A sideman is a professional musician who is hired to perform or record with a group of which he or she is not a regular member. They often tour with solo acts as well as bands and jazz ensembles. Sidemen are generally required to be adaptable to many different styles of music, and so able to fit smoothly into the group in which they are currently playing. Often aspiring musicians start out as sidemen, and then move on to develop their own sound, a name, and fans of their own, or go on to form their own groups. Some examples of this are:

  • James Burton and Glen D. Hardin, playing guitar and keyboards respectively, who performed in the backing band for Elvis Presley, also backed Gram Parsons before joining newcomer Rodney Crowell and veteran Albert Lee in Emmylou Harris' "Hot Band".
  • Don Henley and Glenn Frey were in the initial backup band for Linda Ronstadt, which toured in support of her eponymous debut album. Afterwards, with the addition of Joe Walsh and Don Felder, (and later, Timothy Schmit), they formed The Eagles.

Some sidemen become famous for their musical specialties, and become highly sought-after by pop, rock, blues, jazz and country music bands. Examples of some of these include multi-instrumentalists David Lindley, who has mastered a variety of instruments from around the world, Waddy Wachtel, whose guitar licks and experience have placed him as a bandleader while on tour with Stevie Nicks, and Chuck Leavell, who has toured with the Allman Brothers Band, but more often, is onstage with The Rolling Stones on keyboards.

Often sidemen go on to form their own groups and/or solo careers; for instance, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Pete Best acted as sidemen to Tony Sheridan before becoming famous as The Beatles, with the addition of Ringo Starr. Other musicians may take time from their own bands to tour or record as a sideman for another artist, such as Mike Watt with J Mascis and the Fog or Iggy and the Stooges.

Read more about SidemanSome Notable Sidemen Include

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... He also recorded as a sideman with Thelonious Monk and Sonny Rollins, and he replaced Clifford Brown in the Max Roach Quintet after Brown's death in 1956 ... In addition to sideman work, he led his own groups, including the Jazz Prophets (formed shortly after Art Blakey took over the Jazz Messengers name) ... throughout the sixties for Blue Note and Prestige Records, as leader and as sideman for Henderson, Jackie McLean, Cedar Walton, Andrew Hill, Milt Jackson and others ...
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... Phil Palmer, guitarist (rock jazz) Owen Pallett, violinist, sideman of Arcade Fire Jack Petersen (guitarist) Pino Palladino, bass guitarist for The Who, the John Mayer Trio, etc ... and funk trombonist and author of the book Hit Me, Fred Recollections of a Sideman ISBN 0-8223-2909-3 Jason White, punk rock guitarist, sideman of Green Day Phil Woods ...
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... Bonilla supported himself as a session musician, and a sideman with some of the top performers of his time ... However, Bonilla has demonstrated his versatility as a sideman and studio musician with artists as varied as Tony Bennett, Diana Ross, Marc Anthony, La India and Mary J ...