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The Most Heard Guitarist You’ve Never Heard Of: The Wrecking Crew's Tommy Tedesco

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
May 20, 2024 3:00 am

The Most Heard Guitarist You’ve Never Heard Of: The Wrecking Crew's Tommy Tedesco

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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May 20, 2024 3:00 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Tommy Tedesco is probably the most recorded guitarist in history having played on thousands of recordings from the 1960s-1980s ( Many of them top 20 hits). Tommy's son, filmmaker Denny Tedesco, produced The Wrecking Crew, the highly-acclaimed documentary about his father and the other musicians who made up The Wrecking Crew, and is here to tell us the story!

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What's up? This is your boy Lil Duval and check out my podcast, Conversations with Unk, on the Black Effect Podcast Network. Each and every Tuesday, Conversations with Unk Podcasts feature casuals and in-depth talk about ebbs and flows of life and the pursuit of happiness. Unlike my work on stage, I tap into a more serious and sensitive side to give life advice and simply offer words of encouragement, yet remind folks to never forget to laugh. Every Tuesday, listen to Conversations with Unk hosted by Lil Duval on the Black Effect Podcast Network, iHeartRadio app, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Presented by AT&T, connecting changes everything. From BBC Radio 4, Britain's biggest paranormal podcast is going on a road trip. I thought in that moment, oh my god, we've summoned something from this board. This is Uncanny USA.

He says somebody's in the house and I screamed. Listen to Uncanny USA wherever you get your BBC podcasts, if you dare. Okay, round two. Name something that's not boring. A laundry?

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Join today and play for free for your chance to redeem some serious prizes. This is Lee Habib with Our American Stories, and you're about to hear the story of a guitarist extraordinaire, Tommy Tedesco, a member of a group of the most sought-after musicians in the world, dubbed The Wrecking Crew. Tommy played on thousands of recordings from the 1960s to 80s, many of them top 20 hits you know. Yet, he never earned the household name status he deserved. He was, as one critic said, the most famous guitarist you've never heard of. Tommy's son, filmmaker Denny Tedesco, sought to fix this and made the movie The Wrecking Crew, a terrific documentary about his father and the other musicians who made up this remarkable band.

Let's begin with Denny Tedesco, a great tribute by a son to a father. In the 1960s, there were a group of studio musicians in Los Angeles that became known as The Wrecking Crew. Now, I call them the melting pot of America's pop music. Italians, Jews, Irish, black, classically trained, jazz musicians, country musicians, hillbilly, and one woman. Now, together for a few years in the mid-1960s, they ruled the Billboard charts with their recordings. They were a hidden secret among music buyers and listeners, but they were revered by artists, producers, and engineers. If a pop artist recorded in LA in the 1960s, most likely many of these, if not all these studio musicians, were involved in the recording.

They recorded with the Beach Boys, Elvis, Fit Dimension, The Birds, Jana Deen, Mamas and Papas, The Monkees, Frank and Nancy Sinatra, Sam Cooke, The Ronettes, Righteous Brothers, and so many more. Why am I telling you this story? Well, one of those Italian guitar players, Tommy Tedesco, was my father.

My name is Denny Tedesco. Some of the other voices you will hear comes from the documentary The Wrecking Crew. But before I tell you more about my father and his friends, you need to know what came before to lead up to their success. In the 1950s and early 60s, the music scene was changing and rock and roll couldn't be ignored. As generations and cultures clashed, so did the music. In 1960, rock and roll was at its infancy and there was doubt among the parents and the older generation that the music would even last.

Even record companies would take their time putting their toes into the rock and roll pool. One of the first changes in the record world was in the 1950s. There was a transition from the 78 rpm record format to the 45 rpm, which really represented the pop recording.

In 1958, the 45 disc replaced the 78 completely. The first time you'll hear the term Top 40 is in 1960. Here, producer Snuff Garrett tell the story. Todd's story is a day drinker and he would sit in this local bar and sit there all day and drink. One day, after a year or so, he thought he was sitting there thinking about how many records are on that jukebox because everybody plays the same five or six records all the time. He went over and looked and there was 100 records on the jukebox and he thought out of the 100 records, why do they keep playing those five or six all the time, you know? And then he figured out that and said, well, maybe people just want to hear the hits.

