Segarini – Denny Tedesco and the Story of The Wrecking Crew Movie

Bob 2015 2

I have amazing friends.

Without them, I would be eating cardboard by the middle of the month, getting drunk by mixing Windex with Tang, or chugging bottles of Listerine, and enjoying snow on a 17 inch B&W TV while I licked pictures of popcorn.

It was one of these friends who made it possible for me to endure stepping out into what I can only describe as a Montreal Winter in the normally mild confines of Toronto, not once, but twice, last week.

Why?

Because he secured invites to a party for and tickets to a screening of a documentary about a time and place and group of people that has been 20 years in the making…and invited me along.

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8ee2d8c1a0ec911d2f8be70a2d4802b2Growing up with a radio always on within listening distance has had a lot to do with not only my career path, but my love and respect for the people who make the music. It is one thing to write a song, or to be able to sing, but it is a completely different skill set to be able to play the music and bring something fresh and inventive to it in order to elevate it into something special. It also takes a very strong ego invested in your work and not in yourself, thick skin, and a team=player mentality that rivals the best NBA, MLB, NFL and NHL teams. Oh…and it helps that you have a wicked sense of humour and absolutely LOVE what you do.

And even if your subjects of your documentary have that covered, it takes a special kind of someone with the patience of Job, the eye of an eagle, and the knowledge of the subject, to bring it to life in order that others may get to witness, get to experience, the sights and sounds of days gone by, and the people who have entertained so many of us for so long, to capture not only the music and the era, but the personalities of the people who created the music and the memories that still resonate 50 years later.

Motown’s Funk Brothers, Stax/Volt’s Booker T and the MGs and Bar Kays, and New Orleans’ The Meters, responsible for Allen Toussaint’s New Orleans soul classics of the 1960s and the house band for Toussaint’s Sansu Enterprises record label, are all worthy groups of musicians who rarely receive the credit they deserve.

The Meters

That said, no other group has had the long-lasting and far-reaching effects of the these guys…the least well known group of musicians who ever played a recording session. They weren’t anybody’s house band…they were everybody’s house band…or so it seemed.

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The Wrecking Crew

The Wrecking Crew in studio

From the Wrecking Crew – The Movie website….

“The Wrecking Crew were a group of Studio Musicians in Los Angeles in the 60s who played on hits for the “Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra, Nancy Sinatra, Sonny and Cher, Jan & Dean, The Monkees, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, Mamas and Papas, Tijuana Brass, Ricky Nelson, Johnny Rivers and were Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound. The amount of work that they were involved in was tremendous.

The T-Bones - No Matter What Shape (Your Stomach's In)They were also involved in groups that I like to call, The Milli Vanilli’s of the day. A producer would get the guys in and lay down some instrumental tracks. If it became a hit, they would record an album and put a group together to go on the road. This happened many times with groups like the Marketts, Routers, and T-Bones. The next day they would do the same thing and call it another name. Same musicians, but different group Name.

At the time the record industry was primarily in New York, London and Detroit in the late 50’s and early 60s. Then there was a surge towards the mid-60s that pushed the recording to the west Coast. So these musicians were recording around the clock for a good 8 years. It’s hey day for this group was in 1967 when the charts turned to the west.”

In 1995, Denny Tedesco, son of legendary Wrecking Crew guitarist, Tommy Tedesco, set out to make a documentary about his then-ailing father which quickly became the story of the loose collective known as the Wrecking Crew in the halls of record companies and studios throughout Southern California.

The inspiration for 2 decades of hard work on the part of Denny Tedesco to bring this documentary to fruition started with this man…Denny’s father.

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Tommy Tedesco

Tommy Tedesco – The Guitars of Tom Tedesco

Tommy Tedesco – Requiem For A Studio Guitar Player

Who Wouldn’t Want to Own This Guitar?

From the Gibson Website….

Tommy Tedesco’s Tips for Guitarists (A MUST Read for serious players. So many focus on the wrong things. These are the RIGHT Things)

As someone who was ready – and willing – to play whatever his employer wanted, Tedesco was never arrogant or dogmatic about guitar. If anything, For Guitar Players Only is a book about the philosophy of being a successful working musician. Some advice includes

–  “As a youth, form your own band. No matter how bad it is, it will get better. Start playing jobs as early as early as possible. Money – no object. Learn, learn, learn.”

–  “Sit in with strange groups when you get a chance. It provides more outlets for getting future work.”

–  “Meet guitar players. This is more likely where your start will come from. Don’t be overbearing and too cocky.”

–  “You get nothing out of practicing while being fatigued.”

–  “Don’t make fun of any style. Nobody wants to be criticized for what they do well, regardless of style. Keep your mouth shut about players.”

