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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 #1.
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 then moved to Los Angeles 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 #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. 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 $8,400 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 late August, 1978, in between Dylan tour dates, Hall played congas for Tom Waits's Blue Valentine album, on the track "Romeo Is Bleeding", giving it a gritty Latin feel.
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 1982 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 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, hand claps and finger snaps.