMac Rebennack (aka Dr. John), Mike MelvoinDon RandiLarry KnechtelAl DeloryMike (Michel) Rubini
  • bass: Carol KayeJoe OsbornMax BennettChuck Berghofer, Ray Pohlman, Larry KnechtelLyle RitzJimmy Bond (007), Bill Pitman
  • drums: Hal BlaineEarl PalmerJim Gordon
  • percussion: Julius WechterGary L. ColemanFrank Capp (contractor)
  • conductor/arranger: Jack Nitzsche
  • harmonica: Tommy Morgan
  • The Ron Hicklin Singers often performed backup vocals on many of the same songs on which The Wrecking Crew had played instrumental tracks.

Though not an official member, Sonny Bono did hang out and contribute to sessions recorded by the Crew.

Alabama had the “Muscle Shoals” Sound

In my haste to get this done, I almost forgot about one other part of the U.S. that greatly contributed to the music we grew up with.  When these four musicians   Barry Beckett (keyboards), Roger Hawkins (drums), Jimmy Johnson (guitar) and David Hood (bass) left FAME Studios they created the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section.  They were later nicknamed The Swampers (per Leon Russell).

I guess my love of Bob Seger reminded me to include this group of incredible musicians.


Muscle Shoals Studio Control Panel


Wilson Pickett and Greg Allman



Wilson Pickett /
Trailer /
The Muscle Shoals Story /
The Rhythm Section on Stage /
Peter Yarrow of Peter Paul and Mary talking about Muscle Shoals /
  Part 2 /

The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, also known as The Swampers, are a group of American soulR&B, and country studio musicians based in the city of Muscle Shoals, Alabama. They have appeared on more than 75 gold and platinum hits.

These musicians, one of the best-known groups of session musicians, crafted the “Muscle Shoals Sound.”

They were inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 1995 for a “Lifework Award for Non-Performing Achievement” and into the Musicians Hall of Fame in 2008 (the performers inducted into the latter were the four founding Swampers–Barry BeckettRoger HawkinsDavid HoodJimmy Johnson–plus Pete CarrClayton IveyRandy McCormickWill McFarlane, and Spooner Oldham). 

The nickname “The Swampers” was given to the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section by singer/songwriter Leon Russell, who recorded with them.

Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records brought artists like Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin to record with the all-white group of Southern musicians after their success with Arthur Alexander and most notably on Percy Sledge‘s “When a Man Loves a Woman.”

They originally worked at Rick Hall‘s FAME Studios in Florence, AL. In 1969, Beckett, Hawkins, Hood, and Johnson left Fame and started the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio.

In the 1970s, the Memphis, TN based Stax Records also began bringing artists down to Alabama. Johnnie Taylor had a long run of R&B hits with the group, and The Staple Singers had their greatest crossover successes with songs like “I’ll Take You There” and “Respect Yourself.” Later, they were the sound behind Bob Seger hits such as Old Time Rock and Roll.

Other artists who recorded with the Swampers include Rod StewartBoz ScaggsElkie BrooksThe Rolling StonesElton JohnLynyrd SkynyrdJoe CockerGlenn FreyJim CapaldiJulian LennonDelbert McClintonJ.J. CaleJohn PrineAlice in ChainsJoe TexBobby Blue BlandEddie FloydClarence CarterLittle MiltonSawyer BrownTony Joe WhiteThe Oak Ridge BoysThe Staple SingersEddy Mitchell and many more. Roger Hawkins, David Hood, and Barry Beckett toured with Traffic for a while.

The studios in Sheffield were later bought by long-time friend Tommy Couch, owner of Jackson, MS-based Malaco Records, and the group joined other session players, such as key boardist Carson Whitsett, playing behind Bobby “Blue” Bland and other legends on the label, though Beckett left for Nashville, where he established himself as a producer.

