Rock And Roll Hall of Fame
Sidemen Candidates

Criteria: Rock And Roll Hall of Fame Sidemen Candidates (Eligible artists who have yet to be inducted and are not among this year's nominees). Names are in alphabetical order.

(Note: DDD is not affiliated with the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame)

Written By:
Last Updated: 2016-10-19
QUALIFICATIONS (on a scale of 1-10)
10 - The Immortals
9 - Deserves To Be A First Ballot Lock
8 - Should Be Guaranteed An Induction
7 - An Eventual Induction Is Likely
6 - Should Be Nominated At Some Point
5 - Worthy Of At Least A Debate For A Nomination
4 - Not Insignificant, But Shouldn't Be Nominated
3 - No Business Being Debated By Committee
2 - No Business Being Even Mentioned
1 - No Business Visiting The Hall Of Fame Without a Ticket
Rock And Roll Hall of Fame Sidemen Candidates
The Sideman category was created in 2000 to fill a void that the other areas of the voting had left open, namely how to honor the often uncredited session musicians who contributed so much to the music that the Hall was celebrating. The fact it took a decade and a half for them to even consider such a category shows the utter cluelessness the institution was plagued with from the start, but at least it was finally being addressed. Considering the staggering backlog of qualified candidates in this realm it seemed inevitable that each year would see a handful of major - if largely unknown - talents taking their rightful place alongside the legendary stars they helped become famous with their ability. But after a flurry of expected entrants its first four years the category went dormant for a long stretch even while many of the most deserving candidates that existed from any category were still among the missing. 

Eventually the Sideman category was eliminated altogether, or as the Hall would have you believe, simply renamed to become the catch all "Musical Excellence" category.  What that really signified however was they'd come up with a more intentionally vague description to allow them to slip through a backdoor people who were ill-fitting in traditional categories whom they wanted to honor for more suspect reasons, further damaging the Hall's credibility and the widespread belief that the true induction process is more political than anything. The other effect its rebranding had however was essentially slamming the door on the huge number of vital sidemen who did more for rock 'n' roll than could ever be properly repaid and now had no category designed specifically to focus on them, ensuring they'd once more be lost in the shuffle and forgotten.

So here, for spite and for justification, we're sticking to the Sidemen description, as that remains an area - official category any longer or not - that is woefully underrepresented in the Hall Of Fame. Some of the most egregious oversights can be found here and their failure to be inducted in a timely fashion, with full credentials and an equal share of the ceremonial spotlight, remains one of the most criminal acts this shameful regime is guilty of. Though the individual qualifications of the following musicians do vary, all of these names should be recognizable and respected by anyone claiming to be a rock fan.
Sidemen Candidates
Lee Allen
One of the most prolific saxophonists of the 50's, featured prominently on hit records for Little Richard, Fats Domino, Lloyd Price and a host of others, and in the 80's was still recording with the Blasters. He defined the New Orleans carnival sax sound that dominated the era and even cut instrumental hits on his own ("Walkin' With Mr. Lee"). It is almost incomprehensible how Allen wasn't one of the first inductees in this category.
Qualifications: 10
Kenny Aronoff
One of the top session drummers of the past three decades, Aronoff is most notable as John Mellencamp's drummer on all of his hits, but he also found time to play with such Hall Of Fame talents as Bob Dylan, Lynryd Skynryd, The Rolling Stones, Alice Cooper as well as touring with the likes of the Smashing Pumpkins and Willie Nelson among many others. As solid and reliable a drummer as can be found in rock and whose versatility is shown by the jazz-fusion work he played early in his career.
Qualifications: 7
The Andantes
Motown's second secret weapon after the Funk Brothers was this female trio of singers who added background vocals to countless hits without an ounce of public credit. They essentially became the Supremes behind Diana Ross in the studio after Florence Ballard was kicked out, did the same for the Vandellas, whose lineup was always in flux, and most astonishly were basically the Three Tops behind Levi Stubbs on all Four Tops records. May have sung on more rock hits than any vocalists ever.
Qualifications: 8
Jack Ashford
Had the Hall of Fame done the smart thing from the beginning of this category and inducted the entire Funk Brothers as an ensemble, rather than just singling out its two most notable players in the first year, then a separate induction for Ashford, who helped define the label's sound with his tambourine and vibes work, wouldn't be necessary. 
