Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Wrecking Crew - Part 1

Today's piece was written by Forgotten Hits Reader / Contributor Bob Rush (aka Dr. Robert!) ... and first appeared in the British Publication "The Beat".  By Bob's kind permission, we are re-running it today in Forgotten Hits.

           I just had the good fortune to screen the new film by Denny Tedesco entitled, “The Wrecking Crew.”  It’s not widely available to the public yet, but more on that later.  The Wrecking Crew documentary is an extremely important, and highly entertaining, film.  Tedesco is the son of American ace session guitarist Tommy Tedesco, and although a lot of the focus of the film is on his father, or from his father’s perspective, it doesn’t play favorites:  each member of the Crew is paid tribute, as is the music that they made.  Denny Tedesco is a fine film maker, having produced programs for American television networks A&E, Biography and Comedy Central, before beginning filming and production on "The Wrecking Crew” documentary. 

 If you’re not familiar with The Wrecking Crew by name, I know you’re aware of their music. They were the group of about a dozen or so crack musicians who populated the recording studios of Los Angeles, California, in the 1960s, turning out hit record after incredible hit record with artistry, dexterity, speed and skill.  The group's nickname originated by drummer Hal Blaine, due to the apparent hostility that older big band-era Hollywood studio musicians held toward these younger, rock-minded players (who, themselves, were jazz and traditional musicians). "Somebody said they're gonna wreck the business," Denny Tedesco explains. "It stuck ... and it's been a great name." While they worked often with solo artist singers, Crew members also played on records by some noted '60s rock bands.

        Among the hundreds of songs recorded by the Crew and bought and loved by the public, are:  The vast Beach Boys  catalog, beginning in 1965, hits by the Monkees, The Grass Roots, The Association, (my own former band) The Rip Chords, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Nancy Sinatra, The Tijuana Brass, The Turtles, Sonny & Cher, Alvin & the Chipmunks, The Byrds (first record only), Gary Lewis & the Playboys, Joe Cocker and so many others we know and love.
Working four or more sessions a day, the players took everything in stride. "I asked all the musicians, were you ever intimidated by any of the artists you played for? They all [said] no, not at all." But when recording with a certain Chairman of the Board, everyone, says Mr. Tedesco, snapped to. "With Sinatra it was not intimidation as much as you were on your game."Did the musicians realize they were making history? "There was no way they thought these songs would last 40 years," Mr. Tedesco says. "As my father said, 'We recorded hundreds of hits, but we did thousands of bombs.' Going to work every day for 15-20 years, think of how much they recorded that never made history.

        The Wrecking Crew were, in many ways, the American cousins of London’s own previously nameless team of session musicians consisting of Vic Flick (guitar), Big Jim Sullivan (guitar), Jimmy Page (guitar), John Baldwin (nee John Paul Jones) (bass, keyboards), Ronnie Verral (drums), Barry Morgan (drums), Alan Weighell (bass), Dave Richmond (bass), Les Hurdle (bass), Ronnie Price (piano), Mike Moran (keyboards), Eric Ford (guitar), Bryan Daly (guitar), Alan Parker (guitar) Clive Hicks (guitar), Clem Cattini (drums) and Bobby Graham (drums) who played on so many of the hits of the 60’s that originated in the London studio scene.  

         The American Wrecking Crew were called upon by producers such as Phil Spector, Shadow Morton, Lou Adler, Denny Cordell, Sonny Bono, Brian Wilson, Bones Howe and many others.  They’d gather in the studio and read the charts, or create their own now-iconic lines, and lay down a sound that is at once recognizable but at the same time chameleonic enough to “become” the groups and artists for whom they were recording, and helping to create those groups’ unique recorded sounds.

The documentary uses a great deal of never-before-seen footage and photos, as well as interviews and an interesting narrative, to tell the story of the Crew through the eyes of Tommy Tedesco and his family, as well as by Hal Blaine and other surviving members.   

According to Denny’s dad, Tommy Tedesco, in his terrific book, “Confessions of a Guitar Player” (and, indeed, he does confess a great deal), the “All Star Rhythm Section” of The Wrecking Crew were:

Hal Blaine and Earl Palmer - drums,
Leon Russell, Don Randi and Larry Knechtel – piano,
Ray Puhlman, Carol Kaye and Joe Osborne – electric bass,
Jimmy Bond, Lyle Ritz and Red Callender – upright bass and
Glen Campbell, Bill Pitman, Billy Strange, Joe Maphis and, of course, Tommy Tedesco - guitars

        The Wrecking Crew documentary has already been screened to great reception in Leeds and Glasgow.  Denny Tedesco, a one-time resident of Manchester, is spreading the good word so that it can be further screened and further supported on its way to wide release.  His biggest block to public distribution is the cost of using the hundreds of songs and clips the Crew recorded and that are an essential part of the movie. You, the public, are invited to help arrange screenings of this important documentary, or to make a contribution to finish paying the music licensing fees.  Denny Tedesco says, “The labels and the publishers are not necessarily the bad guys.  They’ve given me an amazing rate, but there’s just so much music.  We’re now only about $200,000 away which, relatively speaking, is not a lot considering what’s already been paid for.”  The barrier to release is licensing from record companies and music publishers 133 clips of recordings these musicians played on. Respecting the film's historical mission, they agreed to special licensing terms, but Mr. Tedesco is still raising the required amount. "We know it's not going to be a moneymaker," he admits. "It's impossible. But you know what? I want this story out there."   And do you know what, Denny?  So do we!  
He accepts donations at his website:

Denny further notes that “If your readers go to the website they can enjoy a huge amount of outtakes - about twenty of them.”    I did, and they’re terrific!  

In addition, Denny asked that British fans express their support for the film by simply sending him an email at:

He says, “We want to show our distributors, especially in England, that we have a real audience.  Glasgow, Leeds, Copenhagen, Barcelona, Rio Di Jeneiro.  The audience response is amazing!   Emails of support for a ‘Bring The Wrecking Crew Documentary to England’ campaign would be terrific.”  Let’s do it, gang!  For the sake of Rock n’ Roll!

Wrecking Crew's selected hits:

• "Ramblin' Rose," Nat King Cole (1962)
• "Be My Baby," The Ronettes (1963)
• "Surf City," Jan & Dean (1963)
• "Everybody Loves Somebody," Dean Martin (1964)
• "California Dreamin'," The Mamas and Papas (1965)
• "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'," The Righteous Brothers (1965)
• "Mr. Tambourine Man," The Byrds (1965)
• "A Taste of Honey," Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass (1965)
• "California Girls," The Beach Boys (1965)
• "Good Vibrations," The Beach Boys (1966)
• "Strangers in the Night," Frank Sinatra (1966)
• "These Boots are Made for Walkin'," Nancy Sinatra (1966)
• "Windy," The Association (1967)
• "Valleri," The Monkees (1967)
• "The Beat Goes On," Sonny & Cher (1967)
• "Wichita Lineman," Glen Campbell (1969)

Well, that’s all for now.  Hope you enjoyed it.  And remember – if anything’s troubling you, FAHGEDDABOWDITT!!!!

Dr. Robert for The U.S. Beat  

    For more information regarding this OUTSTANDING film ... or how YOU can make a contribution to insure its release, please visit The Wrecking Crew websites noted above.  We've been touting this film for a couple of years now ... and it really is something.  You'll also find information about upcoming screenings of the film ... it's coming ANYWHERE near your area, do yourself a favor and check it out ... you will NOT be disappointed.  This truly IS the music of our generation ... to think that this band of musicians was involved with so much of it is nothing short of amazing.  Highly recommended ... don't miss it!  (kk)