Keyboard player Danny Federici has been closely associated with Bruce Springsteen throughout his career. Although Federici came from northern New Jersey, by the late '60s he was part of the community of musicians playing at the Upstage Club in the south Jersey shore town of Asbury Park. His first band, the Storytellers, also featured Bill Chinnock. He then moved on to the Downtown Tangiers Band, which included drummer Vini Lopez. In the summer of 1969, he and Lopez formed the hard rock group Child with Springsteen and bassist Vinny Roslyn. The band was soon renamed Steel Mill to avoid a name conflict with another group. It played around the eastern seaboard and, in the winter of 1970, on the West Coast, but broke up in early 1971. Federici then joined Springsteen in two large, short-lived groups, Dr. Zoom and the Sonic Boom and the Bruce Springsteen Band, but Springsteen broke up the latter outfit in early 1972 to play solo acoustic shows. During this period, Springsteen acquired a manager and successfully auditioned for Columbia Records. As a result of scoring a recording contract, he formed a permanent backup band to record his debut album in the spring of 1972. It consisted of himself on guitar and vocals, Clarence Clemons on saxophone, Federici on organ and accordion, David Sancious on piano, Garry Tallent on bass, and Lopez on drums. Eventually, this group came to be known as the E Street Band. They appeared with Springsteen on his first album, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., released in January 1973, and on his second, The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle, released in September 1973. In February 1974, Lopez was fired and replaced by Ernest "Boom" Carter. In August, Carter and Sancious left, replaced in September by drummer Max Weinberg and pianist Roy Bittan. (Violinist Suki Lahav also joined the band at this point, remaining in the lineup until March 1975.)
Springsteen attracted critical favor but poor sales with his first two albums, and in the run-up to his third album began to get raves for his live show with the E Street Band. In July 1975, second guitarist Miami Steve Van Zandt joined the outfit, solidifying a lineup that would remain constant until he was replaced by Nils Lofgren in 1984. Born to Run, released in August 1975, was a substantial hit and established Springsteen as a major star. After a delay due to legal complications, it was followed by the best-sellers Darkness at the Edge of Town (June 1978) and The River (October 1980). The world tour for The River concluded in September 1981, and the E Street Band was relatively inactive in the early '80s, though Springsteen kept the band on retainer. He did not use them for his solo album Nebraska (September 1982), but they did participate in the sessions for Born in the U.S.A. (June 1984), and Springsteen launched another world tour with its release that ran through October 1985, for which singer/guitarist Patti Scialfa (later Springsteen's wife) joined the band. In November 1986, Columbia released the five-LP/three-CD box set Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band/Live 1975-1985. Federici and the rest of the band participated in the sessions for Tunnel of Love, Springsteen's next studio album, released in October 1987, on the brief (for Springsteen) Tunnel of Love Express Tour from February to August 1988, and on the Human Rights Now! Tour with other performers in September and October 1988. In late 1989, Springsteen took the E Street Band off retainer, essentially breaking up the group.
Federici, always among the more self-effacing members of the E Street Band (Springsteen sometimes introduced him in concert as "the mysterious Dan Federici" or "Phantom Dan -- now you see him, now you don't"), was not heard from much after the breakup of the group, though he played occasional sessions. Along with Bittan, Clemons, Lofgren, Scialfa, Tallent, Van Zandt, and Weinberg, he readily rejoined Springsteen on a moment's notice to work on some new tracks for a Greatest Hits set in early 1995, and he also performed on Springsteen's next regular album, The Ghost of Tom Joad, though Springsteen toured solo to support it. He finally surfaced on his own with the solo album Flemington in 1997. (It was reissued with one extra track as Danny Federici in 2001.) In the spring of 1999, he again rejoined Springsteen and the E Street Band for what turned out to be their longest tour ever, running through the middle of 2000. The tour was chronicled on the 2001 release Live in New York City. (Though Federici has never worked as a full-time session musician, he has occasionally backed other performers , appearing over the years on albums by Joan Armatrading, Graham Parker, Gary "U.S." Bonds, Garland Jeffreys, Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul, Evan Johns and His H-Bombs, and the BoDeans). Federici signed with V2 records in 2004, releasing the smooth and jazzy Out of a Dream the following year.