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Growing up in the 1960s, and hearing so much great music by such diverse artists and groups as the Beach Boys, the Ronettes, the Righteous Brothers, the Mamas & Papas, Sonny & Cher, the Monkees, Frank Sinatra and Glen Campbell, I never really gave much thought to who created their music. Really, until the arrival of bands like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Kinks and the Who, who played most or all of their own music, it was common for the music on nearly all songs being recorded to be played by session musicians.

Many of those musicians played for particular studios or music labels; Motown had the Funk Brothers, Muscle Shoals had the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, Stax Records had their own in-house musicians, and so on. Another important group of session musicians, who were based in Los Angeles, came to be known as ‘The Wrecking Crew’. They played the music for such iconic hits as “Be My Baby”, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling”, “California Dreamin’”, “Good Vibrations”, “The Beat Goes On”, “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” and “Wichita Lineman”, to name but a few.

Wanting to honor his father – the noted guitarist Tommy Tedesco, who along with other musicians was an important member of The Wrecking Crew – Denny Tedesco produced and directed a documentary film about these renowned session musicians. Production on the film began in June 1996, and took nearly 12 years to complete. The film premiered at the 2008 South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, and closed out the Nashville Film Festival in April 2008, however, it was not released theatrically until March 2015, which is when I saw it.

Anyone and everyone who loves the songs from that golden age of music – or anyone interested in the history of American pop music for that matter – would enjoy this documentary. Scores of producers, sound engineers, session musicians and artists recall fond memories – along with a sprinkling of fraught moments as well – of sessions where they all came together to record songs that made history. In addition to Tommy Tedesco, some of the other notable session musicians included drummer Hal Blaine, bassist Carol Kaye and a young Glen Campbell, who started his career as a session guitarist before making it big as a solo act.

It’s fun to hear them discuss working with some of the talented and eccentric artists and producers of the day like Brian Wilson and Phil Spector. Conversely, it’s also great hearing artists like Brian Wilson, Cher and Leon Russell discuss the brilliance of those musicians and producers, and how their touches made certain songs sound so much better. Carol Kaye’s little but monumental bass riffs at the beginning of “Wichita Lineman” and “The Beat Goes On” are two examples that stand out. Two more are the beautiful opening guitar licks at the beginning of the Mamas and Papas hit “California Dreamin’ and the Frank & Nancy Sinatra duet “Somethin’ Stupid”.

Here’s a snippet from the film focusing on Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound:

And here’s one focusing on the Beach Boys:

The entire film can be streamed for a small fee on YouTube.


  1. You have motivated me. I have this documentary and never have watched it. You can’t listen to a classic radio station without hearing them on someone’s record. Great selection Jeff…such great musicians who didn’t get the credit at the time.

  2. Another must have for sure! I’ve watched this, but it’s been awhile. I’m glad for the prompt to tee it up for another viewing. I know I’ll see things I missed the first time. This was where I learned about Carole Kaye. Wow.

  3. Jeff, I think I saw this on netflix (or rented the disc from them.) It also amazed me to learn who was playing the music on so many of the hits. So glad someone decided to make the movie and educate us on the reality vs. the illusion. Good write-up and excellent addition to the Desert Island Draft!

  4. The best documentary made about rock music. I had no idea back in the day that these bands didn’t play their own instruments. The talent in that studio was gigantic. Too bad Spector went street rat crazy, he was as talented as Brian Wilson in many ways. I later read books about that time in CA during the 60s and what the music industry was up to. Good article.

  5. Awesome. It was literally only last week I was thinking there should be a movie about those guys (and gal, Carol) …apparently there is! Glad you let us know about it! These guys were such an essential part of the 60s music world yet are so unknown outside of the little world of music geeks like us,LOL

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