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Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

"supporting musician," 1936, from side (adj.) + man (n.). Earlier it meant "assistant to a church warden" (1560s).


n. (context music English) A soloist playing with a band or group of which he is not a regular member


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 Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner, 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 is a multi-instrumentalist who has worked with such diverse musicians as Curtis Mayfield, Dolly Parton, Jackson Browne, and Hani Naser. Lindley used his time as a sideman to discover and master new instruments while on tour around the world, becoming proficient on ethnic instruments rarely seen in Western music genres. He has mastered so many that he admits to losing count, and instead placed a photo gallery of them on his website.

Waddy Wachtel's 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. Jimmy Page left his first attempts working in bands, to hone his skills as a session player, where he met John Paul Jones and sought and recruited Robert Plant and John Bonham to form Led Zeppelin. Bob Dylan's first recorded song was as a harmonica sideman on Harry Belafonte's cover of " Midnight Special".

Other musicians may take time from their own bands to tour or record as a sideman for other artists, such as Mike Watt with J Mascis and the Fog or Iggy and the Stooges.

Sideman (bishop)


Sideman (or Sidemann) was a medieval Bishop of Crediton.

Sideman was elected to Crediton in 973. He died on 30 April or 1 May or 2 May in 977. According to Byrhtferth of Ramsey, Sideman was a protégé of Ælfhere, ealdorman of Mercia. The same source says that Edward the Martyr was fostered by Sideman for a time before Edward's father's death. He died at a Royal council held at Kirtlington in Oxfordshire in 977 and was buried at Abingdon Abbey in Berkshire (now Oxfordshire).

Sideman (disambiguation)

Sideman may refer to:

  • Sideman, a role for a musician.
  • Sideman, Bali, a district in Bali, Indonesia
  • Side Man, a Tony Award-winning play by Warren Leight
  • Sidesman, a term related to churches

Usage examples of "sideman".

Baby Boy spent two decades scratching a living as a sessions sideman and a bar-band frontman, endured big promises that petered, cut records that went nowhere, finally recorded a top-40 hit with a Southern band called Junior Biscuit.

As far as the industry bigwigs were concerned, Cal was too old and too established as a sideman for the investment needed.

Normal drill would be to take a sideman along, and although Tregare could find nothing remotely suspicious about the situation, he felt edgy and could have used the confidence of some backup.

But none of them, not Kevin, not his three interchangeable sidemen, had ever seen or heard of a girl with black curly hair who called SLEEP OF THE INNOCENT 75 herself Jennifer Wilson.

Toots settled on the piano bench and surveyed the room for his tardy sidemen.

They hadn’t come to see her sideman get soused and have evenings where he made the Pogues sound like brilliant musicians.

He adjusted the Fender's strap, nodded toward his sidemen, and waited while Bobby started to work the crowd up all over again with his drums.

He adjusted the Fenders strap, nodded toward his sidemen, and waited while Bobby started to work the crowd up all over again with his drums.