House band

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A house band is a group of musicians, often centrally organized by a band leader, who regularly play at an establishment.[1] It is widely used to refer both to the bands who work on entertainment programs on television or radio, and to bands which are the regular performers at a nightclub, especially jazz and R&B clubs.[2] The term can also refer to a group that plays sessions for a specific recording studio.[2] House bands on television shows usually play only cover songs instead of originals, and they play during times that commercials would be seen by the home viewing audience. Therefore, only those present in the studio during the show's taping see their full performances.


House bands emerged with jazz music in Chicago during the 1920s. The practice of using regular backing musicians during studio sessions became customary as a means for record companies to save money and add convenience at a time when the music industry had seen increased studio costs and musical specialization.[3] With the advent of television in the 1950s, bands from the swing era of jazz typically performed on variety show programs as house bands, starting a television institution that survives to the present. One of the best-remembered, and longest-running, house bands was the NBC Orchestra of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and his predecessors. Late-night television offered security and survival for the big band, led by trumpeter Doc Severinsen, while the trends in popular music continually changed around them.[4] Late Night with David Letterman, which began in 1982, featured Paul Shaffer and The World's Most Dangerous Band, who, unlike previous house bands, incorporated contemporary rhythm and blues and rock music. The band continued that blend with Letterman when he left for CBS to start Late Show in 1993. House bands remain a late-night talk show fixture, with many of them also serving as straight men for the host's jokes, musically introducing guests, playing in and out of commercials, composing original pieces of music for sketches, and backing up musical guests.[5] The Roots became the first hip hop house band on late-night television when they joined Late Night with Jimmy Fallon in 2009.[6]

Association with record labels and studios[edit]

Record labels have often employed a core group of musicians to serve as a house band or house orchestra, specifically for recording sessions. These groups can come to be regarded as an important component of a label's distinctive "sound".[2] This use of house bands, first popularized in the 1920s, was revived during the 1960s, most notably at Motown and at Stax Records. Some of these house bands, such as Booker T. & the M.G.'s (Stax), had parallel careers as main artists in their own right.[4]

Label/Studio Group Name(s) Individual Musicians
American Sound Studio The Memphis Boys, 827 Thomas Street Band Gene Chrisman, Tommy Cogbill, Bobby Emmons, Bobby Woods, Reggie Young
Hi Records Hi Rhythm Section Howard Grimes, Charles Hodges, Leroy Hodges, Teenie Hodges, Al Jackson Jr., Wayne Jackson, Andrew Love
Motown The Funk Brothers James Jamerson, Richard "Pistol" Allen, Jack Ashford, Earl Van Dyke, Joe Hunter, Benny Benjamin, Eddie Willis, Joe Messina, Johnny Griffith, Bob Babbitt, Uriel Jones, Dennis Coffey, Wah Wah Watson, Robert White
Philadelphia International Records [7] Ronnie Baker, Roland Chambers,[8] Norman Harris, Vince Montana, Earl Young
Sigma Sound Studios MFSB
Stax Records The Big Six, Booker T. & the M.G.'s, The Mar-Keys Gilbert Caple, Steve Cropper, Donald "Duck" Dunn, Al Jackson, Jr., Wayne Jackson, Booker T. Jones, Curtis Green, Isaac Hayes, Andrew Love, Floyd Newman, Gene "Bowlegs" Miller, David Porter, Lewie Steinberg
Victor The Great White Way Orchestra,[9] Hugo Frey's Orchestra,[9] The Manhattan Merrymakers,[9] Metropolitan Orchestra,[10][11] The Serenaders,[9] The Troubadours,[9] Victor Military Band,[12][13] The Victor Orchestra,[14] The Virginians[9] Frank Kelly,[10] S. H. Kendle[10]

Note: Individuals listed may not have performed in some or any of the groups listed.


  1. ^ Lanford, Jill J. (August 29, 1985). "House Bands: Music's Unsung Heroes". Spartanburg Herald-Journal. p. D1. Retrieved January 15, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c Shipton, Alyn (8 July 2003). "House Band". In John Shepherd (ed.). Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World Part 1 Performance and Production. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 31. ISBN 9780826463227. Retrieved 14 January 2013.
  3. ^ Shuker, Roy (2012). Understanding Popular Music Culture (4th ed.). London: Routledge. p. 55. ISBN 978-0-415517133.
  4. ^ a b Decker, Todd (2011). Music Makes Me: Fred Astaire and Jazz (1st ed.). Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 163–4. ISBN 978-0520268883.
  5. ^ Dodd, Katie (January–February 2010). "Music of the Night" (PDF). M Music & Musicians. M Music Media, LLC. 1 (1): 28–32. ISSN 2156-2377. Retrieved January 15, 2013.
  6. ^ Deggans, Eric (March 1, 2009). "Revolutionizing late-night television". The Post and Courier via Tampa Bay Times. p. 2A. Retrieved January 15, 2013.
  7. ^ "Philadelphia International Records Page". Retrieved 7 October 2011.
  8. ^ "Credits". Roland Chambers. allmusic. Retrieved 7 October 2011.
  9. ^ a b c d e f "Great White Way Orchestra". Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved August 15, 2021.
  10. ^ a b c "Metropolitan Orchestra". National Jukebox. Library of Congress. Retrieved 7 October 2011.
  11. ^ "Victor Discography: Metropolitan Orchestra (Musical group)". Victor Library. Retrieved 7 October 2011.
  12. ^ "Victor Military Band (Musical group)". Victor Library. Retrieved 7 October 2011.
  13. ^ "Victor Military Band Discography". Victor Military Band. discogs. Retrieved 7 October 2011.
  14. ^ "Victor Orchestra Personnel". The Mainspring Press Record Collectors' Blog. Mainspring Press. Archived from the original on 10 August 2011. Retrieved 7 October 2011.