–  “Do not anchor the wrist to the bridge to enable the hands to be free to pick near bridge or neck pickup for different tonal variations. My wrist is very loose when I play.”

Tommy–  “Try different picks for tone quality. Each different pick thickness gets a different sound. Many times I am asked to get a soft sound on the classical guitar. I go to a heavier thick pick. This creates a sweet and mellow sound.”

Don’t “Practice”… Play

“As a session player, Tedesco didn’t have a signature sound. As well as guitar, he played mandolin, sitar guitar, banjo… anything with strings, Tommy could play.”

“My dad was thrilled to be able to make a living at guitar,” says his son Denny Tedesco, director of The Wrecking Crew biopic. “To make a living at an instrument puts you in a small minority. But to record as many hits as they did, they were even part of a smaller minority.”

“Practice is a word I don’t use,” Tommy Tedesco said in the ’80s. “I use ‘play.’ If you play, you get better. I’m playing a lot, so I see myself getting better. There’s things I do now that I couldn’t have done three years ago. There are other things I never knew until now. At my age, I’m still progressing, and I see no let down at age 55…”

As befitted Tommy Tedesco’s worldview, you can take what you want from any of his advice. But the words of “the most recorded guitarist in history” still carry weight.”

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Friday Night

The weather is retarded.

Streetcar in Toronto winter

Only a drunk out of booze or a nicotine addict out of cigarettes would venture forth in the Snow Globe in a Freezer that has been Toronto this winter. I don’t know what the fuck we did, but the Weather Gods are pissed and taking it out on us repeatedly this year. However, there was no way I was going to miss this.

This was a small intimate party following the world premiere of Denny Tedesco’s Wrecking Crew – The Movie, which will be playing in limited release in various cities across North America, and released on DVD (and eventually Blu Ray) on June 16th, 2015.

1968 Glen Campbell & Doug Thompson

Doug Thompson Interviews Glen Campbell

For some reason Doug Thompson, (mentioned at the beginning of this article as one of my friends who keeps me from eating the contents of my couch cushions every month), is a man who has worked in the radio and television industries all his life, and who has written and produced some of the best and most memorable ad copy, radio specials, and radio and music industry-based content for television as well as teach broadcast students at Seneca College, went out of his way to secure me an invite to the party, and a ticket to a showing of the film the following night, and, give me a ride there and back. THAT is a true friend.

Doug’s girlfriend, who was also attending, drove us downtown using a shortcut which I gamely tried to talk her out of, which proved to be waaay better than the shortcut I normally used, and, after arguing about it until she proved me wrong, had to eat my toque.

The party was a blast. A taco bar, cupcakes, and Steamwhistle providing the beer tickets, it reminded me of the Golden Years of industry parties, minus the crab claws, Martini fountains, and hookers.

Old friends abounded (hi Nadia, Emy, Alex, and Mark), and a really old friend (The Sun music critic and now Video Distribution company owner, Jonathan Gross) made for a great evening of chatter and imbibery…not to mention hot sauce stains on my shirt and cupcake frosting in my mustache. We also made a new friend….

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Denny Tedesco

Denny doesn’t look old enough to be Denny.

Like his father, he is clear-eyed, focused, and sharp as a tack. Every bit the kind of person who gives L.A a good name rather than a slow police chase in a Bronco or a wardrobe malfunction on a red carpet. He is the kind of person you meet and feel like you have known for your whole life. You want to be his friend. You know immediately that he will never steal a song from Tom Petty, or abandon a pet monkey in a German airport.

He brought his Mom, his aunt, and his 2 kids with him to this freezing ice cube tray of a city. His mom looked like she was really enjoying herself…and she has every right to be a happy and proud woman. She was there through thick and thin, a big part of this fine, hard working family.

Denny and Doug

Watching Doug and Denny talk was a nice moment. You could feel the mutual respect and musical connection between the two. Doug has been in contact with drummer Hal Blaine’s son, and this was what opened the door to our presence here. Doug even contributed to the Kickstarter program that helped finance Denny’s project.

There are a LOT of iconic songs sprinkled throughout the movie, and rights cost money…a LOT of money…especially when so many of the songs the Wrecking Crew played on were hits.

Denny TedescoDenny Tedesco was on a mission, and that dedication and commitment was up on the screen finally, after 20 years of hard work, overcoming obstacles, and never giving up. Meeting Denny that night, his relief and excitement, and joy at the job finally winding down after all that time was palpable.

After several minutes at our table speaking with Doug about their mutual love of this music, these people, and this film, he swept back into the room, chatting with everyone, spreading the enthusiasm, and basking in the well-deserved kudos and admiration from those who had been at the initial screening before the party. I could hardly wait to see the movie the next day.

