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Side Player Stories

Music Podcasts

Get an in-depth look inside the lives of professional musicians. Hosted by musician and 89.9 FM producer Jesse Morgado, Side Player Stories offers fast-paced and fun conversations with musical guests who are “side players” – artists whose unique talents and musical abilities create opportunities to make their living playing for many different bands.


United States


Get an in-depth look inside the lives of professional musicians. Hosted by musician and 89.9 FM producer Jesse Morgado, Side Player Stories offers fast-paced and fun conversations with musical guests who are “side players” – artists whose unique talents and musical abilities create opportunities to make their living playing for many different bands.








Richard Drexler - Season 3 - Episode 06

Our final episode of this limited series features UCF's very own Richard Drexler. He's no stranger to WUCF and his work with Jeff Rupert is always one to watch. From working with Jazz royalty to his obsession with lobsters - we get down to the nitty gritty. Florida is honored to house such a talented individual!


Susan Marshall - Season 3 - Episode 05

Memphis is home to many iconic musicians. Its best kept secret may just be Susan Marshall! Known for her studio and stage work with Lynyrd Skynyrd, Lucinda Williams, Toy Caldwell, Lenny Kravitz and more. From her vocal beginnings to Itta Bena - we find out about it all.


Jimmy King - Season 3 - Episode 04

This trumpeter, singer, songwriter and rapper has gone on to back multiple award-winning artists. Getting the call to back Bruno Mars would be one of them and change his life forever. Growing up in Atlanta, church shaped his artistic path. We learn how he landed on trumpet, why he studied jazz as a postgraduate, and what it was like working with John Legend.


Caitlin Evanson - Season 3 - Episode 03

Caitlin opens up about her orchestra to folk/pop trajectory and how so far...her life has outwritten her wildest dreams. Speaking of Wildest Dreams, Evanson found herself next to arguably the leading culturally significant songwriter of our generation - Taylor Swift. We get the scoop on what it was like behind the scenes and how being at the center of it all is something she'll cherish for life.


Cat Popper - Season 3 - Episode 02

Cat started out with classical music. Although discouraged to pursue other genres while studying jazz in college, she really found her stride in New York City where she sought out punk, Irish, bluegrass and reggae. The transition from upright to electric bass was hard, but she found her groove. From Jack White to Ryan Adams and the Cardinals to Puss n Boots – Cat has continued to prove she can rock with the best of them.


GE Smith - Season 3 - Episode 01

With equal sense of wonder and diligence, G.E.’s love of guitar led him to work with people like Hall & Oates, Mick Jagger and Bob Dylan. We get an inside look at what life was like for him growing up in Pennsylvania, the moment he received his first electric guitar and the rigorous schedule as the bandleader of Saturday Night Live. With guitar in hand, he happily recalls the moments that shaped him as an artist.


Saul Dautch - Season 2 - Episode 13

Saul Dautch knows a thing or two about transitioning from jazz student to a career in music. Under Jeff Rupert’s direction, he learned a lot and played with the Flying Horse Big Band. Making the move to NYC, Saul continued his studies at Rutgers where he now is an instructor.


Cindy Blackman Santana - Season 2 - Episode 12

Hearing Max Roach for the first time changed Cindy Blackman Santana’s outlook. Studying under jazz greats such as Art Blakey, Alan Dawson and Jackie Mclean – she got to know jazz at its roots. This would prove both helpful and useful when it came to auditions and gigs down the line. Whether it was playing onstage every night with Lenny Kravitz or Santana – her connection to music surpasses the physical sense.


Justin Gilbert - Season 2 - Episode 11

Atlanta native Justin Gilbert wasn’t always so keen on piano lessons. In fact, he made it quite difficult for his mother. But now you may find him playing the keys with Miss Alicia Keys herself. Growing up in church really formed his playing. Touring the world with Justin Timberlake and the Tennessee Kids gave him standout moments he doesn’t take for granted. Following advice from cherished conversations – he has learned to ‘hurry up and take his time’.


Freebo - Season 2 - Episode 10

Amidst the evolution of rhythm & blues to funk and rock music – Freebo was cutting his teeth as a session musician in Los Angeles. Favoring the fretless bass, he also plays tuba which has allowed him to be readily available for gigs that came his way. Partnering up with Bonnie Raitt at the start of her career in the early 70s became a decade long professional relationship. Most recently you will find him working with the talented folk singer songwriter Alice Howe.