They don't want to hear this or that or whatever. They want to hear the same songs over and over. So he and Gordon McClendon talked on the phone and invented Top 40 radio. With radio featuring top hit singles, there was a demand for product and record companies needed to supply that demand. Now you have to realize the main commercial pop recordings were coming out of New York, Nashville, Detroit, London in the late 50s and early 60s. LA had a very established recording business, but it was really overshadowed by the film business.

Here is producer Lou Adler to tell you more. I mean, they didn't recognize what was happening in LA music to film people. It was much later that they started to even think about this would be a good soundtrack to have, you know, we can not only have a film that has good grosses, we can make money on the soundtrack. I think they didn't respect the music business for a very long time even when it was successful in LA. The recording studio musicians of the time were keeping busy but not so much by the pop scene.

Movie and television soundtracks kept many employed and the west coast jazz scene became to be known as the cool sound. But things started to change when artists like Sam Cooke, Janet Dean, the Beach Boys and Phil Spector started to have hits in the early 1960s. Labels started to see the tide turn so they started signing new acts.

Like any business you want to make sure you don't overextend on a budget and put the odds of success in your favor. And the music business at the time did exactly that. Many of the artists in the early 1960s were singers so the labels would hire producers who turned around and hired session musicians to record the music.

So in comes a generation of musicians that were hungry to break into the studio scene. As I said earlier, they came from all kinds of backgrounds. My father came from Niagara Falls, New York with my mom and older brother in 1953.

Here's a clip of my mother telling this story. We went to the prom and Ralph Martire was playing the dance and found out that their guitar player was leaving that night and he tried out, auditioned and he was hired right then and there. It was on a Friday night and a Saturday night he left for New York City.

Tell the truth. Okay, he got let go. Martire was going to get a guitar singer so that he could only pay for one guy.

He decided he knew there was nothing there in Niagara Falls for him. He wanted to go to California to play. While my father struggled to find work playing guitar, he had to make ends meet working in a warehouse. He always said it was the best job he ever had.

He hated it so much and made him practice every day. I was told by two guys before we left, he's never going to make it. So after seven months of struggling here, daddy wanted to go back and I said there's no way because I wasn't giving in to those two guys.

And that's what dad said, my stubborn Sicilian wife. And you're listening to Denny Tedesco tell the story of his father, Tommy Tedesco. We continue with this remarkable story and a remarkable tribute by a son to a father here on Our American Stories. Folks, if you love the great American stories we tell and love America like we do, we're asking you to become a part of the Our American Stories family. If you agree that America is a good and great country, please make a donation.

A monthly gift of $17.76 is fast becoming a favorite option for supporters. Go to now and go to the donate button and help us keep the great American stories coming. That's From BBC Radio 4, Britain's biggest paranormal podcast is going on a road trip. I thought in that moment, oh my God, we've summoned something from this board. This is Uncanny USA.

He says somebody's in the house and I screamed. Listen to Uncanny USA wherever you get your BBC podcasts, if you dare. This show is sponsored by BetterHelp. We all carry around different stressors in our lives, big ones and small ones.

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BetterHelp, slash OAS. And we continue with our American stories. And now let's return to Danny Tedesco. While my father struggled to find work playing guitar, he had to make ends meet working in a warehouse. He always said it was the best job he ever had. He hated it so much and made him practice every day. In fact, my wife was behind me 100%. Never complained. My wife accepted it. This was our living. Our whole family took it exactly that way. Every once in a while, a musician's wife would come and complain to her, and she'd talk to them.

She'd say, well, look, this is living. I was very jealous of the guitar when we were first dating and got engaged. And he paid a lot more attention to the guitar I felt. So I gave him an ultimatum. It's me or the guitar. And he said, honey, the guitar doesn't have legs.

You do. He got so upset with him. I took my ring and I threw it at him.