Qualifications: 6
Bob Babbitt
Motown bassist following the legendary James Jamerson tends to get overshadowed by Jamerson's daunting reputation but Babbitt was a substantial session ace in his own right and remains as respected as any on the instrument. His work on Dennis Coffey's "Scorpio" is considered by many to be the greatest bass line in rock history.
Qualifications: 6
Mickey "Guitar" Baker
Half of 50's rock duo Mickey & Sylvia who had the huge hit with "Love Is Strange", but even more crucial in Baker's career was his immense sessionwork that literally helped create the rock guitar style as we know it. At a time when rock was saxophone and piano driven Baker was the guitarist who changed that even before Berry, Moore and Diddley came along. Without question the first rock guitar king whose influence down through the years is incalculable. A mandatory inductee who should've been in from year one.
Qualifications: 10
"Daddy" Gene Barge
Prolific saxophonist best remembered for his work with Gary "U.S." Bonds which helped to kick-off the wild frat-house record craze of the 60's. But Barge cut on his own as well as the leader of the Church Street Five and was prominent on sessions from the mid-50's onward behind such stars as Chuck Willis and LaVern Baker right up to Public Enemy in the 2000's.
Qualifications: 8
Aston "Family Man" Barrett
Had the Wailers been inducted rightfully along with Bob Marley, Barrett would've been in, but since they chose instead to honor only Marley then it will be up to the sidemen category to see that the Wailers great bassist gets in too.
Qualifications: 7
Gil Bernal
Prominent Los Angeles area saxophonist who recorded extensively for Leiber & Stoller artists as well as adding the distinctive hook to Duane Eddy's instrumental classic "Rebel Rouser". Not as well known as many of his contemporaries the Mexican born Bernal was vital in making the west coast sound of the 50's.
Qualifications: 5
Terry Bozzio
Drummer extraordinaire for Frank Zappa's Mothers Of Invention where he made his name in the early 70's.  After parting with Zappa he worked behind such other major artists as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Robbie Robertson, Herbie Hancock and Jeff Beck. Though never became widely known in the mainstream, within drumming circles he is revered.
Qualifications: 7
Al Casey
Unlikely looking guitar hero, the bespectacled Casey was nonetheless one of the 50's prime guitar session aces, most notably on Lee Hazlewood's innovative productions, and was the featured guitarist on a number of hits, including the influential rockabilly single, Sanford Clark's "The Fool" as well as cutting some killer guitar instrumentals along the way.
Qualifications: 6
Tommy Cogbill
The legendary bassist for the Muscle Shoals sound, Cogbill began as a guitarist on sessions before it was discovered he was an even better bass player. Once installed on that instrument he locked down the sound for countless southern soul artists, from Wilson Pickett to Aretha Franklin. The deep bottoms those records were known for stems entirely from Cogbill.
Qualifications: 8
Cornell Dupree
One of the great session guitarists of the late 60's and early 70's, Dupree brought a jazz-based style to funky rock tracks.  Immensely talented he recorded his most notable rock sides with Aretha Franklin, Brook Benton, King Curtis, Paul Simon and Joe Cocker, but also was a member of the studio group Stuff that released jazz-fusion albums on their own.
Qualifications: 6
Jim Gordon
Popular session drummer in the 70's was a member of Eric Clapton's Derek & The Dominos with whom he wrote "Layla". His work with George Harrison, Frank Zappa and many other luminaries made him the most in-demand sessionist in rock for awhile before his longtime mental instablities resulted in him murdering his mother, for which he was sentenced to prison.
Qualifications: 7
Jerome Green
Maracas player who put the drive behind the Bo Diddley beat and played comic foil to Bo on numerous recordings. One of the most distinctive sounds in rock history are Green's omnipresent counter-rhythms. Essentially if the maracas are played on a rock record since, and they have been on many classic records, then they are based on what Green laid out first.
Qualifications: 8
Mick Green
England's first guitar hero playing with Johnny Kidd's Pirates. Though his credits don't amount to much in terms of hits or even truly epic sides, save "Shakin' All Over", his mere presence gave hope to every Brit with a guitar and in turn spawned the massive influx of British guitar gods from the mid-60's forward.