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The Movie

WreckingCrewCover001

If this film doesn’t win an Oscar next year for Best Documentary, I will know that Hollywood has forever embraced the message filled, politically correct screeds and preaching they currently favour, and have turned their backs on the entertainment value of why we shell out so much money to go to the movies to enjoy ourselves.

Peter MWe were joined at the theatre by another dear friend, Peter Montreuil, whose love of music rivals most people I know, but who views things like this with an open mind and a with unsullied eyes, whose love of music is almost completely that of a consumer, an audience, whose thirst for knowledge makes him appear far younger than his years. He has the enthusiasm of a young man and a fresh take on the history laid out before him. Sitting next to him and Doug in the Bloor Cinema made the experience that much more exciting, that much more enjoyable. Of course, a beautiful theatre, fully stocked bar, and great sound, contributed to the afternoon along with the company.

Even as good as some other docs about showbiz have been, they pale in comparison to this one. It tells its tale just like the music it presents, with affection and humour, with love and personal recollections, with respect and not a little sadness. It is the story of the Baby Boom’s coming of age, and the music they grew up listening to, dancing to, and falling in love to. It channels more history in words and music, than any other document of the place, the people, and the times. It is the Algonquin Round Table of popular music from the ‘50s through the ‘70s and it is not only the soundtrack of our lives…it is shared with us through the words and the presence of those who made the music, created the sound, who inspired the generations who followed. The Hollywood it portrays is the Hollywood of my youth, the Mecca of Music that drove me to go there every chance I got and eventually live there. There were times the film, and what was being said, and the images on screen brought tears to my eyes…even as I grinned and laughed my way through the picture.

I didn’t want it to end.

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Hollywood 1966-69

gold-star

At one point I dashed up to the lobby to get Pete and I another beer and use the bathroom. I ran into Denny at the concession stand talking to some of the staff. I can’t imagine how many times he has seen his work over the last 20 years.

We had a nice chat.

I never got to work with his dad, or Hal Blaine, Carol Kaye, or Earl Palmer…but I did spend time with a lot of the others.

Al Casey, Mike Melvoin, Larry Knechtel, Jim Gordon, and famed arranger George Tipton, and the folks at Gold Star including Doc Siegal,  Larry Levine, and Stan Ross.

RCA Hollywood

RCA Studios Hollywood California

Al, Mike, Larry, and Jim played on all but one of the tracks on the Family Tree’s Miss Butters album in RCAs Studio B and the following single He Family Tree RCA Studios Hollywood 1967Spins Around (A song I wrote about Harry Nilsson) and it’s B Side, She Had to Fly. Like the movie points out, they were astonishingly good, quick, and a fun bunch to be around. George Tipton had arranged the LP, which also included trumpet master Clark Terry and other well-known horn and reed players.

I had seen almost all the others play from hallways and control rooms of studios all over L.A. There were times I would have to circumnavigate a pile of drum cases in a hallway stenciled with Hal Blaine Set 7, or a case stamped Carol Kaye Amp 3. They were verrry busy players.

I have stories they told me, and stories about these sessions and Harry Nilsson’s sessions, but I will save them for another day.

I cannot begin to explain why this film means so much to me…or why, if you LOVE music and records, you MUST go see this movie…but you really do have to see it.

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The Wrecking Crew Movie is playing in select theatres across North America  in limited release. Please check your local listings for dates and showtimes. It is running here in Toronto at the Bloor Cinema until the end of the week. The DVD will be released on June 16th, and we should all press for a Blu Ray to follow. There are HOURS of unused footage that also need to be seen.

Thank you, Denny Tedesco…from the bottom of my heart.

Bob and Denny

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Any Questions or comments, please write them in the Comment Section below.

Your Comments Are Welcome

Segarini’s regular columns appear here eventually.

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

Bob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now publishes, edits, and writes for DBAWIS, continues to write music, make music, and record.

4 Responses to “Segarini – Denny Tedesco and the Story of The Wrecking Crew Movie”

  1. I saw the movie tonight. I LOVED it! To learn how all those wonderful songs came together, to actually hear them in surround sound, listening to all the stories, watching them play the sights of L.A…..it was magical the way it took you back…. and it did make me cry at the end. I reveled in every second of it and might go to see it again. The biggest surprise, I never knew Glen Campbell was part of the Wrecking Crew.

  2. Cheers. I can’t wait.

  3. loved the film! agree totally – it’s a step back into a time when players were creating from the heart – and getting paid for it! 😉

  4. Peter Montreuil Says:

    Great!

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