And I went looking for it. So my father, who was a gambler, drove cross country with his family. With very little money in their pockets, it was the greatest gamble of his life that paid off. Many of the other musicians that became known as Wrecking Crew were Hal Blaine, Earl Palmer, Jim Gordon on drums, Don Randi, Leon Russell, Hal DeLore, Larry Nectle on piano. On bass were Joe Osborne, Ray Polman, Carol Kay, Lyle Ritz, and other guitarists that sat alongside my father included Glenn Campbell, Bill Pittman, Barney Kessel, Lou Morale, Billy Strange, and many others. The Wrecking Crew wasn't a band per se.

Each individual was hired as individuals. Here is Hal Blaine, Tommy Tedesco, and the engineers from Gold Star, Larry Levine, Dave Gold, and Stan Ross, talking about the genesis of the name. You know, all the guys that had been in the studios, God bless them all, for 20, 30 years, they all wore the blue blazers, the neckties, and there was no talking, no smoking, and no nothing.

And we came in there with Levi's and t-shirts, smoking cigarettes, whatever. And the older guys were saying, they're going to wreck the business. You know, they are going to wreck the music business. Well, that's how that whole Wrecking Crew thing came in. Even though the term the Wrecking Crew gained popularity with rock historians, many of these musicians never heard the term until years later. There were a few reasons the older guys were putting it down. Remember, many of the established studio musicians were from the old school big bands, and they were busy working in lucrative careers in soundtracks. When the label started pushing some of the younger acts, they would create demos first. Now, the older musicians want to take a chance on taking a demo session because it was illegal in the views of the musician union.

Why take a chance when you're working on a movie for a three-hour gig that paid less? But for some of the younger guys, it was an opportunity to get involved with new producers and new artists. Once these guys became so in demand, from that point on, most of the recordings became legit union dates. One of the producers who hired these guys was Phil Spector when he moved back to the West Coast.

That seems to be the anchor that changed so much for the musicians as well as the music scene. Here are the voices of Hal Blaine, Carole Kay, Plaz Johnson, and Cher talking about Phil Spector. Hello, let's go. Let's make one more, huh? One, two, three. One, two, one, two, three. Well, it was wall-to-wall musicians, first of all. Most people used a four-piece rhythm section. He had four guitars, or six, or seven. There were four pianos always, one upright bass, one Fender bass. I mean, there was only one drums, usually.

Fifteen people playing percussion instruments. In a very small room. Yeah. A small room, but an average room. And a huge echo chamber that Goldstar was famous for. Ceramic. That was the wall.

Ceramic walls. Philip was walking in a different universe than everybody else. And so in his mind, it was all him.

And the guys were just some sort of an extension of what he couldn't do. Phil loved jazz guitars. So in the guitar section, he would have my father, Barney Kessel, Bill Pittman, Carol Kay, Howard Roberts, and a few others. Phil could be hard to get along with for many, but my father seemed to be able to deal with him in his own way. Here's my father talking about his first time working with Phil. It was the first time I'd been hearing Phil Spector's name with all the guys.

I didn't know anything about him. All I know is that we worked for him. So I went on this job. It was like group therapy.

Yeah. And all of a sudden, I worked for about a half hour, an hour. There was no break.

Little long. Finally says, Hey, when do you take a break here? Everybody looked at me like I'm nuts saying this to Phil. You know, I'm looking at Phil. When do we take a break here?

Yeah. He says, when I'm in New York. Kenny Burrell never asked for a time. I said, Oh, you're starting that New York s**t. That's all. You were his friend for life. But it was real funny. Like I was the only one that ever must have talked to him like this. So after that, it's okay.

Take a break. And the next thing, you know, I was like a friend of his. I was doing, he says, you want to go out for coffee?

He never asked nobody for coffee. I'm going with him and his body card. Here's a telegram that Phil sent my father in the mid sixties. When Phil traveled to New York, I was in my New York hotel room changing channels. When I came across the Lawrence Welk show and what do I see? Two beady Sicilian eyes in the band. What is a hip Hollywood guitar player doing on the Lawrence Welk show? My father turned around and sent a telegram back. His response was, what is a hip Hollywood producer watching Lawrence Welk for?

