The Wrecking Crew

Dalester, Going Postal
Leon Russell pictured in 1970, the year he became a solo recording artist
Shelter/Blue Thumb Records / Public domain


“The Wrecking Crew was a loose collective of session musicians based in Los Angeles whose services were employed for thousands of studio recordings in the 1960s and 1970s, including several hundred Top 40 hits. The musicians were not publicly recognised in their era, but were viewed with reverence by industry insiders. They are now considered one of the most successful and prolific session recording units in music history.”

First, a trailer:

There does not seem to be a definitive list of recordings that the Wreaking Crew played on, however, Hal Blaine said in an interview that he had played drums on over 6000 recordings! The Wrecking Crew who became famous for giving the world the Phil Spector “wall of Sound” , were the backing group for most of the Beach Boys recordings including the seminal “Pet Sounds” album and were the the musicians who made 4 actors,The Monkees, famous. They were though, reluctant to put their names to any of the recordings preferring the ability to switch from studio to studio and from artist to artist without ever becoming exclusively attached to or even associated with any of them.

The Crew was an interchangeable group which featured not just session players but a number of players who went on to become stars in their own right. Probably the most stellar being one Glen Travis Campbell who, following the success of “Wichita Lineman” was reluctant to start doing concerts because he was earning too much money playing on as many as 4 records a day travelling around the many recording studios of Los Angeles.

The list of number 1 hits that relied on the Wrecking Crew started in 1962 with the Crystals “He’s a Rebel”and their last Number 1 was in 1975, the Captain and Tennille hit “Love Will Keep Us Together”.  Altogether they racked up 31 US number one hits and 11 UK number one’s, the following being number one hits in both the US and the UK:

The Righteous Brothers “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’

“The Byrds “Mr Tambourine Man”,

“I got You Babe” Sonny and Cher,

“Good Vibrations” The Beach Boys,

“Strangers in the Night” Frank Sinatra,

“These Boots Are Made For Walking” Nancy Sinatra,

“Somthin’ Stupid” Frank and Nancy Sinatra,

“Dizzy” Tommy Roe,

“Bridge Over Troubled Water” Simon and Garfunkel.

A full list of their most prominent recordings can be seen here:

Strangely, the decline in the popularity of “top 40” hits in the US particularly was thought by many to be the result of one of their greatest creations “MacArthur Park”. The theory is that the length of the Richard Harris MacArthur Park recording was a breakthrough for a new era of radio stations for whom the “top 40” was no longer the critical musical element They were able to play longer tracks, many written and performed by bands that could actually play their instruments and who had clauses in their contracts that enabled them to do so. The Era of the 3 minute “pop” song was coming to an end and over the next few years the Wrecking Crew was employed individually more than as a unit, although most of them continued to work whenever their individual skills were needed. Their credits can be found on films, TV shows and commercials galore.

Names easily recognised alongside Glen Campbell include the aforementioned drummer Hal Blaine, guitarist Tommy Tedesco, described by Guitar Magazine as the most recorded guitarist in history and whose  playing credits include the theme from television’s Bonanza, The Twilight Zone, Batman, The French Connection, The Godfather, Jaws, The Deer Hunter and Field of Dreams.

And for the guitar aficionados:

Bassist Carol Kaye who played on an estimated 10,000 recordings in a 50 year career, too many to list but her bass guitar work can be heard on literally 100s of hit records. She also created a definitive set of bass guitar tutorials.

Guitarist Louie Shelton whose credits include working with; Marvin Gaye, Simon and Garfunkel, Stevie Wonder, Boz Scaggs, Gladys Knight & the Pips, the Jackson 5, Neil Diamond, John Lennon, Barbra Streisand, The Carpenters, the Mamas & the Papas, Glen Campbell, Ella Fitzgerald, the Partridge Family, James Brown, Diana Ross,  Whitney Houston, Joe Cocker, Kenny Rogers and Henry Mancini.

Drummer Earl Palmer: Frank Sinatra, Phil Spector, Ricky Nelson, Bobby Vee, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Eddie Cochran, Ritchie Valens, Bobby Day, Don and Dewey, Jan and Dean, the Beach Boys, Larry Williams, Gene McDaniels, Bobby Darin, Neil Young, The Pets, The Byrds when they were still known as The Beefeaters and B. Bumble and the Stingers

Keyboardist Leon Russell, here being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Elton John

Barney Kessell, famous for his work with Artie Shaw and Charlie Barnet’s Orchestras and as a member of the Oscar Peterson trio

Harmonica Player Tommy Morgan who played on over 500 film themes.

Pianist Don Randi who played on hits by Nancy Sinatra, the Beach Boys, The Jackson 5, Elvis Presley, Sammy Davis Jr., Neil Diamond, and Linda Ronstadt

The Wrecking Crew with Glen Campbell

Behind the Sounds, Wouldn’t it be Nice (Crew recording in the studio)


© Dalester 2020