Saturday’s Grammy-Eve screening is in honor of 6-time Grammy Award winner Hal Blaine, and features surprise special guests from the era. Although gargantuan music licensing fees temporarily preclude wide distribution for “The Wrecking Crew,” numerous international film festival screenings have created a compelling “must see” buzz for it
By John Rowlands
HOLLYWOOD(Hollywood Today)2/8/13/–This amazing film reveals the true story behind some of the biggest hit songs on record. The Wrecking Crew were a group of LA-based studio musicians who played on hits for The Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra, Sonny & Cher, Jan & Dean, The Monkees, Gary Lewis & The Playboys, Mamas & Paps, Tijuana Brass, Ricky Nelson, Johnny Rivers, and many more….they were also Phil Spector’s Wall Of Sound.
Their body of work is tremendous, and their fascinating story is depicted in detail in The Wrecking Crew movie. An informative Q&A with some of the film’s stars immediately follows the screening. A portion of tonight’s proceeds go to the International Documentary Foundation, a non-profit, tax-exempt corporation, to help fund the film’s eventual commercial release.
February 9, 2013
Under 18 Must Be Accompanied by a Paying Adult
Hal Blaine’s Wrecking Crew: LEON RUSSELL, TOMMY TEDESCO, and GLEN CAMPBELL
February 23rd, 2012 · 3 Comments
By Harvey Sid Fisher
Palm Springs, CA(Hollywood Today)2/23/12/—HAL BLAINE knows. He is 83, alive and active, but has this long time feeling that 2012 is his last year as a tellurian (an inhabitant of earth…you’re welcome).
WHAT’S THAT ABOUT, HAL? DO YOU KEEP A MAYAN CALENDAR IN THE CLOSET? I just thought all these years that 83 was it. People I know have died at 83. WHO? My brother, Ben…and Frank Sinatra.
I could be wrong. I could live to a hundred.
MAKE IT A HUNDRED AND ONE. I DON’T WANT ANYTHING HAPPENING TO YOU TOO SUDDENLY.
When I drove up to his house he was out front to escort me in. As I approached his front door a loud, deep, scary growl of a dog erupted from inside. It sounded like the dog was bigger than my car but upon entering there was no dog. It was an amplifier box by the door that played dog growls. A digital motion sensor with a small byte to give intruders pause and incongruously minimize the chances of Hal’s moribund predilection being correct.
As a drummer it is likely you never heard of Hal Blaine but it is highly unlikely you never heard his drumming. He is the founding lead member of the WRECKING CREW, a group of around 20 highly skilled studio musicians whose nucleus included LEON RUSSELL, TOMMY TEDESCO, and GLEN CAMPBELL. Glen was the only one in the group who could not read music.
Tommy’s son, Denny Tedesco has put together the eponymously titled award winning documentary of the storied Wrecking Crew. Hal has proof of drumming on about 9,600 recordings, many of which were huge hits for the biggest names in music; The Carpenters, The Beach Boys, the Mamas and Papas, the Monkees, Don Ho, the Rat Pack, George, as producer, Ringo, as a singer, John as the rock & roll star, Paul,with some overdubs, Phil Spector with his wall of sound productions and just too many more to list here.
The Wrecking Crew’s members typically had backgrounds in jazz or classical music, but were highly versatile. The talents of this group of ‘first call’ players were used on almost every style of recording, including television theme songs, film scores, advertising jingles and almost every genre of American popular music, from The Monkees to Bing Crosby. Notable artists employing the Wrecking Crew’s talents included Nancy Sinatra, Bobby Vee, The Partridge Family, The Mamas & the Papas, The Carpenters, The 5th Dimension, John Denver, The Beach Boys, Simon & Garfunkel, and Nat King Cole.
The figures most often associated with the Wrecking Crew are, producer Phil Spector (who used the Crew to create his trademark “Wall of Sound“), and Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson, who used the Crew’s talents on many of his mid-1960s productions including the songs “Good Vibrations“, “California Girls“, the acclaimed album Pet Sounds, and the original recordings for Smile. Members of the Wrecking Crew played on the first Byrds single recording, “Mr. Tambourine Man“, because Columbia Records did not trust the skills of Byrd musicians except for Roger McGuinn. Further recordings of the Byrds were conditional on the success of the single. All of the Byrds played on their subsequent recordings. Spector used the Wrecking Crew on Leonard Cohen‘s fifth album, Death of a Ladies’ Man.