Qualifications: 5
Peter Green
Guitarist who played with the Bluesbreakers and was a founding member and focal point of the original blues version of Fleetwood Mac. Among Britain's most revered guitar legends whose credit among the mainstream has never been properly afforded.
Qualifications: 6
Herb Hardesty
Fats Domino's longtime sax player whose work with him included the carnival-like instrumental breaks on classics such as "Blue Monday" and "I'm Walkin" that helped define those immortal records and Domino's live gigs for decades. A giant on the instrument that was the cornerstone of 50's rock 'n' roll.
Qualifications: 9
Roger Hawkins
Muscle Shoals drummer considered by some, Jerry Wexler included, to be the best ever on the instrument. Played on hits from Wilson Pickett to Aretha Franklin, Rod Stewart, Paul Simon, Traffic, the Staple Singers and too many more to count. The cornerstone of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section which included the almost equally stellar Jimmy Johnson on guitar, David Hood on bass and Barry Beckett on keyboards, but even among those legends, Hawkins' talents stood out.
Qualifications: 9
The Hi-Rhythm Section
The session aces on Willie Mitchell's productions for Hi Records throughout the 60's and 70's made up of the Hodges brothers, guitarist Teenie, bassist Leroy, organist Charles, along with Howard Grimes on drums. Only the legendary Booker T. & The MG's defined the Memphis soul sound better and instead of cherry picking the biggest names, as they've done with the Funk Brothers and Wrecking Crew, the Hall should induct all of these guys together.
Qualifications: 8
Nicky Hopkins
Widely used keyboardist in the late 60's and early 70's, most notably with the Rolling Stones, but many others as well from Jefferson Airplane to The Who to the Kinks. At a time when the piano had been excised from many rock groups Hopkins was vital in bringing the instrument back to the forefront while remaining largely anonymous in doing so.
Qualifications: 8
The Jordanaires
The most famed backing vocal unit in rock thanks to their long association with Elvis Presley, as well their work with Ricky Nelson, Sonny James, and Esquerita among many others. A gospel quartet on their own who nevertheless provided rock 'n' roll with a crucial and immediately identifiable sound.
Qualifications: 7
Carole Kaye
One of the greatest bassists to ever play the instrument, the eccentric Kaye was the lone female to crack the famed Wrecking Crew, the top sessionists in L.A. during the 60's. She was a vital presence on Phil Spector, Jan Berry and Brian Wilson productions that shaped the music of the decade.
Qualifications: 7
Jim Keltner
The pre-eminent session drummer since the 70's, he first gained attention with Gary Lewis & The Playboys before moving to Delaney & Bonnie. From there he worked behind everyone from Eric Clapton to John Lennon, John Lee Hooker to B.B. King, Bobby Womack to Brian Wilson and on some of Bob Dylan's most acclaimed sides. He was later an unofficial Wilbury in the supergroup Traveling Wilburys.
Qualifications: 8
Bobby Keys
One of the few white sax legends in rock history, Keys began playing with Buddy Holly before a long association with the Rolling Stones, for whom he's best known for backing. In addition, his horn has graced work from Eric Clapton, Lynyrd Skynyrd, B.B. King and most of the individual Beatles solo careers.
Qualifications: 6
Al Kooper
A name already raised as a possible inductee with Blood, Sweat & Tears, Kooper seems more suited for consideration as a sideman, since he's made his name by playing a wide-range of instrumental roles with a variety of big-name acts starting with Bob Dylan and then after a stint with the aforementioned group he founded, he resumed backing others, including the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix. He later signed and produced R&R HOF'ers Lynyrd Skynyrd, which gives him another aspect that few sessionists could boast, but considering his best contributions have come behind the scenes with other artists he is the ideal sideman inductee.
Qualifications: 8
Russ Kunkel
Top session drummer for the 70's working behind Hall Of Famers Crosby, Stills & Nash, Bob Dylan, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Bob Seger, B.B. King, Jackson Browne, Neil Diamond, Carole King and too many others to mention. Never flamboyant, so his contributuons often go unrecognized, but a class act behind the kit for years.