Jennifer Batten - Season 2 - Episode 09

A graduate from the rigorous Guitar Institute of Technology, Jennifer Batten found herself at an audition of a lifetime for Michael Jackson’s Bad Tour. A standout – she booked the job and went on to work for him for two subsequent tours. She’s played for Jeff Beck, Cirque Du Soleil and more. Finding that the joy of music doesn’t have to involve other people...she continues her pursuit – most recently featured on Survivor’s Jim Peterik & World Stage’s latest album - “Tigress - Women Who Rock The World”.


Clive Deamer - Season 2 - Episode 08

Drawn to the drums at a young age, Clive Deamer was inspired by and educated in the jazz realm. He then dove into the world of rock and began his professional venture touring with Hawkwind. The UK birthed amazing bands – which he had the chance to play with such as Radiohead, Portishead and the legendary Robert Plant. Learning the difference between power and volume, synching up with another drummer in a band and effortlessly transitioning styles have made him the great session player he is today!


Rhonda Smith - Season 2 - Episode 07

Rhonda Smith found herself as the first call bassist for not one but two icons – Prince and Jeff Beck. Her journey began in Canada where she studied Jazz Performance. From there – her tireless work ethic, improvisation and adaptability turned her into the artist she is today. Her decision to bring a fretless bass to an audition changed the course of her life.


Ilan Rubin - Season 2 - Episode 06

Getting his start on the drums at age 8, Ilan Rubin was determined to play music on the big stages...and that he did. Inspired by the bands who push boundaries and strive for freedom in their catalog – he has followed suit – becoming his own definition no labels attached. You may have seen him rocking out with Nine Inch Nails, Angels and Airwaves or Paramore. We learn what a lesson with Travis Barker is like and how he got a mask of Freddie Mercury’s face. His band – The New Regime – is one to watch.


John Chin - Season 2 - Episode 05

A pianist who has been honing his chops in New York since 1998 and been compared to a chameleon – effortlessly taking shape to what’s in front of him. He’s played with Ron Carter, Benny Golson, Yasushi Nakamura, Alan Feber and many more. We discuss his jazz education, polyphonic improvisation and his tribute to Mose Allison!


Emily Retsas - Season 2 - Episode 04

Coming from a small town in Australia, Emily has made headway in the States living the dream. But that came from tirelessly playing in bands to get her name out there – 32 at once! She has proven her versatility – currently touring with Phoebe Bridgers and headlining festivals such as Coachella and rocking out with her idol Kim Gordon. We get into her rig preferences, influences and more.


Dontae Winslow - Season 2 - Episode 03

Born and raised on the streets of Baltimore, Dontae turned to the trumpet as his saving grace. His performing arts high school and time studying jazz set him on a path of exploring multiple genres and eventually producing and performing with some of the industry’s best. Fresh off the SuperBowl and Oscars high, we sit down and dive into world tours, working with Dr. Dre on “Straight Outta Compton” and his connection with music.


Pauli Lovejoy - Season 2 - Episode 02

This multi-talented percussionist, DJ and music director is a joy to watch onstage – living up every second with every ounce of energy he has. Combining his love for space and music – he has transcended boundaries and continues to reach for the stars. From FKA Twigs and the Gorillaz to now playing alongside Harry Styles every night – find out how Pauli made it big.


Sheila E - Season 2 - Episode 01

The Queen of Percussion recounts meeting Prince and the music that followed, the special energy that always surrounds her family’s sessions, touring with Marvin Gaye and Ringo Starr challenging her in new ways. From the Bay area with pots and pans to worldwide gigs with the biggest stars – she's never stopped loving what she does.


Side Player Stories - Season 2

You may not know their names, but you know their sounds–Side Player Stories is back for Season 2. And–it's better than ever. In this weekly series, musician and WUCF FM producer Jesse Morgado gets an in-depth look inside the lives of professional musicians. Side Player Stories offers fast-paced and fun conversations with musical guests who are “side players”–artists including the queen of Percussion Sheila E. (Prince, Ringo Starr, Beyonce, Michael Jackson, Stevie Nicks), bassist and tubist Freebo (Bonnie Raitt, Crosby Stills and Nash, Spinal Tap), trumpeter Dontae Winslow (Justin Timberlake, Dr. Dre, Eminem) and drummer Cindy Blackman Santana (Lenny Kravitz, Santana, Ron Carter, Joss Stone) whose unique talents and musical abilities create opportunities to make their living playing for many different bands. A new segment puts their musical ear to the test. With deep dives into their history, we uncover the nitty-gritty, leaving even the guests themselves wondering how we did it. Season 2 premieres on July 7.