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This music documentary about some of the most talented musicians you've never heard of comes to Vancouver
Tommy Tedesco sits in at a studio session in The Wrecking Crew
Throughout the ’60s and ’70s, a seasoned group of Los Angeles studio musicians known as the Wrecking Crew performed on many of the biggest hit records of the era.
As prolific as any group of musicians who ever laid down a studio track, this talented collection of sidemen included Hal Blaine on drums, Tommy Tedesco on guitar and Carol Kaye on bass.
These musicians provided instrumental backing for scores of timeless classics such as “California Girls”, “Good Vibrations”, “These Boots are Made for Walking”, “Strangers in the Night”, “I Got You Babe”, “Rambling Rose”, “California Dreaming” and “MacArthur Park”, to name a few.
As the son of a member of the esteemed and legendary Crew, director Denny Tedesco has created a fascinating and insightful tribute film to these session musicians that serves as a testament to their incredible contribution to the songs that became the soundtrack for generations.
Having appeared on the worldwide festival circuit, The Wrecking Crew has garnered multiple awards and drawn rave reviews in the process. This highly acclaimed documentary returns to Vancouver for the first time since its 2008 debut at the Vancouver International Film Festival. Even the origin of the term ‘Wrecking Crew’ is a story in itself.
“When the younger guys like my father were breaking in, they were doing a bunch of rock and roll demos and recordings,” explains the junior Tedesco, “the older guys that were really established felt that rock was beneath them and someone was heard to have said, ‘They’re going to wreck the business, playing this Rock and Roll Crap.’”
And so, the moniker was established.
Though largely unaccredited for the myriad classics they helped create, the Wrecking Crew was the West Coast version of the Funk Brothers, the Eastern assembly of studio types who became the backbone of the iconic Motown Sound.
Chief among them was Tommy Tedesco, whose personal body of work included sessions with everyone from Frank Sinatra to Elvis Presley.
The New York-born elder Tedesco brought a veritable plethora of talents to the studio, playing guitar, mandolin, ukulele, sitar and 28 other stringed instruments while contributing to scores of hit records. He also played on some of television’s most-iconic themes, such as The Twilight Zone, Bonanza and Batman. Tedesco was one of the most sought-after guitarists between the ’60s and ’80s, performing on thousands of recordings in the process. Tedesco has been described as the most recorded guitarist in history.
As for a personal career achievement, Danny assumes that distinction likely belongs to his father’s work with Frank Sinatra.
“Working with Sinatra probably would have been a highlight,” suggests Tedesco. “Being an Italian kid growing up in New York and then telling your parents you’re recording with Frank had to thrill the family.”
As captivating as the documentary is, sadly, the elder Tedesco didn’t live long enough to see his son’s homage.
“When he was diagnosed with cancer in early 1996, I jumped on it and put some friends together and started shooting a few months later,” he says. “In November of 1997 he passed. He never saw anything. That was a drag.”
There have been paradigm shifts in the music business since the days of the Wrecking Crew, when a session musician played all manner of musical material, be it a timeless classic or a one-hit wonder.
“Even if he didn’t like the music, he wanted to make sure the leader or producer was happy,” says Tedesco of his father’s vast portfolio of gigs. “He used to say, ‘I’m playing for smiles.’ If the guy was smiling, he’d done his job.”
The Wrecking Crew includes interviews with such luminaries as Brian Wilson, Nancy Sinatra, Glen Campbell and many of the ‘Crew’ members themselves.
It will be screened April 15 at the Denman Place Cinema, 1779 Comox Street. Denny Tedesco will be on hand to introduce his film and host a post-screening Q&A. To find out more about The Wrecking Crew, check out the film’s website. Tickets can be purchased here.