The Wrecking Crew

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Director: Denny Tedesco

Subjects: Tommy Tedesco, Hal Blaine, Carol Kaye, Al Casey, Glen Campbell, H.B. Barnum, Plas Johnson, Lou Adler, Brian Wilson, Nancy Sinatra, Cher, Dick Clark, Herb Alpert, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork, Leon Russell, Snuff Garrett, Bones Howe, Larry Knechtel, Larry Levine, Lew McCreary, Joe Osborn, Bill Pittman, Don Randi, Carmie Tedesco, Jimmy Webb, Julius Wechter, Frank Zappa.

Running time: 1 hour 41 minutes

Rated PG for language, thematic elements, and smoking images

IMDB page: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1185418

Plot: A documentary tribute to The Wrecking Crew, the session musicians who backed up some of the most legendary artists of the 1960s.
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Name any hit song from the 1960s – including TV and movie themes – and there’s a good chance it was backed up by The Wrecking Crew. That loose collection of session musicians provided some of the most famous, creative music of the era, and never received any credit.

Until now.

Denny Tedesco, the son of guitarist Tommy Tedesco, decided to get some of his dad’s old colleagues together to reminisce. He also interviewed other musicians, singers, and producers. They all praise the Wrecking Crew (so named because older musicians thought they would wreck the industry), whose brilliance gave the world everything from the opening bass line in “Wichita Lineman” to the iconic “walking” sound of Nancy Sinatra’s boots.

Nowadays, it’s expected that band members will play their own instruments, but that wasn’t the case in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Some did, of course, and others learned enough to perform live when necessary. But what everyone heard on the recorded tracks was nearly always the work of session players like Tedesco, drummer Hal Blaine, bassist Carol Kaye (one of the few women in the field), and saxophonist Plas Johnson.

Denny Tedesco spent years doing interviews, partly to honor his father (who was terminally ill) and partly to illuminate a very specific time in American pop culture. Everyone in the music business was heading to California in the ‘60s, and having versatile and hard-working backing artists was vital. The Crew earned the respect of guys like Brian Wilson and Phil Spector, whose mad genius fueled long sessions and produced some of the greatest songs of the era. But the group was just as likely to bang out an entire pop record in one day, leaving producers and singers in awe of the speed and skill on display.

Wilson, Sinatra, Cher, Micky Dolenz, and many others share stories, with a pre-Alzheimer’s Glen Campbell offering especially funny and poignant memories. Campbell was a member of the Wrecking Crew himself, and the only one to achieve stardom, always valuing the contributions of his bands.

Tedesco gives several of the musicians their own segments, allowing them to tell their stories and demonstrate their gifts, which remain considerable. He’s equally careful to put their work in context, and what emerges is a vivid portrait of an era and the people who made it sound spectacular. 4/24/15