The Wrecking Crew (music)
|"The Wrecking Crew"|
Members of the Wrecking Crew employed for a session at Gold Star Studios in the 1960s.
|Also known as||
|Origin||Los Angeles, California|
|Years active||1960s–1970 s|
|Past members||See below|
"The Wrecking Crew" was a nickname coined by drummer Hal Blaine for a collective of studio and session musicians that played anonymously on many records in Los Angeles, California during the 1960s. The crew backed dozens of popular singers, and were one of the most successful groups of studio musicians in music history. They were occasionally featured on productions by Phil Spector under the name the Phil Spector Wall of Sound Orchestra. Other names such as "the Clique" and "the First Call Gang" have been attributed to the band.
Two of their members, drummers Hal Blaine and Earl Palmer, were among the inaugural "sidemen" inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000, while the entire Wrecking Crew was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame in 2007. In 2008, they were the subject of the documentary of the same name.
According to Hal 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 many record producers would call first. With home base being Hollywood's "General Service Studios", this early group consisted of talented musicians such as Earl Palmer, Mel Pollen, Bill Aken, Barney Kessel, and Al Casey.
Blaine's account and even the "Wrecking Crew" name is strongly disputed by Carol Kaye, who has stated in her interviews, "We were never known as that. Sometimes we were called The Clique, but that's a Hal Blaine invented name for his own self promotion in 1990, and most of us are really, really angry about that film, too." Research by Songfacts concurs, noting "We couldn't find any references to 'The Wrecking Crew' in any publications from the era." In reference to accusations from Kaye that Blaine invented the moniker to sell his book, Blaine denied that anyone had ever heard the name "The Clique".
The Wrecking Crew's members were musically versatile but typically had formal backgrounds in jazz or classical music. 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 (group), David Cassidy (solo), Jan & Dean, the Mamas & the Papas, the 5th Dimension, the Association, the Carpenters, Glen Campbell, Cher, John Denver, the Beach Boys, Simon & Garfunkel, the Grass Roots and Nat King Cole.
The record producers most often associated with the Wrecking Crew are: Phil Spector, who used the Crew to create his trademark "Wall of Sound"; and Beach Boys member and songwriter Brian Wilson, who used the Crew's talents on many of his mid-1960s productions including the songs "Good Vibrations", "California Girls", Pet Sounds, and the original recordings for Smile. Members of the Wrecking Crew played on the first Byrds single recording, "Mr. Tambourine Man", because, with the exception of Roger McGuinn, Columbia Records—namely, producer Terry Melcher—did not trust the musical competency of the band's members. Spector used the Wrecking Crew on Leonard Cohen's fifth album, Death of a Ladies' Man.
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. Gordon also toured with Frank Zappa on the Grand Wazoo tour with Jay Migliori. 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 Theater, 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 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, 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, bassist Jimmy Bond, guitarists Tommy Tedesco, Bill Aken, and Glen Campbell, upright bassist Lyle Ritz, pianist Leon Russell, saxophonist Plas Johnson, and others.[original research?]
Glen Campbell later achieved solo fame as a singer-guitarist in the late 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," 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.
Jim Keltner would go on to a successful career as a session drummer for much of the 1970s–90s, playing with Ringo Starr's All-Starr band, and playing drums on both albums by the supergroup Traveling Wilburys, (where he is credited as "Buster Sidebury.")
In 2008, the Wrecking Crew were featured in the documentary film The Wrecking Crew directed by Tommy Tedesco's son, Denny Tedesco. In 2014, its musicians were depicted in the Brian Wilson biopic Love & Mercy.
This section possibly contains original research. (August 2015)
- Electric bass: Max Bennett, Red Callender, Carol Kaye, Larry Knechtel, Joe Osborn, Bill Pitman, Ray Pohlman, Bob West
- Upright/Double bass: Chuck Berghofer, Jimmy Bond, Lyle Ritz
- Conductor/arranger: Jack Nitzsche
- Drums: Hal Blaine, John Clauder, Jim Gordon, Jim Keltner, Earl Palmer, Joe Porcaro
- Guitar: Bill Aken, Doug Bartenfeld, James Burton, Glen Campbell, Al Casey, Jerry Cole, Mike Deasy, John Goldthwaite, Rene Hall, Carol Kaye, Barney Kessel, Don Peake, Bill Pitman, Ray Pohlman, Howard Roberts, Irv Rubins, Louie Shelton, Billy Strange, Tommy Tedesco, Al Vescovo,Vinnie Bell P.F. Sloan
- Harmonica: Tommy Morgan
- Keyboards: Al De Lory, Larry Knechtel, Mike Melvoin, Don Randi, Mac Rebennack (aka Dr. John), Mike (Michel) Rubini, Leon Russell
- Percussion: Frank Capp, Gary L. Coleman, Joe Porcaro, Julius Wechter,
- Saxophone: Gene Cipriano, Steve Douglas, Jim Horn, Plas Johnson, Jay Migliori, Nino Tempo
- Trombone: Richard "Slyde" Hyde, Lew McCreary, Dick Nash
- Trumpet: Bud Brisbois, Roy Caton, Chuck Findley, Ollie Mitchell, Tony Terran
- Vocals: 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.
- The Funk Brothers
- Booker T and the M.G.'s
- Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section
- The Salsoul Orchestra
- The J.B.'s
- Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra
- The Memphis Boys
- Tower of Power Horn Section
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