May 112011

In honor of classical music trumpeteer David Mason, who overdubbed the legendary piccolo trumpet solo on The Beatles’ “Penny Lane” and who died today at 85 years of age, let us honor non-rock musicians known to rock music lovers primarily for their essential overdub on a rock ‘n roll song. I stress the importance of these musicians being known primarily to rock fans for their overdub to exclude an already legendary and likely known to rock fans non-rocker’s appearance on a rock recording, such as reknowned jazzman Sonny Rollins‘ solo on The Rolling Stones’ “Waiting on a Friend.” Got me?

Perhaps these musicians might say something similar to what Mason said about his unexpected claim to fame:

I’ve spent a lifetime playing with top orchestras, yet I’m most famous for playing on “Penny Lane”!

You may know these musicians’ names off the top of your head or you may look them up and list them here. But remember, this is a Last Man Standing competition, so don’t bogart that Comments box! You may enter as many entries as you like but only one entry per Comment, please.

UPDATED: Ever hear Mr. Mason’s famous “Penny Lane” solo in German True Stereo?


  70 Responses to “Last Man Standing: Non-Rock Musicians Known to Rock Music Lovers Primarily for Their Essential Overdub on a Rock ‘n Roll Song”

  1. The late country/swing/hillbilly-jazz fiddler Vassar Clements did a lot of guest spots on rock albums by the Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia, Linda Ronstadt, Paul McCartney, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Jimmy Buffett, and Dickey Betts.

  2. Sonny Rollins, for playing the sax solo on the Stones’ “Waiting On A Friend.”

  3. diskojoe

    Does the Detroit Symphony Orchestra count for its work on Motown hits such as “I Hear A Symphony”?

  4. Alan Civil, the French horn player on the Beatles’ “For No One”.

  5. My man, he’s EXACTLY the sort of already known to at least a significant chunk of the rock-loving masses musician who I excluded from this LMS.

  6. No, that’s a large, well-established, faceless symphony that happened to be in town. I know little about classical music, but I’d have ot assume that Detroit had its own symphony. Someone like Alan Civil, who I see tonyola suggested, is just the sort of non-rock musician we’re looking for. I have no business knowning his name if not for his contribution to a Beatles song.

  7. BigSteve

    The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra who backed Procol Harum on a live album and gave them an unlikely hit with the re-recorded version of Conquistador.

  8. BigSteve

    Ok maybe that’s not exactly an overdub.

  9. And to clarify, although I knew little about Sonny Rollins at the time of Tattoo You I knew enough to know that he was a major figure in jazz. The dimestore rock fan of the time may not have ever heard of him, but when I say “Rock Music Lovers” I mean people who really love rock music enough to at least be aware of other forms of music.

  10. BigSteve

    Would rock fans know Ladysmith Black Mombazo without Paul Simon?

  11. How about we exclude all symphony orchestras unless they’re from some place we wouldn’t have assumed had a symphony orchestra?

  12. Not even many dedicated ones at the time. The judges will accept that answer, but I can tell you in advance that they will reject efforts at suggesting the Dixie Hummingbirds.

  13. And I should add (sorry I didn’t think this through as thoroughly as I now see I needed to): “world music” artists brought to rock fan consciousness through such overdubs will be excluded if their introduction to the rock world leads to a subsequent rock-related career that rivals their initial appearance on our radar. Alan Civil, for instance, would only exist in our consciousness for his work on “For No One,” but any number of exotic musicians introduced to the rock scene by Peter Gabriel or Daniel Lanois may have since carved out their own continuing rock-related career. I’m thinking of someone like that Y’ousson D’or, or whatever his name is. Ladysmith Black Mombazo might have been excluded under this ammendment as well, but I am too fair to apply it after the fact.

  14. BigSteve

    I have a feeling the judges will not accept this, but Hugh Masakela played the trumpet on the Byrds’ So You Wanna Be a Rock&Roll Star.

    I’ve googled around a bit, and apparently no one is saying for sure who played the mariachi trumpet solo on the Mod’s favorite Love song Alone Again Or.

  15. Right, save Hugh for another day. Even I knew that guy’s name before I knew he played on that Byrds’ song. Now the trumpet player on that Love song probably will qualify! Don’t give up hope.