The gravy train was moving fast and he didn't turn anything down. Many times, if a new band was going into the studio, the producer would still use these session musicians. They usually weren't allowed to play on the album because studio time was expensive and the producers had to make sure that they could get in and get out with the recording. Now recording technology in the early sixties didn't allow for mistakes. If you had 10 to 15 players in a room, they all had to nail their parts.

There were no computers helping you punch in. If you made a mistake, they would just start from the beginning and go for it. Glen Campbell described it like this. He said, it was like playing with Michael Jordan, but everybody in the room was a Michael Jordan. One of these groups that had their instruments stripped from them at the door were the Birds when they recorded Mr. Tambourine Man.

Here's Roger McGuinn telling us the story. Terry Milch wanted to use session musicians for Mr. Tambourine Man. I'd been a studio musician in New York prior to being in the Birds, so they let me play on it.

So my feeling was great. I get to play with this great band, the record crew. Of course, the other guys, David Crosby and Michael Clark and Chris Hillman were livid. They hated the idea because they didn't get to play on their own record. We got a number one hit with it right off the bat, but we knocked out two tracks in one three-hour session. To compare that with what happened when the rest of the band got to play, it took us 77 takes to get the band track for Turn, Turn, Turn, which was also number one. Here's Carole Kay and my father. Here's the way that the beat goes on, the sound of when we first heard it.

I said, uh-oh, we need to pull a rabbit out of the hat for this one. It was our job to come up with riffs and stuff, so about the third line I came up with was... And Sonny loved it, and he gave it to Bob West, the bass player, to play it, and both of us are playing it throughout the tune. And without a good bass line, the tune doesn't pop, you know, it doesn't snap, you know, like a big hit record. I've always said they put notes on paper. They put notes on paper, but that's not music. You make the music. What do you do with the notes? What do you do with the charts? What do you do with the chords?

Other than that, they can call a union for a guitar. That's right. So it's what you put into it, because how many days... In fact, we're all here. It's what you put into it that's not written. Yeah. Well, in fact, everybody that's sitting here, I remember doing different things that weren't ever even thought about, and then all of a sudden become part of the record and part of the signature record. We all used to produce our own parts.

It's that simple. To make it play, yeah. I'll never forget working with Gary Luce and his playboys doing all of them records.

Sure. And I'll never forget I had one real, real hot lick on this one record, Spanish stuff all over the place. And finally, his guitar player come up to me, he says, you drove me crazy with that thing. First of all, I can't play it, so I don't play it. And then everybody comes up to me complimenting me on what I did on it.

I said, well, just take the confidence and forget it. And you're listening to Denny Tedesco celebrating and honoring his father, more of Tommy Tedesco's story brought to us by his son, Denny, here on Our American Stories. I'm Katja Adler, host of The Global Story. Over the last 25 years, I've covered conflicts in the Middle East, political and economic crises in Europe, drug cartels in Mexico. Now I'm covering the stories behind the news all over the world in conversation with those who break it. Join me Monday to Friday to find out what's happening, why, and what it all means.

Follow The Global Story from the BBC wherever you listen to podcasts. phone on Do Not Disturb. Tuning out all the constant, just the feeling of warm sand in between your toes and a fruity drink in your hand.

The ones with the little umbrella. Refresh your home to feel like an all-inclusive vacation by getting Clorox Scentiva. Also available in grapefruit and lavender scents at a nearby retail store. Zoomo Play is your destination for endless entertainment. With a diverse lineup of 350 plus live channels, movies, and full TV series, you'll easily find something to watch right away.

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No logins, no signups, no accounts, no hassle. So what are you waiting for? Start streaming at or download from the app and Google Play stores today.

All you can stream with Zoomo Play. And we continue with our American stories and Denny Tedesco's story of his father, guitarist Tommy Tedesco. Here's Wrecking Crew bassist Carol Kay to continue with this remarkable story.

We learned how to play rock and roll right there on the job. Hey, you know, if they want this, I can do it. You know, that's Latin, that's Latin music. That's nothing.