Qualifications: 6
The Memphis Horns
The most indelible horn section in music over multiple decades, sometimes fluctuating personnel but primarily centered around trumpeter Wayne Jackson and saxophonist Andrew Love. Like their Stax studio counter parts, the MG's, the Memphis Horns were an interracial group in the heart of the segregated south, an almost unheard of circumstance at the time in the outside world around them. They've played on more hits than you could possibly count and were vital to the success of all of them.
Qualifications: 9
Session musicians at Sigma Sound Studios who defined both Philly soul and disco throughout the 70's, topping the charts with their own influential hit "TSOP" as well as playing on countless hits for others. Because of the sheer number of musicians in their ranks, like the Funk Brothers and Wrecking Crew, both of which just saw their most prominent members inducted individually, their induction as a whole seems unlikely. But guitarists Norman Harris & Bobby Eli, bassist Ronnie Baker and drummer Earl Young in particular deserve recognition by the Hall.
Qualifications: 9
Jimmy Nolen
Innovative guitarist first with Johnny Otis in the 50's and then, most prominently, with James Brown in the 60's where he laid the blue print for funk guitar. The music didn't allow for many solos, but his harsh rhythmic underpinnings held the entire structure together. Nolen was the creator of the scratch style of playing and consequently one of the most influential guitarists of all-time.
Qualifications: 9
Maceo Parker
The saxophonist James Brown called out for all the time in his songs "Maceo!". Hitmaker on his own and an indelible a presence on the funk records that defined the late 60's and 70's black rock scene. Probably the most widely heard sax player in the post-King Curtis era and to this day, thanks to sampling of Brown's work and Parliament/Funkadelic, with whom he also recorded extensively, his sound remains omnipresent.
Qualifications: 9
Ray Pohlman
Extraordinary bassist on a horde of classic sides cut in L.A. during the 1960's, notably on Phil Spector and Brian Wilson productions. Pohlman's work helped to make the Wrecking Crew the most in-demand group of studio players in rock during the decade. In addition, when live rock music came to network television in the mid-60's on the show "Shindig", Pohlman was the musical director and bandleader for the program, backing a ton of hitmakers who performed on their stage.
Qualifications: 7
Billy Preston
Famed organist had hits on his own but more likely to get in as a sideman for his work with dozens of major artists, from Sam Cooke and the Beatles to the Rolling Stones and Aretha Franklin. Amazingly popular with fans and critics alike, it is surprising he hasn't been singled out here already. With his death in 2006 there might be renewed attention on his candidacy.
Qualifications: 10
Bernard "Pretty" Purdie
The premiere 60's and 70's NY studio drummer with instrumental hits of his own (Funky Donkey), but more known for his innovations behind others ranging from Aretha Franklin to James Brown to jazz greats Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie.  The creator of the hi-hat kick.
Qualifications: 8
Chuck Rainey
Legendary studio bassist, a member of King Curtis's immortal King-Pins in the 60's and early 70's. Though he also worked in jazz, where he was highly respected, it was his rock sessions that brought him the widest acclaim as keeper of the groove.
Qualifications: 8
Randy Rhodes
Though officially a member of Quiet Riot he drew his most attention for his work with Ozzy Osbourne before his tragic early death. Among the most prominent to bring classical influences to electric rock guitar, Rhodes popularity grew ever greater posthumously when Osbourne released a huge selling Tribute Album featuring Rhodes' work with him on tour.
Qualifications: 7
Mick Ronson
Glam rock's most renown guitarist, Ronson's work graced groundbreaking records of Mott The Hoople, Lou Reed and most notably David Bowie throughout the 70's. His writing and arranging skill equaled his ability on guitar and few musicians have made such a mark on one style without ever taking the spotlight or receiving the credit.
Qualifications: 7
Buddy Saltzman
In the 60's the east coast answer to Hal Blaine. Saltzman was a thunderous studio drummer, most notably on the epic Four Seasons productions. Not as well known as his more publicized west coast contemporaries, he nonetheless was as good as they came.
Qualifications: 7
Sly & Robbie
Unique in that drummer Sly Dunbar and bassist Robbie Shakespeare essentially connected at the hip in terms of their output, which not only includes their work as a killer rhythm section on a wide variety of artists work, from Peter Tosh to Bob Dylan to Eric Clapton to Black Uhuru, but also as producers. There's no "catch-all music figures" category to place those like them in, so here's where they have their best shot.
