Bobbye Hall and her pug, Ching Ching
Bobbye Jean Hall Porter is an American percussionist who has recorded with a variety of rock, soul, blues and jazz artists, and has appeared on 22 songs that reached the top ten in the Billboard Hot 100, six of those reaching No. 1.
Early career, work for Motown and move to Los Angeles
Bobbye Jean Hall was born in Detroit, Michigan, and began her career there playing percussion in nightclubs while still in her teens. Using bongos, congas and other percussion, she played uncredited on many Motown recordings. She lived in Europe for a few years during which time she changed the spelling of her name from Bobby to Bobbye, to distinguish herself as a woman and as a unique musician. She moved to Los Angeles in 1970 where she was one of the few female session musicians in a male-dominated profession, a sometime associate of the Funk Brothers. Already a veteran player by May 1971, she added her bongo skills to Marvin Gaye's "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)". Her first studio gig behind a full rock drum kit was with Chris Ethridge on his album L.A. Getaway—Ethridge said "she was great".
Hall recorded several albums with Bill Withers, including his No. 1 hit "Lean On Me", and an album recorded live at Carnegie Hall. She toured with Carole King in May–June 1973 after having participated on two of King's studio albums. During this tour Hall asked King to stop introducing her as "Little Bobbye from Detroit". King suggested "Ms. Bobbye Hall" and from that time forward, Hall was known as Ms. Bobbye Hall. In May 1974, she performed again at Carnegie Hall, this time backing James Taylor, a follow-up to appearing on two of his albums. Stevie Wonder used Hall's percussion skills for a few songs in 1974 and 1976, including "Bird of Beauty" where her artful quica work established a mood of Brazil at Carnival.
In 1973–1974, Hall began to be credited sometimes as Bobbye Hall Porter, also Bobbye Porter Hall, after her marriage to record producer Joe Porter. Hall released one album of her own in March 1977: Body Language For Lovers, a soul-jazz instrumental work featuring tunes co-written by her and her husband. Billboard recommended the LP, but it did not chart.
In 1978, Bob Dylan took her on a world tour, from mid-February to mid-December, paying her $2,500 per week—about $9,400 in today's dollars. This handsome compensation was arranged to pay for the studio sessions she would be missing. The men and women appearing on stage with Dylan were required to wear costumes designed in Hollywood by Bill "Spoony" Whitten, and the musicians did not like them. Lead guitarist Billy Cross said "the band looked like a large aggregation of pimps", and backup singer Debi Dye-Gibson said she and the other women "looked like hookers". The show's playlist was a collection of Dylan's greatest hits, as specified by promoters at the tour's Japanese stops. All the songs, even the sparse acoustic ones, were arranged for a full band and a big sound. Hall and the musicians stayed at the best hotels side-by-side with Dylan, and flew on a chartered jet airliner which held suites and a bar. Hall joined Dylan from time to time at dinner, and was surprised to find him a longtime fan of soul food—she observed him to be "infatuated by going out with black women ...by that whole black thing, [even] eating the food." He entertained her with card tricks. However, the tour began to wear on him, and he called band meetings where he criticized his musicians sharply for being too formulaic. Hall remarked of these encounters, "when he spoke to us, he was not the poet." A two-disc album was produced using 22 songs recorded live in Japan: Bob Dylan at Budokan, and a stop in Santa Monica, California, allowed Dylan and most of the touring band to cut a studio album, Street-Legal, with Hall on percussion.
In 1979, she recorded The Wall with Pink Floyd. She recorded with Bob Seger's Silver Bullet Band in the early 1980s. Hall joined Stevie Nicks for her album Bella Donna and toured with her in 1981, 1983, and 1986. For the 1986 film Little Shop of Horrors, Hall played tambourine and congas on the soundtrack.