You can do that all day long. Here's producer Bones Howe, Glenn Campbell, Brian Wilson, Hal Blaine, Earl Palmer and Dick Clark. These are the guys that played on Wendy and Never My Love and Everything That Touches You and all the things that were in those those two albums that I did with them. Those are all those studio musicians.

It's Hal Cho, Larry, Tommy and those guys. I wanted to put their names on the back of the album when it was finished and they wouldn't let me because they said, well, we don't want those kids out there that buy our records to know that we didn't play on the record. I went out and took Brian's place with the Beach Boys and I can understand probably why Brian had just a few guys come in because there's a lot of them that fight like cats and dogs, man.

Rather than Brian to go through the hassle to get the tracks, he would hire the rhythm section to come in and do the tracks. Well, the guys, well, they at first they were a little jealous, you know what I mean? But I explained to them, I said, you know, I want to get the best I can get for the group.

And they go, well, I can understand your point, Brian, you know? So we went ahead and did it. And sure enough, the guys liked it.

And that's one of the most asked questions. Well, didn't Dennis get mad? Wasn't he mad because you were doing the Beach Boys records? Dennis did not have the studio chops that we had. You know, the proof of the pudding is that Dennis called me to do his album when Dennis did his solo album.

I played the drums. A lot of times the guys would be sitting around the studio. We didn't know that there were guys in the band. The guitar players that were in these various groups, when they realized guys like Tom and Tedesco was going to be playing, they wanted to sit around and watch. And the drummers would want to sit around and watch myself or Al. They were there like more or less they were learning.

You know, it would be something that I'd like to see, too, if it had been the other way around. Nobody cared. All they wanted was the product. They just wanted the name and the sales.

Who created it? She. That was incidental. My father would say there are only four reasons to take a gig.

For the money, for the connections, for the experience, or just for fun. I got to tell you a story about your dad. We were in Western Studio 3 there. And Jan Berry of Jan and Dean, he counted the song. Everybody ready? OK. Tedesco started playing.

And Jan's to stop. Wait. He went over and looked and he said, Tedesco, what are you doing? Tommy, the music was upside down and Tommy was reading it backwards. Now, that's a true story.

But you talk about getting a laugh out of it. Tommy was a cut up. A session or recording date, as they called it, would be three hours long. Now, the musicians would go to work many times, not knowing what they were recording or whom they were recording with. Most of the time, the music was just written out. But many times they would have to come up with ideas that worked for a song. In 1968, Jimmy Webb gave my father a charm, modeled like a tiny Grammy Award as a thank you gift.

My father asked, what is this for? Jimmy told them it was for winning the Grammy for Up Up and Away with the Fifth Dimension. My father didn't even realize he was on the track. Now, you have to realize, when they went to work, they were given sheet music and then they would just start playing. The songs weren't hits yet, just another tune. Many times they would just record tracks and the vocals would be laid in later. If you look at my father's workbooks from the 60s, he was working three to four recordings a day. Now, the union allowed them to record only three to four songs per three hours. So you can imagine the amount of music they were given.

So to remember what was recorded the week before could be very difficult. Now, many people assume it was like one big hoot nanny and jam session at my house growing up. It was actually just the opposite. I never saw my father pick up his guitar to practice or play at home until the 70s when he was doing his own jazz records. The last thing he wanted to do was to play or even listen to music when he came home.

He didn't need to practice. He was working 12 hours a day. I knew my father went to work playing guitar, but I never comprehended how different that was to other kids' dads and moms.

Other friends' dads went to work with hammers and saws in their trucks. In my dad's trunk, it was packed with a Fender Telecaster, steel string acoustic, a classical, a mandolin, a banjo, a 12-string, and an amp. A trick my father would use when it came to getting all those oddball guitar gigs was listing himself on multiple guitar sections in the union book. If a composer asked his contractor to see who played Bela Laika or Bazooki, they would look into the union book and see many unknown Greek and Russian names.

And then they come across Tedesco. Now, my father did play all those instruments. The difference was he tuned every one of them like a guitar. If you played more than one guitar on a session, you were paid more.

