Who is The Session Man?
He’s the man who sat at the back for almost every session of the top rock bands and A-list singers during the Golden Days of Rock. He made them sound even better than they were, and his name was Nicky Hopkins, the piano player of choice for all the greats during the 60s and 70s. His keyboard genius featured on an almost endless list of hits for The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks, The Steve Miller Band, Jefferson Airplane and many, many more.
But the incredible talent of Nicky Hopkins was unknown to many outside of the rock musicians he worked with and their producers. All ears and eyes were always focused on the front men (and women) strutting their stuff and their music. Yet, the pounding left hand and the nimble fingers of the man at the piano in the background gave the support these giants of rock needed.
However, Nicky, the unsung hero of the great age of rock, was also a wounded hero. He was dying almost from the time he was born. All his short life he suffered from Crohn’s disease, a crippling and agonising abdominal complaint which, despite his being subjected to an almost endless catalogue of medical procedures, continually plagued him with a severe gastric pain that doctors could find no cure for.
Finally, on 6th September 1994, yet again on the operating table, this time in Nashville, Tennessee, Nicky’s frail body finally gave up the struggle. He was only 50 years of age when he died. The Rolling Stones picked up most of his hospital bills.
About those behind The Session Man’s story
John Wood, a long time Nicky Hopkins fan, decided to honour the late, great Nicky Hopkins by marking what would have been his 75th birthday, 25 years after his untimely death. To this end, John raised funds for a bench in Nicky’s honour, which was erected in Perivale Park, London, near where he grew up.
The contributors to the funding for the design and building of this unique memorial to Nicky Hopkins included all four current members of the Rolling Stones, whose names, together with other major contributors, are enshrined on this very special tribute to a keyboard player like no other. Funds were also raised by John Wood to create a scholarship to London’s Royal Academy of Music in Nicky’s name, as he was an alumnus of this seat of musical learning.
To further enhance the memory of Nicky Hopkins (once described by the Rolling Stones as ‘The greatest rock and roll piano player in the world’), on 19th October 2019, a plaque was unveiled on the house where Nicky lived as a child.
When one of Nicky Hopkins’ fans suggested to John Wood that the next step in preserving the memory of ‘The greatest rock and roll piano player in the world’, was the production of a major television documentary, John approached his friend, Valentine Palmer, ex-TV actor (Dr Who), published author and screen writer. Valentine leapt at the idea of a programme about Nicky for world distribution and enrolled the services of his long-time associate, Mike Treen, an ex-BBC producer, with many years of experience in factual programming. Thus, The Session Man was born.