Qualifications: 8
Huey "Piano" Smith
Difficult to find the right category for, as Smith was the credited star of the late 50's group The Clowns, who had two massive hits with "Rockin' Pneumonia & The Boogie Woogie Flu" and "Don't You Just Know It", even though Bobby Marchan was the vocalist. That group likely won't be considered for induction on their own and so Smith should be voted on as a sidemen, both for his work with the Clowns and also for his prolific studio work for a wide array of New Orleans legends.  One of the greatest rock pianists ever.
Qualifications: 9
Jabo Starks & Clyde Stubblefield
The dual drummers for James Brown's greatest bands of the 60's and 70's, they patented the two drumming set-up that others, Allman Brothers most famously, copied.  Between them they drove some of the greatest funk records ever recorded and it would be fitting for them to be inducted together.
Qualifications: 9
The Sweet Inspirations
Vocal trio led by the great Cissy Houston who provided backup for artists ranging from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley as well as their own hits. This is one area that has yet to be recognized by the Hall entirely, but the for-hire vocalists behind the main artist is a crucial aspect of the recording process and few have ever been more celebrated for it than the Sweet Inspirations.
Qualifications: 7
The trio didn't get the name until they'd already been session aces for the better part of the 80's, but guitarist Skip McDonald, bassist Doug Wimbish and drummer Keith LeBlanc were rap's first great backing group, recording with Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five and other Sugarhill Records artists. They branched out - collectively and individually - for other styles on sessions ranging from Madonna to the Rolling Stones, but before sampling completely took over rap they laid much of the groundwork musically.
Qualifications: 8
Sam "The Man" Taylor
The prime creator of the 50's sax revolution and the most recorded sessionist of his day on too many hits by too many artists to count. The dominant sax player of the 50's, a decade in which that was the defining instrument in rock. Another who should've been inducted in year one and yet who is inconceivably still waiting to be recognized by the Hall. A towering figure in rock's evolution.
Qualifications: 10
Steve Vai
One of the most accomplished guitarists of the past three decades, Vai was unusual in that day and age in that he didn't belong to a self-contained superstar band, but instead like so many from decades earlier, was more of a sessionist. He began by playing with Frank Zappa in the early 80's before moving on to work behind David Lee Roth who was embarking on his solo career. Eventually Vai formed his own band, but it is as a player for hire behind such artists as Alice Cooper, Joe Jackson and Public Image Ltd., where he made his greatest mark.
Qualifications: 7
Earl Van Dyke
The leader of the Funk Brothers band at Motown, Van Dyke brought his arranging skills to the company early on and played piano on their biggest hits for years as well as frequently leading the road band behind the artists when they toured. The Chunk Of Funk was the unheralded lynchpin of the notorious studio aces that cranked out more hits than any band in the history of mankind.
Qualifications: 7
Harry "Piano Man" Van Walls
The leading piano sessionist of the early 50's when he backed a litany of Atlantic Records stars, including two indelible performances - Big Joe Turner's "Chains Of Love", which marked that giant's comeback and the Clover's immortal "One Mint Julep". Back when the piano, not guitar, was rock's key instrument, few were better than Van Walls.
Qualifications: 6
Robert White, Joe Messina, & Eddie Willis
Trio of guitarists that were featured on virtually every track emanating from Motown during the 60's. Their work is indelible and was largely uncredited for years. Every music fan knows by heart White's opening on "My Girl", Messina's doubling of James Jamerson's bass for "Your Precious Love", Willis's intro to "The Way You Do The Things You Do" and the magical by-play between all three on "I Second That Emotion" and the news flash intro on "You Keep Me Hangin On". 
Qualifications: 9
Jimmy Wright
The key component behind many a doo-wop classic was Wright's blaring tenor saxophone, which graced the records of Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers, the Cleftones and many others. The sax was the most integral instrument for rock's early mid-song breaks and Wright's was omnipresent throughout the decade on many of its greatest recordings.
Qualifications: 8
Reggie Young
One of the premiere session guitarists of the 50's, 60's and 70's southern music scene, Young played on hits with Bill Black's Combo before becoming a sessionist for hire backing everyone from James Carr to Dusty Springfield to Dobie Gray. Comfortable in all styles of music from soul to country. 
Qualifications: 7

More Music Lists