It was called doubling. The first guitar was 100%, the second 50%, and the others were 25% of the session rate. One day, my father was recording the show The Love Boat, which was traveling through the Mediterranean. So he was in hog heaven working with various guitars. One of the violinists in the orchestra called out sarcastically to Tommy, Tommy, do you even know the names of those instruments?

He stood up and picked each one up and proudly said, yep, 100%, 50%, 25%, and so on. Here's my father at a seminar in 1983 at Musicians Institute, talking about Spanish guitar. Let me give you what I call the creative studio guitar player. About a year ago, I got the call to do a John Denver special. It was John Denver in Mexico and they wanted some, he was on a fishing vessel and they wanted some Mexican music.

So I give them this. I got a call to Charlie's Angels, they were in Puerto Rico. They wanted Puerto Rican music, so I give them this.

Starskiing Hutch was in a big revolt in Bolivia, I want to show you. They wanted Bolivian music. The record industry started to change in the late 1960s. Technology changed, which allowed more tracks, which gave a lot more leeway for producing. Bands were self-sufficient and soon it was about the singer-songwriter era. The artists had more to say in the production of the music and many times they brought their own players.

But in the 1970s came around, many of the Wrecking Crew players went in different directions. Some went on the road with various artists and groups and some went into teaching. My father's career was extended well into the 80s working on television and film scores. Someone asked him in an interview a few years before he passed, what piece of music would you want to be remembered for? Sure, he played on some iconic guitar leaves like Batman theme, Green Acres, Bonanza, and worked with everyone from Frank Sinatra and Elvis to the Beach Boys and the Mamas and Papas. But many times any of the other eight guitar players could have recorded the same pieces. But what he was most proud of was some of the films he worked on with the great composers. John Williams, James Horner, Jerry Goldsmith, Bill Conti, Henry Mancini and others.

Many times John Williams or James Horner would put a hold on him a couple months in advance. That's when he knew he made it. And you're listening to Denny Tedesco telling the remarkable story of his dad, honoring his dad. And we thank Denny for doing all this work. Check out the DVD and other Wrecking Crew items like CDs, books, and other merchandise at and use the discount code AmericanStory. Watch this documentary, folks. It is American music from 1960 to 1980 and a lot of stories you didn't get to hear here. More of Denny Tedesco honoring his father, Tommy, here on Our American Stories.

podcast is going on a road trip. I thought in that moment, oh my God, we've summoned something from this board. This is Uncanny USA. He says somebody's in the house and I screamed.

Listen to Uncanny USA wherever you get your BBC podcasts, if you dare. Being transported to a tropical island retreat. Imagine putting your phone on Do Not Disturb, tuning out all the constant, just the feeling of warm sand in between your toes and a fruity drink in your hand.

The ones with the little umbrella. Refresh your home to feel like an all-inclusive vacation by getting Clorox Scentiva, also available in grapefruit and lavender scents at a nearby retail store. Zoomo Play is your destination for endless entertainment. With a diverse lineup of 350 plus live channels, movies, and full TV series, you'll easily find something to watch right away.

And the best part? It's all free. Love music? Get lost in the 90s with iHeart 90s, dance away with hip hop beats, and more on the iHeart radio music channels. No logins, no signups, no accounts, no hassle. So what are you waiting for? Start streaming at or join the conversation on YouTube. or download from the app and Google Play stores today.

All you can stream with Zoomo Play. And we continue with Denny Tedesco's tribute to his father, Tommy, here on Our American Stories. Now let's return to Denny Tedesco for this final installment of this remarkable tribute. He used to say, I play for smiles. If a leader or the artist is smiling, I'm doing my job.

I might play something I think is better suited. But in the end, if he isn't smiling, I better think of something else. Father used to say there's music and then there's the music business.

Sometimes they mix, but not always. He said he was the luckiest guy in the world. He never thought he'd make a living at his instrument. He always felt you're a part of a minority as a working musician. And then he became part of a smaller minority, making a living as a session musician. When he was asked if he should have been paid more for his contributions, he would say, I worked on hundreds of hits, but I worked on thousands of bombs. So I never gave the guy that had the bomb his money back.

