Pictured: Tommy Tedesco and Carol Kaye courtesy of wreckingcrewfilm.com.
It’s a film quietly generating attention through cult followers, hindering on the verge of mass acclimation, and trapped in limbo between Hollywood logistics and creative divinities. For most of the world, The Wrecking Crew, Danny Tedesco’s biographical documentary on the team of session musicians behind almost every hit from the ‘60s, remains to be seen. At first, the producer and director tried to will the world.
Consumed by a passion and earnest desire for release, the feature length doc made many appearances on the film festival circuit, winning over audiences and jurors each time. Over the past few years, it has hit festival screens at SXSW, Vancouver, Anchorage, Barcelona and Melbourne, yet truth be told, the production began costing more than it was making. Driven intrinsically by music – like major music from the Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra, Sonny & Cher, and The Monkees – the film undoubtedly required a heavy payoff in licensing fees, and one that Tedesco couldn’t quite meet.
But he will. Currently, he’s screening The Wrecking Crew wherever people raise the money, and with that money, he’s slowly but surely securing rights to the soundtrack. It’s a compilation including such legendary, timeless tracks as “Mrs. Robinson,” “California Girls,” “Be My Baby,” “Strangers in the Night, “ and “California Dreamin’.” An impressive track listing reflecting the more than extraordinary, unknown team of sidemen who made the music possible: theirs is the journey of this movie.
“Two words people don’t like to hear in the film industry are music and documentary, so when you put them together, it’s the kiss of death,” says Tedesco, whose father, Tommy, was a member of the crew. “But the remaining sum can be raised with some angel investors…It’s a low budget film that has shown tremendous potential with audiences all over the world. America’s greatest export is its music…I watch this film all the time with different audiences and different demographics and it resonates.”
A force majeure of the most celebrated time in music history, The Wrecking Crew documentary chronicles a group by the same moniker, who wrote and performed the music on everyone’s classic jams. These were days when the session musicians had to be present at the recording studio, when parts couldn’t be recorded individually and, as Tedesco points out, every player had to be on point because there wasn’t time for flubs. Because the Wrecking Crew, a group that fluxed over the years with varying artists, were not only skilled creative talents, but also easy to get along with, they always got called for gigs and subsequently thrived throughout the ‘60s. Recording three or four sessions a day, they were the men and women behind every chart-topper, who never saw the spotlight, yet somehow didn’t wish to.
“My father didn’t expect to make a career out of guitar playing,” remembers Tedesco. “All these folks were coming out of World War II as kids. They had good work ethic; they worked hard; they put their kids through school. They made a living on something they loved doing….Most never realized until now what they gave back in terms of music. At the time, they didn’t know they were creating some of greatest hits of the century. The Beach Boys were new and unheard of when the Wrecking Crew were working with them…Phil Spector didn’t have hits till these guys came along.”
Of all the iconic entertainers graced by the Wrecking Crew’s endowment, Tedesco believes it was the Beach Boys, in fact, who benefited most. Be it the internal bickering of the group or the developing nature of their platform, it was these backbone musicians that truly head the cheery pop aficionados together, and catapulted them to greatness.
With such ability and connections within the industry – the two most critical elements to “making it” in show business – the fact that most of the Wrecking Crew team remained nameless throughout the years is rather remarkable. With the exceptions of Glen Campbell and Leon Russell, the rest preferred to be simply an ensemble, refraining from the public eye and living a relatively simple life. Music was a trade, a beloved one, but a day job no less. Tedesco says his father kept his career specifically separate from his personal affairs, even remarking to his mother once, “a plumber doesn’t take his wife to work.” Therefore, the director never ended up witnessing much of his dad’s work life, making this film a window to stories he was never told.
“I only got more to know about my dad in the ‘70s because I was so young,” Tedesco comments. “What I learned more and more, and continue to learn now is all that he did for musicians. He was one of the most giving people. If you ask, people will talk about his guitar work, but also how he helped these guys. The other day I heard a story about my dad and Chuck Rainey, one of the great jazz bass players. He was new in town in the ‘70s, and they were both doing a television recording…Something happened in the recording where Chuck messed up and my father knew it, so he made a big noise on his guitar to cover for him. The conductor asked, ‘Tommy, you all right?’…He says yes…Then Chuck does it again, and my father, again, messes up. Conductor says, ‘You all right?’ My dad says yes, then looks over to Rainey and says, ‘Listen motherfucker, you’re on your own now,’…He would take the fall and the heat if he could for someone else because he knew he was coming back.”
It’s an anecdote that encompasses the life of the crew itself: a quiet spirit, happy to give great life to music.
Check out more details of the film, The Wrecking Crew, here: http://wreckingcrew.tv/