One of my favorite Presidential quotes of all time is from Harry Truman. He said,
“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”
Nonetheless, people deserve credit when they do important things, and trying to encourage the culture to not only give credit but also to remember and honor those deserving it across generations is a frequent theme of this blog. The Ethics Alarms Heroes Hall of Fame is one expression of this theme. This post is another.
I was reminded of The Wrecking Crew when Glen Campbell died, and recently, when I heard old Monkee Mickey Dolenz in a recent interview. Cambell was the most famous alumni of the studio band, which had many members over the years. Dolenz was a member of the group that was its most famous beneficiary, although The Byrds were also famously represented by The Wrecking Crew in their first hit record, “Mr. Tambourine Man.”
It has always amazed me how little this loosely organized band of brilliant studio musicians is known outside of the music business and the rock and pop trivia nerds. The Wrecking Crew was significantly involved in much of the greatest pop music recorded from the late 1950s to the mid 1970’s. Their musical contributions are indistinguishable and inseparable from the those of the famous singers and groups they backed, and yet fame and credit, as well as sufficient honors, have been elusive.
If people have heard of them at all, the Wrecking Crew is known for “ghosting” the accompaniments for the Monkees’ first two albums. However, its studio band work was far more extensive than that. They were, for example, the creators of Phil Specter’s “Wall of Sound”: in the early years, they were sometimes credited on Specter discs as occasionally credited as “the Phil Spector Wall of Sound Orchestra.” They played under other names too, or no names at all. The nickname “The Wrecking Crew” became public when it was used by drummer and member drummer and member Hal Blaine in his 1990 memoir, “Hal Blaine and the Wrecking Crew”; they also sometimes called themselves “The Clique.” Blaine, Campbell and keyboardist Leon Russell are the most famous members; some of the better known studio musicians that formed the backbone of the Crew’s ranks were drummer Earl Palmer, saxophonist Steve Douglas, guitarist Tommy Tedesco, and bassist Carol Kaye, as well as versatile Larry Knechtel, later a member of Bread.
I checked Wikipedia for a list of the hits The Wrecking Crew played on and made into the classics they are. Here were some of them. Continue reading