Wednesday, March 18, 2015

'The Wrecking Crew' Goes Behind the Music

Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and Wrecking Crew drummer Hal Blaine
Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

If you’ve ever heard the themes from the Batman, Bonanza and Green Acres TV shows or the songs “Good Vibrations,” “California Dreamin’” and “Mr. Tambourine Man,” you’ve enjoyed the work of legendary session musicians the Wrecking Crew. “My dad had four phone lines in the house and an answering service,” says Denny Tedesco, reminiscing about his father Tommy, the crew’s superb guitarist who passed away in 1996. “He never turned a job down.” Tedesco’s documentary film The Wrecking Crew pays homage to the men and women behind the hit music of the ‘60s and ‘70s. With the Cleveland premiere March 20 at the Cedar Lee Theatre, we chat with Tedesco.

Cleveland Magazine: You started this film in 1996 and didn’t finish the first cut until 2008. Did you expect it would take that long to complete?

Denny Tedesco: No way [laughs]. We had to pay record labels, publishers and the musicians union. I started out traveling the country and taking donations before we raised more than $300,000 with Kickstarter. I always wanted to tell this story of my father and his extended family. When the film ends, we’ve had standing ovations and grown men in tears. Seeing this with an audience is a blast for me.

CM: Your father played alongside such talents as Hal Blaine, Glen Campbell, Don Randi and Carol Kaye, producing an incredible string of hits for everyone from Elvis to the Beach Boys to Cher. Why did they remain anonymous?

DT: These people were stars among their own community and the artists they recorded for. But they were real people who had to put food on the table and take their kids to school. They went from one session to another. In the end, they had a huge affect on the music of their time. 

CM: What happened when the crew backed Frank Sinatra on “Strangers in the Night”? 

DT: He didn’t like the song. He recorded it to appease some people. At the end of the song, he forgot the lyrics and did the do-be-do-be-do thing. And then he walked out. So Dean Martin came in to use up the rest of the studio time.

A four-CD soundtrack of The Wrecking Crew is available at PledgeMusic.

By Barry Goodrich

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