  16. According to Wikipedia the uncredited trumpet parts on Forever Changes were played by Bud Brisbois, Roy Caton, and Ollie Mitchell. Here’s the only known photo of them outside the recording studio:

  17. I’ve probably made the criteria so stringent that some of you are about to give up hope. Let me suggest one way of opening up things again: the Fiery Furnaces’ 83-year-old grandmother, who did an entire album with her grandson and granddaughter.


  18. FILL-IN-THE-BLANK HINT #1: There’s a group of jingle singers whose existence many of us would never have been aware of if not for their essential overdub on a rock ‘n roll song.

  19. The Mike Sammes Singers on the Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus”.

  20. BigSteve

    Yes, I saw the three names too, but it the identity of the solo player on that one song seems to be a big secret.

  21. BigSteve

    I think I’ve got one — Sugar Blue’s harmonica on the Stones’ Miss You.

  22. BigSteve

    Or Rocky Dijon, conga player on Sympathy for the Devil.

  23. Excellent! You are currently Last Man Standing.

  24. hrrundivbakshi

    Mary Clayton, back-up singer on “Gimme Shelter.”

  25. I’m accepting Merry Clayton. I know of people who’ve rooted through used bins to find her solo record and I know she sang on at least a dozen big records (including, I just learned, “Sweet Home Alabama,” and the soundtrack to one of my favorite cult movies, Brewster McCloud), but she’s always been “the woman who sings on ‘Gimme Shelter.'”

    There’s another woman singer whose memorable backing vocal on another rock song far outshines anything else she’s ever done. Somehow a rock myth started that the singer on this song was actually someone else, someone who would have a number of hits under (part of) her own name.

  26. By the way, in the final “Personal life” line of her Wiki page, check out maybe the most powerful Stones-related myth ever:

  27. bostonhistorian

    Vi Petty playing the celeste on Buddy Holly’s “Everyday”

  28. tonyola

    Andy Newman was a post office worker and dixieland piano player who was tapped to become part of the short-lived Thunderclap Newman band – a Pete Townshend project. His piano solo was a standout part in “Something In the Air”. After Thunderclap ended, Newman pretty much retreated back into dixieland obscurity.

    By the way, Thunderclap Newman’s sole album, Hollywood Dream, is a charming oddball record worth seeking out.

  29. misterioso

    Yeah, that is totally untrue. It was caused by the Mars bar. No, wait, that was Marianne Faithfull. Oh, and that was not true either. Never mind.

  30. BigSteve

    I never knew she was from Gert Town or that she was related to the guy in Little Feat. RTH is so educational.

  31. misterioso

    Raphael Ravenscroft, sax on the great, great Baker Street by the late Gerry Rafferty.

  32. BigSteve

    The Peruvian group Los Incas on Simon & Garfunkel’s El Condor Pasa.

  33. How about Scarlet Rivera, who received some fame for playing fiddle on the Rolling Thunder Revue tour, then promptly returned to obscurity?

  34. Nusrat fateh ali Khan and Eddie Vedder from the “Dead Men Walking” Soundtrack. I’ve never heard from of him having a rock career as per your world musicians exclusion above.

    Maybe just sour grapes since my 1st thought was Youssou n’Dour.

  35. I knew you would battle through the initial roadblocks. Keep ’em coming! I can’t believe no one’s yet suggested possibly the second-most legendary backing vocal by an obscure singer. Perhaps this woman is among chergeuvara’s stockpile of LMS entries, as he’s been known to do!

  36. When sammy’s back to full strength maybe we can have him put together a tasteless animation to fully illustrate this myth.

  37. misterioso

    Perhaps you are leading us towards Clare Torry’s contribution to Great Gig in the Sky on Dark Side of the Moon? (Not that this is really a “backing” vocal, but anyway.)

  38. misterioso

    I’m gonna bet all my chips that he plays in McCartney’s Sally G, the b-side of Junior’s Farm. And a great little song.

    Not to digress, but Junior’s Farm is easily one of my top few McCartney/Wings songs. And even after all these years I have no idea whatsoever what it is supposed to be about.

  39. tonyola

    Christiane Legrand, the lead soprano for The Swingle Singers (acapella classical singing group) appeared on Procol Harum’s “Fires (Which Burnt Brightly)” off the 1973 Grand Hotel album.

