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PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2018 5:11 pm 

Joined: Wed Apr 09, 2008 5:53 pm
Posts: 13181
Location: CT

What if I told you most of the songs we loved and danced to during the 1950s, '60s and '70s were played by the very same handful of professional musicians? Sounds crazy? Listen up: prepare to have your world rocked!

Music studio “session men” or “studio musicians” were professional musicians who drifted into their local music recording studios and played back-up music for whatever singers might be recording during that work shift. They also recorded commercials and jingles for radio & TV. You almost never learned their names, or knew that the majority of the instrumentals on hit songs did not come from the big-name artist or band themselves, but from the anonymous session players who drifted into the studio that day. In the days before synthesizers, drum machines and such, music was played by professional musicians on real instruments and session players became very good at what they did.

Sometimes professional session men and backup singers went on to build their own careers, such as Glenn Campbell, Billy Joel, Graham Nash, Leon Russell, Mac Rebennack (Dr John), Jim Ketner (Traveling Wilburys), Cher and many others, but the majority of them remained anonymous. In fact, you still might not know about them today if I wasn’t telling you about them now.

Session players came and went as they pleased and might work at several studios to pay the rent and feed their family. During the 1950s/‘60s/’70s it was normal for any given studio to have 5-10 loosely-knit players present for each shift, but hardly ever the same players day after day. Accordingly, any given shift might have a studio full of session men who didn’t know each other and had never before played together. That changed with the advent of Rock n Roll.

The pre-Rock-n-Roll music industry was centered in NYC during the 1950s, then gravitated briefly to Nashville (“Music City”). In the late 1950s, when Rock n Roll was becoming of age, the entire emphasis headed West. Only a certain percentage of studio session players had an ear for this new 'Rock n Roll'; the older professional jazz, blues, country and love song orchestras just weren't interested in it.

But in Los Angeles in the late 1950s, a remarkable ‘perfect storm’ of about two dozen exceptional session players who liked Rock-n-Roll began gathering together, day after day, to provide World-Class music backup for GOLD STAR, WESTERN, COLUMBIA, LIBERTY, WARNER, MERCURY and a few lesser recording studios in Los Angeles. On any given shift about two dozen remarkable musicians, all friends with each other, backed up the artists or record labels scheduled to record that day. Their work product became so exceptional that they became the preferred session group for anyone who wanted a smash-hit R&R record. In fact, many R&R and R&B songs became hits simply because of these outstanding backup musicians. They all got along and preferred playing together, so they became sort of a family, and they became sensationally good.

Studios all over LA began booking them, and record labels stood in line to have them play their next recording session. Because they captured all the top-dollar work and changed the recording industry so drastically, these “men in the shadows” became informally referred to by music insiders as “The Wrecking Crew”; they wrecked the industry for all the 2nd-class session players and wrecked all the established customs from years past. Most of the best records we loved for 25 years were actually played by “The Wrecking Crew”, and we never knew it.

Most of the two dozen “Wrecking Crew” musicians played several instruments very well, and some of them were even world-class musicians on their primary instrument during their peak. Keith Moon, Ginger Baker, John Entwistle, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix might have been publicly billed as the best drummers, bassists, or lead guitarists of their day, but their unsung counterparts in The Wrecking Crew were their equal or actually their betters.

The Crew were all men (except bassist Carol Kaye, who was the best electric bass guitarist in music history; she earned more than the President of the United States for several years by creating and performing unforgettable bassline riffs on more than 10,000 records) and all could read music (except guitarist Glenn Campbell, who played by ear). Most were professionally trained, and they developed the shared ability to listen to an artist’s idea and generate a winning song out of it.

Sometimes a singer would show up with a “chord sheet” to give a rough idea of a song he imagined, and The Wrecking Crew would work together to flesh it out. Other times the artist could simply humm an idea but had nothing written down, and The Wrecking Crew would create the entire song for them. They were just that good; almost everything they touched turned to gold.

I was shocked to learn that most of the biggest-hit American bands I loved in the ‘60s didn’t play their own music; they sang the vocals while The Wrecking Crew played (and sometimes WROTE) the entire music score for them.

Of note was the fact that once he discovered The Wrecking Crew, Brian Wilson (leader of the Beach Boys and a true musical genius in his own right) refused to let his own people play any more music for their records. He expressly hired The Wrecking Crew for all the Beach Boys’ music, and the Beach Boys themselves provided only the vocals and that great harmony. Yep ~ all the great Beach Boys hits were played by the same guys (and a girl) you never heard of.

When The Byrds recorded Mister Tambourine Man, they tried to play Bob Dylan's music themselves. The Wrecking Crew threw each of them out of the studio in turn, until there was only one Byrd remaining who was actually a good enough instrumentalist to play his own part. They all sang in the sound booth, tho.

Studio producer (and musician) Phil Spector actually created two girl groups (Crystals and Ronnetts) and three male groups (The Monkees, the Marketts and the instrumentals-only T-Bones) to publicly perform to The Wrecking Crew's music, just because he knew they couldn’t fail with The Crew behind them. In fact, the T-Bones were simply The Crew themselves performing Spector’s music; when their instrumentals became hits, Spector hired handsome teenaged kids to “become” the T-Bones and “perform” those hits on TV dance shows and on tour. The songs existed before the groups did. Same thing happened with The non-existent “Monkees”, who even got their own TV show. (It broke my little next-door neighbor’s heart when she learned her heroes The Monkees couldn’t actually read or play music).