Other musicians she has recorded for include Fanny, Kim Carnes, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Janis Joplin, Tavares, Randy Newman, Rod Stewart, Dolly Parton, Mel Brown, Leo Sayer, Cecilio & Kapono, Russ Ballard, Donovan, Joni Mitchell, Jerry Garcia, Patti Scialfa, Freda Payne, Dwight Yoakam, Donald Byrd, Gene Harris, Bobby Hutcherson, Grant Green, Ferron, Poco, the Temptations, Mary Wells, Jefferson Starship, Kenny Rankin, the Manhattan Transfer, Stanley Turrentine, Boz Scaggs, Marc Bolan, Judy Mowatt, Hugo Montenegro, Aretha Franklin, the Doobie Brothers, Kris Kristofferson, Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, Al Kooper, the Jeff Healey Band, the Doors, Robin Zander, Lone Justice, the Mamas & the Papas, David Byrne, Marty Balin, Sarah Vaughan, Tommy Bolin, Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Harry Chapin and Tracy Chapman.
She has recorded as percussionist and drummer using the following instruments: bongos, congas, tambourine, claves, quica, wood block, tabla, full drum kit, tom-toms, cabasa, maracas, cowbell, bells, shaker, güiro, triangle, mark tree, hand claps, finger snaps and finger cymbals.
Billboard chart appearances
These songs recorded with Hall appeared on the Billboard Hot 100 chart:
- "Rhythm Section Session Players". Wilson and Alroy's Record Reviews. Retrieved July 14, 2010.
- "Liner Note Legends #4: Ms. Bobbye Hall". Interviewed by Renee Montagne. NPR. January 9, 2015. Retrieved March 7, 2016.
- "Bobbye Hall". Instrumental Women Project. Archived from the original on February 19, 2006. Retrieved July 14, 2010.
- Gray, Michael (2008). The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia. Continuum. pp. 291–294. ISBN 978-0-8264-2974-2.
- Sounes, Howard (2006). Seventies: the sights, sounds and ideas of a brilliant decade. Simon & Schuster. p. 134. ISBN 0-7432-6859-8. "...such as Bobbye Hall whose insistent bongos can be heard..."
- Einarson, John (2005). Mr. Tambourine Man: the life and legacy of the Byrds' Gene Clark. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 166. ISBN 0-87930-793-5.
- "Ode's King U.S. Tour". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media. 85 (15): 16. April 14, 1973. ISSN 0006-2510.
- Perone, James E. The sound of Stevie Wonder: his words and music. The Praeger Singer-songwriter collection. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 62. ISBN 0-275-98723-X.
- Raben, Erik; Nielsen, Ole J. (1990). Jazz records 1942–80: a discography. 3. Stainless/Wintermoon. p. 105.
- Lord, Tom (1996). The Jazz Discography. 10. Lord Music Reference. pp. H–971.
- Orloff, Katherine (1974). Rock 'n Roll Woman. Nash. ISBN 0-8402-8077-7.
- "Billboard's Recommended LPs". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media. 89 (10): 118. March 12, 1977. ISSN 0006-2510.
- Sounes, Howard (2002). Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan. Grove Press. pp. 314–317, 322. ISBN 0-8021-3891-8.
- James, Peter. Warehouse Eyes: The albums of Bob Dylan. Lulu.com. pp. 134, 141. ISBN 1-4116-8084-7.
- Hoskyns, Barney (2010). Lowside of the Road: A Life of Tom Waits. Random House. p. 208. ISBN 0-7679-2709-5.
- Bella Donna (album)
- The Wild Heart Tour
- Hounsome, Terry (1987). Rock record: a collectors' directory of rock albums and musicians (3 ed.). Facts On File. p. 414. ISBN 0-8160-1754-9.
- "Bobbye Porter: Credits". Artist Direct. Retrieved August 2, 2010.
- Buskin, Richard (December 2007). "Classic Tracks: Stevie Wonder 'Pastime Paradise'". Sound On Sound.
- Photographs of Bobbye Hall at NAMM 2001
- 1967 video excerpt: The Temptations studio "session" (staged for TV), with Bobbye Hall on congas