Over the past two years, there has been a minor trend in documentary films, with a slew of films giving a glimpse behind the scenes of the music business, and especially focusing on the recording studios (Muscle Shoals, Studio City) and the backup groups (like last year's choice by the Academy for Best Documentary, 20 Feet From Stardom).
The latest installment is The Wrecking Crew, about an assorted group of talented musicians who played in LA studios in the '60s. On Saturday, The Wrecking Crew has a pre-release screening in Bend. (The film is scheduled for national release in mid-March).
"The Wrecking Crew was just a nickname, a moniker," explains Denny Tedesco, son of core Wrecking Crew guitarist Tommy Tedesco and the writer, director and producer of the documentary. "It was just a group of studio musicians who were just in demand, 15 to 20 of them in the 1960s." Tedesco will be on hand at Saturday's screening to introduce the movie and answer questions after.
"They were the young turks," he adds. "Basically, they're starting to get jobs (in Southern California), maybe non-union, maybe jobs that were rock'n'roll, that maybe the older guys did not want to do. All of a sudden some of those demos and low budget things started becoming hits, like Jan and Dean, and that turns into the Phil Spector sessions, the Beach Boys sessions."
While no formal Wrecking Crew existed, per se, frequently, producers such as Spector, Terry Melcher (Byrds), Brian Wilson (Beach Boys), Jimmy Bowen (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin) and Lou Adler (Mamas and Papas) called upon the same core of musicians with regularity. All told, the so-called "Wrecking Crew" played on hundreds of records and albums for many of pop's biggest stars. Some of the regulars in the "group"—keyboard player Leon Russell, drummer Hal Blaine, horn player Steve Douglas, guitarist James Burton—are even in the Rock Hall of Fame as sidemen.
The Wrecking Crew provided the musical backbone on a veritable who's who of 1960s pop; songs like "Be My Baby," "Good Vibrations," "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'," and "Mr. Tambourine Man."
"People assume it was a hootenanny at my parent's house," offers Tedesco. "I was born in 1961. I did not see my father play the guitar at home until the mid 1970s. The reason was he never brought the guitar out of the car. His tools in the car were a six-string acoustic, a Gutstring, a Telecaster, maybe a banjo, a mandolin and his amp. That was his hammer and his saw." Tedesco continues, "He went to work like anybody else. He didn't bring his work home. As much we think of them as stars, the truth is they were just like us. They went to work like any other dad and any other mom."
Tedesco points out that the culture of the music business has changed dramatically since those recording days, and that is part of his mission to tell that story—in the musicians' words and notes.
"They had such respect in a time when being a musician wasn't like 'American Idol'—try getting a loan as a musician in the 1960s, good luck." He adds, "They did what they did because they loved what they did. And, they did it as a profession."
The Wrecking Crew
Dir. Denny Tedesco
7 pm. Sat., Jan. 31. Tower Theatre.