A lot of the Top Ten Record hits we loved for 20 years were actually made in GOLD STAR and WESTERN recording studios by the following artists, backed-up by The Wrecking Crew:

Richie Valens (LaBamba)
Jan & Dean (All their surfer and car songs)
Dean Martin & the Rat Pack (That’s Life, etc)
Glen Campbell (Wichita Lineman/Phoenix, etc)
The Marketts (Actually The Crew themselves; Batman/Out of Limits/Surfers Stomp, etc)
Ronettes (Be my Baby/Baby I Love You/Walkin’ in the Rain, etc)
Nat King Cole (Lazy Hazy Crazy Days)
Drifters (On Broadway)
George Harrison (My Sweet Lord)
Beatles (Long & Winding Road)
The Partridge Family (I think I love you, etc)
David Cassidy (Summer Days, etc)
Ben E King (Spanish Harlem)
Gary Lewis & Playboys (This Diamond Ring, others)
Grass Roots (Live for today/Midnight confession/Temptation eyes)
The Monkees* (a non-existent band played solely by The Crew)
T-Bones* (a non-existent band played solely by The Crew)
Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound”* (actually The Crew, themselves)
Nancy Sinatra (Boots)
Frank Sinatra (That’s Life/My Way/Strangers in the Night, etc)
The Association (Windy/ Never My Love/ Cherish/Along Comes Mary, etc)
Righteous Brothers (Lost that loving feeling etc)
Ricky Nelson (Fools rush in/Travelin' Man, etc)
Paul Revere & Raiders (1966-'67 only)
Beach Boys (ALL their hits; Good Vibrations #1) (with a Theramin!)
Mamas & Papas (California Dreamin’, etc)
Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass (All his songs)
Sonny & Cher (Almost all their songs)
Cher (All her single hits)
Elvis Presley (Viva Las Vegas, others)
Buffalo Springfield (Most single hits/Buffalo Springfield Again album)
The Carpenters (Only just begun, etc)
Simon & Garfunkel (Bridge over Troubled Water, etc)
Tina Turner (Most of her songs)
Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, Ronnetts & Crystals
5th Dimension (Hair/Sunshine/Aquarius!) (great Carol Kaye basslines!)
Johnny Rivers (Secret Agent Man/Poor Side of Town, etc)
Billy Strange (Limbo Rock)
Barry McGuire (Eve of Destruction)
Dave Saville (Alvin & the Chipmunks)

And about a hundred more.

And The Crew played many of our favorite TV theme songs, including:

Batman theme (and all scene music)
Beach Blanket Bingo
Mission Impossible
Mrs. Robinson
Viva Las Vegas
Get Smart
Wild Wild West
Streets of SanFrancisco
Lost in Space
Green Acres
Sgt Preston of the Yukon
Most 1960s TV Western themes
Most 1960s SitCom themes

And many familiar TV / Radio spot ads & commercials:
Beechnut gum
Teaberry Shuffle
Alka Seltzer
And many more

In 2007 The Wrecking Crew was finally recognized for the incredible impact they made on “our” music industry from the late ’50s to early ‘70s. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and also into the Musicians' Hall of Fame, even tho they had not been an actual “band”. In 2008 the son of Teddy Tedesco (the Crew’s lead guitarist), finished a 10-year documentary on The Wrecking Crew which absolutely needs to be on your bucket list for uninterrupted viewing. This 100-minute documentary is available NOW on Netflix and other video venues and can be purchased on DVD. It deserves your complete attention. Please watch it. (links below).

Strangely, the fact that The Crew performed in so many hundreds of hit songs caused Tedesco to encounter incredible legal entanglements to make his documentary; each of the hundreds of songs and performers required legal permission for Tedesco to list them on his video. When he finally became exasperated with that Sisyphusian effort, he released the documentary citing only 132 of an estimated 1,000 Top-40 songs which his dad and The Crew had performed on.

Most of the teenage rock groups we listened to during our teen years couldn’t hope to play as well as the professional adult Wrecking Crew. Trying to perform their own music made them sound like garage bands by comparison. It simply became more practical to focus on their vocals and let the professional musicians supply the music. When it came time to ‘perform’ their hit songs on TV or on tour, the bands simply lip-sync’d to the studio recording, playing ‘dead’ instruments on stage.

Below are a few pertinent links to The Wrecking Crew, but there are nearly a dozen more links available if you search.


https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2015/02/1 ... 98238.html


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wreck ... (2008_film)


There are also many great YouTube videos available for viewing.

1970 240Z

Last edited by Frank T on Fri May 04, 2018 10:43 pm, edited 10 times in total.

PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2018 6:16 pm 

Joined: Sat Feb 01, 2014 9:21 am
Posts: 797
Location: Somers CT

Hats off to you Frank, I had not heard of them specifically before. :thumbs_up: :thumbs_up:

W.Karl Walton
Somers CT

75' - 280Z - HLS30203249 - #304 Gold Metallic (stockish)
96' - 300zx TT - JN1CZ24d3TX960293 - Black on Black (enhanced)

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