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— by Gil Kaufman

Everyone knows Fergie, Jesse McCartney and Kelly Clarkson. But what's up with that guy ripping on guitar behind them? Or the dude on the keyboard everyone onstage keeps looking at? Who exactly are these guys, how did they get to where they are, and why are they backing up pop stars instead of playing in their own band?

Meet a few of the faces behind the face. ...

Jesse McCartney and Dory Lobel

Name: Dory Lobel
Position: Musical director/lead guitarist for Jesse McCartney
Age: 25
A year from now: Hopes to have his own band signed

Born in Boston and raised in Israel, Dory Lobel moved to Los Angeles two years ago after a three-year stint in the Israeli army's intelligence unit. Though he played in some local bands and with some of Israel's biggest singers, Lobel was unknown in L.A., so he enrolled at the Musician's Institute to hone his skills and promptly tested out of most of the program in his first day. "The only thing left for me to do was the professional program, which took six months," Lobel said. "I figured I'd hang out a bit and then go back to Israel and study psychology and philosophy at Tel Aviv University."

But before packing up his gear, Lobel got a gig from NBC writing promo music for the 2004 Olympics, which led to session work with a handful of L.A. songwriters and a recommendation from another session veteran to audition for Jesse McCartney. "I was up against 40 or 50 people and I wanted to get the gig, but I've always wanted another degree and my own record deal, so I was going to pass." But a friend suggested he go to the third round of auditions just to see what happened, even if he turned down the gig.

Thanks to his ability to easily play by ear as well as his impressive CD of remixes (Jill Scott) and original music, Lobel made an impression on McCartney's people and he got the gig. So, for the past year, the two have criss-crossed the country and the world together, performing on "Good Morning America" and "TRL," with Lobel playing guitar and McCartney singing. As musical director, he was also charged with helping to pick the band that now backs McCartney, as well as telling everyone in the band what to play and how.

"I'm pretty much in charge of translating the show so it sounds like the album," Lobel explained. "I make a lot of decisions about which parts of the album work live and who will play what. I make tapes for the backup singers for their parts and work with them on that and I play lead guitar, I run the [drum] loops and sequencer and make sure the rhythm guitarist is playing the right parts."

Lobel is, of course, also working on his own music, writing with McCartney and searching for a lead singer for his band, which is tentatively called Snapshot.

Kelly Clarkson and Danny Weissfeld

Name: Danny Weissfeld
Position: Lead guitarist for Kelly Clarkson
Age: 28
A year from now: More of the same

In the small world of Los Angeles session musicians, Danny Weissfeld was the guy who recommended Lobel for the McCartney gig. Born in Israel, Weissfeld was always into music and played in a number of local bands back home, but he too felt constrained by the small Israeli music scene and moved to L.A. in 2001 to try his hand at making it in the U.S.

"I had to take a day job doing graphic design and making flyers, but I kept playing guitar at night and I started doing sessions and going out on van tours with bands," Weissfeld said. He eventually hooked up with Australian rapper/singer Jessy Moss on a tour, including dates opening for N.E.R.D., which led to gigs writing and recording with Anastacia and up-and-coming singer/songwriter Courtney Jaye, as well as writing music for TV and movie soundtracks.

"The same people who I got the Moss gig with were doing auditions for Kelly and they gave me a call," Weissfeld said. "The music director said he got good vibes from me and that I learned the parts well and they sounded like the album, but I added my own twist."

And now? Weissfeld has toured the world with Clarkson in what he describes as a "dream come true" gig. In the meantime, he continues to write songs, seek out production gigs and play the occasional club show when he returns to Israel.

Printz Board and DJ Premier

Name: Printz Board
Position: Musical director/keyboard player for Black Eyed Peas
Age: 32
A year from now: Albums, production deals, touring ... everything

It's a long way from Columbus, Ohio, to the Live 8 stage in Philly, but Printz Board has been working his whole life to get to this point. "Back when they still had music in schools, I chose the trumpet because I figured it only had three little things on it, so it should be the easiest," said Board, who quickly learned how wrong he was.

By 11th grade, Board was one of the best in his school and landed a music scholarship to San Diego State. His college ska band, Gangbusters, played up and down the California coast, before he broke out and started his own band, Phazz, a nine-piece funk group in which he rapped and played trumpet and keyboards. Seeing his big break, one of Board's best friends, an assistant to Interscope honcho Jimmy Iovine, signed the Black Eyed Peas. "They were doing the same sh-- as my band!" Board said. "Granted, Will is eight times the MC I am."

Board got over it and signed on as keyboard player and musical director for the Peas, a gig he's had for the past seven years. In addition to his onstage duties — which include arranging all the musical parts for the live shows and TV appearances — Board has a hand in the band's songwriting and production and plays trumpet, bass, keybass and accordion on BEP's albums.

But, after a falling out with Will.I.Am three years ago, Board said he briefly quit BEP to tour with Nikka Costa. With a year to cool off, he ended up moving back into the L.A. studio he and Will share and the first song they wrote was the huge Peas hit "Where Is the Love," a good sign that he was back where he belonged. Board, who has toured with Macy Gray and played with everyone from Alien Fashion Show to the Brian Setzer Orchestra, has a number of side bands, including the Horn Dogs and Bucky Johnson, whose members include the BEP backing band. He's also produced songs alongside Dr. Dre for Busta Rhymes' upcoming album, is working with Gray on new songs and has contributed to recent albums by Puffy AmiYumi and Warren G.

His favorite moment so far? He's often mistaken for Will, and when traveling in Italy with BEP recently, a crowd of photographers swarmed the band. When someone explained that he was the keyboard player, the photogs groaned and said, "Ah, solo musicista!" Translated, "Ah, they're only the musicians!" Story of his life.

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