It is good to take time out to honor one’s parents. It’s in the Bible, and practically everyone can recite the 5th commandment: honor thy father and thy mother then you will live a long, full life in the land. I have no doubt that documentary filmmaker Denny Tedesco will live long and prosper – ok, so I borrowed a line from another movie but you get my point.
Tedesco’s documentary The Wrecking Crew pays a heartfelt homage to guitarist Tommy Tedesco, his father and an honored member of the Wrecking Crew—a group of talented session musicians based out of California who made possible those riffs and lines and music chords that when heard played, we immediately recognize the artist and the song! Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys recalls, “They were the ones with all the spirit and know-how.”
Quiet as it is kept, the Wrecking Crew is so named because when these musicians arrived in Los Angeles, those talent already onboard thought the session musician would ruin the music business. Yes, Tedesco has pulled back the curtain to expose the skill, imagination, and genius behind the hits of the 1960s and 1970s that we know as the California sound. Remember Henry Mancini’s theme music for the “Pink Panther”? That’s saxophonist Plas Johnson from New Orleans; how about the drum beats in “Da Doo Ron Ron” the famous classic by The Crystals and “Be My Baby” by The Ronettes? That’s Hal Blaine! How about that soulful bass on hits such as “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’,” “California Girls,” “The Beat Goes On,” themes to Mission Impossible and Batman? That’s the legendary Carol Kaye on bass—the only woman in the group! Ok, one more: Remember Sam Cooke’s soul stirring “A Change is Gonna Come”? Guitarist Rene Hall arranged that song, and its socio-cultural import still rings true today.
It took seven years of fundraising to midwife this project but Tedesco successfully assembled a roundtable of the crew, and each one gives thoughtful testimonials on what it was like to be a part of music making history. There are narratives from heavy hitters in the music industry such as Cher, Herb Alpert, Nancy Sinatra, Brian Wilson, among others, who reveal their own profit from these session musicians but Tedesco always maintains a monogamous focus on the Wrecking Crew themselves and on those who can talk about them and the era of the 1960s and 1970s as well.
While Tedesco surely immerses the audience in the culture of the times, The Wrecking Crew is totally personal. These musicians talk of their discipline and their sheer dedication to their music—even if it meant not receiving credit on the album on which they worked. The fluff of The Monkees and the Patridge Family as well as respected bands as the Byrds and Simon and Garfunkel are just some of the bands the work of the Wrecking Crew goes uncredited. Tedesco does not stop there: the crew uncovers why!
The Wrecking Crew plays through July 2 at the Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center in Lincoln.
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