So it all worked out. In 1993, my father had a stroke that basically ended his career as a guitar player. It was devastating. He survived and he came back, but his right hand wasn't the same. He still picked up the guitar, but he would never record again.

The last movie he worked on was Schindler's List. In 1996, my father was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. They gave him less than a year.

We were stunned as a family, but not surprised. My dad had quit smoking in 1980, but my father smoked three packs a day. He didn't really drink and he hated drugs. He wasn't philosophically opposed if others participated, but he never liked being out of control or not mentally sharp. But he had his vices. They were the cigarettes, the pasta, the coffee, and the gambling.

Many times he could do all four at the same time. Before this diagnosis, I played around with the idea to tell the story about the musicians of the 60s. So when my dad was diagnosed, I realized if I didn't make a move quickly, I would never have the chance to tell that story. At this point in my life, I was working on IMAX films as a grip coordinator. I wasn't a director, but I knew my friends and my wife, Susie, who was a producer, would be there to support my dream of telling the story. Now, the first day of shooting, I brought together drummer Hal Blaine, bassist Carol Kaye, saxophone player Plaz Johnson, and my dad. It was the first time probably in 25 years that all four had been in the room together.

I was shooting 16-millimeter film and I had two cameras on two dollies constantly circling. I was in heaven. They sat at the round table and they just started talking. I would throw out a couple of questions and they would just go from there. You have to realize the only time I really ever saw my father's friends were at poker games, golf games, or parties.

I never went to work with my dad. So when I brought the four of these characters together, it was magic. The stories, the laughter, the teasing, the joking was amazing.

It was still early in my father's disease, so he still had a lot of energy and spunk. It played out exactly like I envisioned it that day. One of the boys.

One of the boys. One of the guys, yeah. The sexual harassment suits were in there. She'd be seven millionaires right now after what we put her through.

She'd have all the lawyers working for her. I don't think anyone ever really felt that she was a woman-woman, and I don't mean that detrimentally. No, we were musicians. Yeah.

Everything was music, music really. Worse than that would have been shutting her out and not sharing the camaraderie. People ask me all the time about being a woman in the man's world. I felt equal with the rest of the guys, and they felt it too. Sometimes they got a little tested. They'd say, oh, you play good for a girl. Yeah, you play good for a guy too. I love musicians and the humor and the way that they play, and they all knew that. And I think it was like a sister having a sister there. Dad passed a few months later.

He never got to see one minute of the film. After he passed, I continued interviewing anyone that I was able to get to. The hardest part in making a documentary is getting past the gatekeepers. The gatekeeper's job is to stop folks like me.

I'm asking them to give me 30 minutes to an hour of an interview. Now that's a dream, by the way, to sit down and let me ask them questions for no money. But if I could get past the gatekeeper and get to the artist through the back door, I knew I had a chance of major interviews. So you have to realize that these major stars like Cher, Brian Wilson, and others were only kids when they were working with my father and his friends. So they looked up to the musicians, nothing but fond memories. People always ask me if I received any financial help from others in the making of the film.

Other than family, I say no. But I did actually get help from Wells Fargo, Countrywide, American Express, P of A, and other financial institutions who were more than willing to give me credit. Cards and refi's, well, that turned into a disaster. Soon the market crashed and I had a load of debt with nothing to show for it, but a bunch of interviews.

I don't recommend making any film this way. Now there were all kinds of ideas how to trim the budget. People who hadn't seen the film came up with ideas that started from the practical to the absurd. Some would say just use less songs, use 20 instead of 110. But what does the Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra, The Birds, Fit Dimension, Sam Cooke, and the Chipmunks have in common? Some of the same musicians. So you need to show the quantity of music that was coming out of LA at the time. As I say, I had to show quantity, not necessarily quality. At this point, my wife Susie was concerned we made the most expensive home movie ever.

