‘Horn stars’ stand out
We have a lot to thank a 32-year-old Belgium musician and musical instrument designer by the name of Adolphe Sax for. In November of 1846, he patented the saxophone.
On my Coast Breakfast Show recently I featured three hit singles that the saxophone highlights prominently in. During my research for my programme it made me realise how important a role session musicians play in making hit singles.
Take for instance Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street. That song was written by Gerry, who was the former lead singer of the band Stealers Wheel.
It hit No 1 on the cashbox charts in 1978 and No 2 on billboard. The hit features a strong sax solo throughout. There is quite a story behind the musician who played the sax on that song.
Raphael Ravenstock was the name of the man on the sax! He had featured as a backing musician for the likes of Pink Floyd, Marvin Gaye, Abba and many others. The producer of Baker Street thought a sax solo would work for Gerry’s song … and it sure did.
The astonishing thing is Ravestock was only paid £27 for his contribution. Not only that, the cheque he received bounced! He had it framed and hung it on his solicitor’s wall.
Another not so famous backing saxophonist is Steve Gregory. He began his music career playing the sax for The Alan Price Set and was in great demand at the time for session work. He played backing for the likes of Fleetwood Mac, Ginger Baker’s Air Force and featured on sax on the 1969 hit Honky Tonk Woman by The Rolling Stones.
It’s Steve’s wailing sax solo that you hear at the beginning of George Michael’s hit Careless Whispers.
Today he occasionally performs with the jazz band Pastiche.
There are many famous sax players that feature on stage with bands. One that comes to mind is the late Clarence Clemons of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.
Clarence has to be my favourite saxophone player in rock ‘n’ roll. He played on many of the band’s hits including Born to Run. Sadly the ‘Big Man’, as Bruce referred to him, passed away in June of 2011, but his legacy continues with the band, with his nephew Jake Clemons taking over in the band and playing his uncle’s tenor sax.
Another legendary sax player that comes to mind is Bobby Keys, who played a huge roll in many of the Rolling Stones hits. He performed on every Stones album from 1969 till 1974 and has performed on all Stones tours since 1970.
My article would not be complete without mentioning Rod Stewart’s sax player. If you have been to his concerts or have any DVDS of his, you will notice the tall blond who first came to my attention at the mission concert Rod played a few years ago.
Her name is Katja Rieckmann. She has been touring with Rod for many years and first featured on his Songbook Vol 1 album.
She was born in a small town in Germany but moved to California where she found fame and fortune. She sure plays a mean sax and in her own words she is a “Horn Star” like all in this article.
It made me realise how important a role session musicians play in making hit singles.
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.
Brian Kelly is a host on Coast Breakfast radio.