The Wrecking Crew: a stellar band of perfect strangers – La Tercera

“They are going to ruin the business”, repeated the older musicians.

the drummer Hal Blaine, whose rhythm adorns more than 6,000 singles and 150 top ten hits in the history of pop in the United States, heard several times the comment from veteran sessionists, referring to those more relaxed musicians like him in jeans and T-shirts who smoked and joked in the recording studio. In contrast, the old guard from the big bands and the jazz circuit always wore suits. In his eyes, youngsters who didn’t respect the codes were like a wrecking crew.

“The Wrecking crew”, synthesized the drummer who played for Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, among hundreds of stars.


In the early 1960s, the American music industry moved to California under the golden promise of sand and sun, bringing to life a series of teenage artists crooning about summer romances. A relatively young generation of instrumentalists from cities with active scenes like New York, Nashville and Detroit, coexisted with this older contingent of session players in Los Angeles, respectful of etiquette and order.

The trial of the veterans avoided a fundamental fact. The relaxation and self-confidence disappeared as soon as the tape ran in the recording room. The relay litter interpreted the composition in just a few takes, molding arrangements to benefit the ideas of producers with an executive and commercial profile, rather than experts in technical language.

The Wrecking Crew was a musical machine so oiled and compact, that they could record an album a day for weeks. Its members swarmed through the LA studios from the early hours of the morning to finish after midnight, The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson Favorite Recording Times. The pop wunderkind turned to them for the vast majority of the ensemble’s albums, including the masterpiece Pet Sounds (1966).

“The Wrecking Crew was the central point of music”, defines the artist who competed with the Beatles. “They were the ones who had all the spirit and knowledge (…) for rock and roll music.”

The vast majority of this informal group of session players read sheet music and mastered various instruments. For the same reason, rock did not care much about them in terms of challenge. It was easy music that had become fashionable, whose industrial production served to pay the bills and accumulate sessions of little complexity, in pieces that could be executed with extraordinary precision.

Example. It took The Wrecking Crew three takes to record the instrumental part of the cover of Mr Tambourine by Bob Dylan, credited to The Byrds.

Strictly speaking, the only one who participated with his guitar full of pride for the privilege of playing with great musicians, was the leader Roger McGuinn.

When the band recorded the hit on their own turn, turn, turn there were 77 shots.

Of course, that music was despised by those professionals in collars and ties, reluctant to perform simple melodies with young artists who howled in their ears. They set the table for The Wrecking Crew, hogging the scene for a decade beginning in 1962.


The members of the group do not agree on the number of members. In turn, several discovered the name only after the autobiography Hal Blaine and The Wrecking Crew (1990).

Among the most prominent of the hundred associated figures are Tommy Tedescoresponsible for the characteristic guitars of the central themes of Bonanza Y Batman, a musician that the producers were waiting for some space in their busy schedule. So much in demand due to his extraordinary talent and versatility – for the fun of joking he was able to play the scores backwards – that the studios were not rented if his presence was not confirmed.

In the same category, Carol Kaye. Coming from a family of professional musicians, he was a guitarist in jazz ensembles and orchestras where the presence of women was not uncommon. In a deeply masculine environment, he does not remember that gender had any relevance. Very occasionally a colleague would tell him that he played well “for a girl”, to which he would reply “and you too… for a boy”.

Carol Kaye has a bulging resume in the manner of Hal Blaine, participating in numerous classics of early rock & roll. As a guitarist she played on hits that shaped the genre like La Bamba by Ritchie Valens, Then he kissed me from The Crystals, and You’ve lost that lovin’ feelin by The Righteous Brothers. Beginning in 1963, she switched to bass, convinced of the creative possibilities of four strings, rather than repetitively strumming a guitar.

Although it is disputed whether his interpretation is the one that finally remained in the extraordinary good vibes of The Beach Boys, participated in their sessions, as he played the electric bass of These boots are made for walkingthe memorable success of Nancy Sinatra.

On television, he is responsible for the bass riff that sets the theme of Mission Impossible. And, like Tedesco, he worked on the central song of Batman.

others like Glen Campbell they became stars of song and entertainment -he had his own television show-, after long years as a versatile guitarist recognized for his solos. Curiously, Campbell, one of the most demanded of The Wrecking Crew, did not know how to read music.


The group fired under the orders of Phil Spectoraccustomed to sessions with The Wrecking Crew at the Gold Star studios, renowned for their echo chamber, key in the construction of their famous Wall of Sound.

It was a rather narrow room where the obsessive producer gathered dozens of musicians. With the exception of drums, the rest were true divisions of guitarists, bassists, pianists, percussionists, and horn players. The sounds of each other filtered through the microphones creating a reverberant texture -the famous wall-, while Spector made the same chord repeat over and over again. To warm up that engine with dozens of interpreters, he never recorded anything in the first three hours.

The method was bewildering and boring for The Wrecking Crew thanks to each member’s trade, but the formula worked. Phil Spector conquered the greatest successes from 1958 until River deep – mountain high from Ike & Tina Turner (1966) – a single where Phil’s attention on Tina relegated Ike’s role – had no major impact on the charts. Finally the Wall of Sound had collapsed as a recipe for climbing the rankings.

If The Wrecking Crew got bored in the sessions with Phil Spector, the mood was diametrically opposite when one of his most outstanding students, Brian Wilson, summoned them. The brain of The Beach Boys deeply admired Spector. He was driving the first time he heard be my baby by The Ronettes, one of the biggest hits written by the producer, by the way performed by The Wrecking Crew. Wilson was so shocked that when he got home he wrote Don’t worry baby.

1651646585 135 The Wrecking Crew a stellar band of perfect strangers

“Brian is a genius”, sums up Glen Campbell.

Unlike other artists with whom The Wrecking Crew put together their own arrangements, Brian Wilson was absolutely clear about what he wanted. It was all in his head.

According to the legendary pianist Leon Russell, Wilson gathered about twenty musicians and each one sang his part.

Hal Blaine recalls that good vibes it took half a year. They could session for four hours on the song, other times just five minutes.


Some of the producers who hired The Wrecking Crew did not credit the names. This was particularly the case with pop rock groups like Gary Lewis & The Playboys (Jerry Lewis’s son) and The Monkeesa phenomenon that competed in fame with the Beatles in the US, thanks to the eponymous television show starring four actors who pretended to be a rock band, living in a house on the beach.

Although The Monkees learned to play over time, their biggest hits as Last train to Clarkville, are the work of sessionists, except for the voices. To keep the fantasy going among fans, these details were not revealed.

As the 1960s progressed and the live trade and the desire to learn to master instruments became established among rock musicians, the demand for this type of professional began to decline.

Some like the saxophonist Plas Johnsoninterpreter of an immortal piece as the theme of The Pink Panther by Henry Mancini, they continued careers in television programs, while Carol Kaye turned to soundtracks and music teaching.

Others, like Hal Blaine, touched heaven and hell. The drummer whose name accompanied the biggest stars on the marquees, lost mansions, limousines and yachts, to end up working as a security guard.

In 1997 Tommy Tedesco passed away. A cerebrovascular accident had left him sequels five years earlier.

He said he was satisfied with the timing of the ACV. The phone was no longer ringing, requesting his services.

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The Wrecking Crew: a stellar band of perfect strangers – La Tercera

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