  40. BigSteve

    A flautist named John Scott played the solo on the Beatles’ You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away.

  41. misterioso

    That’s not one of the two Procol Harum songs I know.

  42. tonyola

    Marvin Stamm, a bebop trumpeter, played the flugelhorn on Paul McCartney’s “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey”.

  43. misterioso

    I kid you not, I was about to look that one up.

  44. misterioso

    I see your Marvin Stamm and raise you Campbeltown Pipe Band on Mull of Kintyre. Just because.

  45. YES! I wasn’t sure how to characterize the role of that vocal part. I know “backing” wasn’t quite right.

  46. plasticsun

    The trombone solo on the Kinks’ Dead End Street was played by John Matthews,who was recruited from a nearby pub.

  47. tonyola

    The New Jersey Mass Choir (gospel) sang on Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is”.

  48. tonyola

    He sounds like he’d already had a few when the song was recorded. That trombone is wonderfully boozy-sounding.

  49. misterioso

    Right, that’s how we know how sincere they are. They like black people, and black people like them.

  50. ladymisskirroyale

    The Damned’s version of Alone Again Or features a trumpeter named Kurt Holm. I don’t know much about him. Perhaps he an orchestra player in disguise.

  51. ladymisskirroyale

    Christina Ricci, actress, was the voice intoning “Please Enjoy” on Beck’s “Hell Yes.”

  52. And Johnny Depp contributed slide guitar on Oasis’ “Fade in Out”.
    Are we getting away from the original question here naming non-musicians cameos?

  53. bostonhistorian

    Dead End Street came up on shuffle ten minutes before I read this. The trombone knocks me out everytime.

  54. cherguevara

    Yanick Etienne, known for her amazing vocal on Roxy Music’s “Avalon.”

  55. You’ve totally drifted from the topic, but this is good to know as Depp makes the transition from solid Six-Pack in my book to the Shotgun category as I see him in that stupid pirate gear for yet another movie and then see him throw away his god-given pretty boy status in that gypsy mode he strikes whenever he’s not playing pirate. Wh would have thought, when I first identified him as an up-and-comer on 21 Jump Street, he’d get the SHOTGUN from me.

  56. Come February 2012 won’t you join me in celebrating Exploitive Black Rock History Month?

  57. ladymisskirroyale

    Lori Goldston, a cellist, who I originally saw as part of Seattle’s Black Cat Orchestra, was also Nirvana’s touring cellist, and has appeared on albums by the Wedding Present and (the new) Earth.

  58. misterioso

    Let us pause to recall Anil Bhagwat’s tabla work on Love You To on Revolver.

  59. 2000 Man

    Haha! You know why that’s funny? Cuz it’s TRUE! tonyola just won the LMS for “Name the third Procol Harum song.”

  60. Don Cherry (best known for his work with Ornette Coleman) is featured on much of Lou Reed’s binaurally recorded (“as he was MEANT to be, etc….”) album, The Bells, playing trumpet & “African hunting guitar”. In ’82 he also recorded with Rip, Rig & Panic.

  61. Driving to soccer practice tonight my son and I heard and cranked up “Baba O’Riley” on the radio. Then it occurred to me: the violin player on this track would surely top the list – at least for now. I looked him up, just now, and it turns out Dave Arbus was already a member of a prog-folk-rock band, East of Eden, so he does not, in fact, qualify. However, you may still get a kick out of the following video:

  62. cherguevara

    Former Glenn Miller trombonist Paul Tanner played the theremin-like instrument on Good Vibrations.

  63. Great one!

    Look out, RTH, cher is about to unleash his stash of LMS-topping entries! Let’s give him a run for his money.

  64. How about the Islington Green School Choir singing on Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall, Pt. 2”.

  65. BigSteve

    The Portsmouth Sinfonia on Eno’s Put a Straw Under Baby from Taking Tiger Mountain.

  66. At the risk of going against the grain of obscure folks appearing on popular if not legendary recordings, I offer an icon on a not-so-well-known song: David Letterman’s backing “vocals” on Warren Zevon’s “Hit Somebody! (The Hockey Song)”

  67. Welcome to the fray, RaoulG, and let us know how things look from the top of the heap. You are currently Last Man Standing!

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