Lynyrd Skynyrd famously mentions them in “Sweet Home Alabama“:

Selected recordings

Song Artist Date Charting on US Pop chart [2] Notes
3614 Jackson Highway Cher 1969
“Take a Letter, Maria” R.B. Greaves August 19, 1969 #2
Muscle Shoals Nitty Gritty Herbie Mann (Released 1970)
“Brown Sugar” The Rolling Stones December 2-4 1969 (Released 1971) #1
“Wild Horses” The Rolling Stones December 2-4 1969 (Released 1971) #28
“I’ll Take You There” The Staple Singers 1972 #1
Kodachrome Paul Simon 1973 #2
“Loves Me Like a Rock” Paul Simon 1973 #2
One More River to Cross Canned Heat 1973
Atlantic Crossing Rod Stewart 1974-1975 (Released 1975)
Breakaway Art Garfunkel 1975
“Katmandu” Bob Seger 1975 #43
“Night Moves” Bob Seger 1976 #8
“Mainstreet” Bob Seger 1976 #24 (in 1977)
izitso Cat Stevens 1976 #7 (in 1977)
Street Survivors Lynyrd Skynyrd 1977
“Old Time Rock and Roll” Bob Seger 1978 #28 (in 1979)
Skynyrd’s First: The Complete Muscle Shoals Album Lynyrd Skynyrd 1971-1972 (Released 1978)
Strikes Blackfoot 1979
“Gotta Serve Somebody” Bob Dylan 1979 #24 1980 Grammy winner
Pleasure And Pain Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show 1978
Sometimes You Win Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show 1979
Valotte Julian Lennon 1984 #9
Brothers The Black Keys 2009 (Released 2010) 2011 Grammy winner


28 responses to “Session Musicians / A-Team / Funk Brothers / Wrecking Crew / Swampers

  1. Pingback: Hittsville U.S.A. Motown 1959-1971 – Gary | Russ & Gary's "The Best Years of Music"

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  3. Pingback: Al Casey | Russ & Gary's "The Best Years of Music"

  4. Pingback: Glen Campbell! | Russ & Gary's "The Best Years of Music"

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  6. Very interesting reading, guys. I was particular interested in The Wrecking Crew Section. The trailer video by Denny Tedesco – son of the most celebrated studio guitarist: Tommy Tedesco – lead me to his website:

    In 2008, he made a 95 min. documentary of the history of these session musos and the famous artists they backed. Unfortunate, this film can only be shown at film festivals due to copyright issues and cannot be commercially released yet. This means also that no DVD can be released yet. The record companies that own the recordings want too much money from Denny Tedesco whose total budget was less than $1 million, that he has turned to a fund-raising campaign.

    A really interesting link (to me anyway) is the Song List AFM Contracts. They are in PDF format and you can see who played on what song.

    I would love to see this film!

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  10. love this stuff 60 to 80 the best parties ever!!

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  12. Pingback: Jack Nitzsche – Wizard of the Sound of 60s Pop | Russ & Gary's "The Best Years of Music"

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  15. I have been looking for information on these session muscians, thanks for posting. I grew up with the music and am amazed that so much great music was done by so relatively few people. You might want to consider adding the Brill Building artists from New York to the list.

  16. Pingback: Sax Players of the Pop and Rock Era | Russ & Gary's "The Best Years of Music"

  17. Another great post. I also would love to see the Brill Blg. added to the list.

  18. Pingback: Carol Kaye | Russ & Gary's "The Best Years of Music"

  19. Super post, keeping me occupied all evening

  20. Pingback: Leon Russell – Songwriter Extraordinaire | Russ & Gary's "The Best Years of Music"

  21. WOW,so much information I”ve been looking for,witn dozens of books and scrap bits online,but this is incredible.Thank you so much info which will take ma a long interesting time to digest.

  22. Pingback: Leon Russell – Songwriter With A Romantic Soul | All about the MUSIC

  23. Pingback: Artie Butler | Russ & Gary's "The Best Years of Music"

  24. Pingback: Artie Butler | All about the MUSIC

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