According to Blaine, the name “The Wrecking Crew” was derived from the impression that he and the younger studio musicians made on the business’s older generation, who felt that they were going to wreck the music industry. Prior to that, in the late 1950s the small group headed by Ray Pohlman was often referred to as “The First Call Gang,” since they were the musicians that many record producers would call first. With home base being Hollywood’s “General Service Studios,” this early group consisted of some very talented musicians like Earl Palmer, Mel Pollen, Bill Aken, Barney Kessel, and Al Casey. Many historians consider this small group to be the actual origin of “The Wrecking Crew,” or “The Clique” as they were sometimes called.
Members of ‘The Wrecking Crew’ included:
- guitar: Glen Campbell, Barney Kessel, Tommy Tedesco, Al Casey, Carol Kaye, Billy Strange, Rene Hall, Don Peake, Howard Roberts, James Burton, Jerry Cole, Bill Aken, Mike Deasy, Doug Bartenfeld, Ray Pohlman, Bill Pitman, Irv Rubins, Louie Shelton, John Goldthwaite.
- saxophone: Steve Douglas, Jay Migliori, Jim Horn, Plas Johnson, Nino Tempo, Gene Cipriano
- trumpet: Roy Caton (contractor), Tony Terran, Ollie Mitchell, Bud Brisbois, Chuck Findley.
- trombone: Lou Blackburn, Richard “Slyde” Hyde, Lew McCreary
- keyboards: Leon Russell, Mac Rebennack (aka Dr. John), Mike Melvoin, Don Randi, Larry Knechtel, Al De Lory, Mike (Michel) Rubini
- bass: Carol Kaye, Joe Osborn, Max Bennett, Chuck Berghofer, Ray Pohlman, Larry Knechtel, Lyle Ritz, Red Callender, Jimmy Bond, Bill Pitman
- drums: Hal Blaine, Earl Palmer, Jim Gordon
- percussion: Julius Wechter, Gary L. Coleman, Frank Capp (contractor)
- conductor/arranger: Jack Nitzsche
- harmonica: Tommy Morgan
- The Ron Hicklin Singers often performed backup vocals on many of the same songs on which The Wrecking Crew had played instrumental tracks.
Though not an official member, Sonny Bono did hang out and contribute to sessions recorded by the Crew.
Glen Campbell later achieved solo fame as a singer-guitarist in the 1960s and 1970s, and Leon Russell and Mac Rebennack (as Dr. John) both went on to be successful songwriters and had hit singles and albums. Also, Nino Tempo with his sister Carol (under her stage name April Stevens) had a U.S. #1 hit song in 1963, “Deep Purple“. Otherwise, the best-known ‘members’ of this unofficial group are bassist/guitarist Carol Kaye, one of the few female instrumentalists to achieve success in the recording industry at the time; and drummer Hal Blaine, who has played on tens of thousands of recording sessions, including Sinatra’s, and is believed by some to be the most recorded drummer in history. Among his vast list of recordings, Blaine is credited with having played on at least forty U.S. #1 hits and more than 150 Top Ten records.
Al Casey worked for many years as a session musician. Jim Gordon also drummed on many well known recording sessions and was the drummer in the group Derek and the Dominos. Jim Gordon also toured with Frank Zappa on the Grand Wazoo tour with Jay Migliori who also joined the tour. Ray Pohlman doubled on both bass and guitar, and started heading sessions in the 1950s with a regular group of musicians including, Mel Pollen, Earl Palmer, Bill Aken (aka Zane Ashton), Al Casey, and others. Pohlman would also become the musical director for the TV show Shindig!, while Aken became musical director on “Shock Theatre,” both shows being nationally televised. Aken was the musical director on the critically acclaimed syndicated radio show “The Country Call Line” in the mid 1980s and also conceived, arranged, and produced the music for the very first ‘Farm-Aid’ radio special in collaboration with Willie Nelson and LeRoy Van Dyke.
The Wrecking Crew worked long hours and 15-hour days were not unusual, although the rewards were great — Carol Kaye has commented that during her peak as a session musician, she earned more per year than the President.
The Wrecking Crew were featured in the 95-minute 2008 film The Wrecking Crew directed by Tommy Tedesco’s son, Denny Tedesco. The film has screened at several festivals and was featured on National Public Radio, but it has not yet been commercially released due to the numerous song rights and the legal difference between merely showing a film and actually manufacturing it for sale.
The Wrecking Crew, or at least part of it, was the house band for 1964′s The T.A.M.I. Show. During shots of the right side of the stage, one can often spot musical director Jack Nitzsche, drummer Hal Blaine, electric bassist Jimmy Bond, guitarists Tommy Tedesco, Bill Aken, and Glen Campbell, upright bassist Lyle Ritz, pianist Leon Russell, saxophonist Plas Johnson, and others.
The HEIL SOUND Company donates $5000 to help pay music rights and fees so the film can finish production and do a theatrical release.