And that's where it was in 2006. So we had to go for it. We hired an editor producer Claire Scanlon to come in and help us put the film together. Claire and I cut the first 30 minutes together and showed it to our friend Grady Cooper, who looked at it and made a very stinging comment. His comment was, hey, it's good, but why are you making this story? What I just saw in this cut, any of us could do this. What he meant was I wasn't taking advantage of something I was avoiding, the connection to the film, my father.

And I was avoiding that fact. My ego was getting to me. I wanted to be known as the director, not the son of the subject. I finally gave in and it changed everything from that point on. Finally, in 2014, I paid everyone off and was finally picked up by Magnolia Pictures.

It screened in theaters around the world and was on Netflix and continues to play on Hulu, YouTube, and other platforms. Someone asked me if I learned anything about my father in the making of this. While many stories I heard sometimes sounded like folklore, musicians would always describe a recording as if it was like a legendary World Series game. With an orchestra playing and my father had the lead, he would play a hard piece of music as if he owned it and wrote it himself. It made me very proud. But one of my favorite stories I would like to leave you with says it all. This came from one of the greatest bass players in the world, Chuck Rainey. A few years after my father passed, I went to interview Chuck who told me this story.

I had never heard it before. We're at Fox, recording the music for these four segments of MASH. In one of the titles, he wrote something in the ledger lines on the bass clef, which has always been somewhat of my weakness. So we start recording and we get to this part and I make a mistake. I flub it. Tommy goes... Now I knew who he was.

Wow, I'm glad that somebody else made a mistake rather than me. Run it back and they say, Tommy, are you all right? Tommy said... And he was Tommy Tedesco.

So I said, somebody else had a problem with this. Run the tape back, start it again. We get to the same place and I make a mistake. Again, on this particular part, Tommy goes... And so the producer says, Tommy, all right. He says, okay, I'm going... And he turns to me and he says, that's the last time. And I realized that he's doing me a favor. He's hearing me mess it up.

He did this twice and put it on him. And so on the break, we go to the break room. And he says, man, I'm Tedesco, Tommy Tedesco. He says, you know, it's great to work with you. I heard a lot about you. And he says, don't get scared.

And he says, fear does that. And thanks for saving me. He said, no problem at all, man.

No problem at all. You know, you're a good player. You're here for a reason because it's a first call band. You know, you're here for a reason. And I remember I got in my car going back home. I said, what a nice gesture for a real nice guy to do that for me.

You know, because I've seen other people really come down hard on other musicians, especially if they were new. But it's just so kind the way he went. I realized that I'm very lucky. I had a great relationship with my dad.

Sometimes you wouldn't think so. We would argue all the time. I'm not sure about what, but we both knew how to push each other's buttons. But as soon as he was diagnosed with cancer, we never argued again. Just a few weeks before he passed away, he said to me, you know, the stroke came at the right time in my life.

I knew exactly what he meant. The phone had stopped ringing and his day as the LA session king came to an end. But now he had an excuse of why the phone didn't ring. And it wasn't something that he had control over. Now, if I learned anything from my father, it was to always give more than you take.

I mean, he loved his family and friends, and he would always help the younger guitar players knowing it was just a matter of time before they would take his place, just like he took someone else's place 40 years earlier. Miss you, Dad. And a special thanks to Denny Tedesco for that beautiful story honoring his father, Tommy Tedesco. Check out the DVD and other Wrecking Crew items like CDs, books, and other merchandise at and use the discount code American story. That's discount code American story at By the way, as he put it, what turned into the most expensive home movie ever made to this remarkable film on Magnolia Pictures, Netflix and available online is the insight that he needed to do a movie as a son and not as some auteur or some artist.

And it changed everything. And my goodness, to have a dad like this, there are two kinds of dads, folks, and I'll say it over and over again, the dad who gets a documentary or a story like this from a son and the dad who doesn't. This is our American stories. From BBC Radio 4, Britain's biggest paranormal podcast is going on a road trip. And I thought in that moment, oh, my God, we've summoned something from this board. This is Uncanny USA. He says somebody's in the house and I screamed. Listen to Uncanny USA wherever you get your BBC podcasts, if you dare.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-20 04:27:09 / 2024-05-20 04:45:30 / 18

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