The Wrecking Crew (music)

For the documentary film about these musicians, see The Wrecking Crew (2008 film).

The Wrecking Crew

Members of the Wrecking Crew employed for a session at Gold Star Studios in the 1960s. Seated left to right: Don Randi, Al De Lory, Carol Kaye, Bill Pitman, Tommy Tedesco, Irving Rubins, Roy Caton, Jay Migliori, Hal Blaine, Steve Douglas, and Ray Pohlman.
Background information
Also known as
  • The First Call Gang
  • The Phil Spector Wall of Sound Orchestra
  • The Clique
Origin Los Angeles, California
Genres Pop, rock, R&B
Years active 1960 (1960)s–1970 (1970)s
Past members See below

The Wrecking Crew (sometimes called the Clique or the First Call Gang, occasionally credited as the Phil Spector Wall of Sound Orchestra) was a loose-knit circle of Los Angeles' top studio session musicians whose services were constantly in demand during their heyday in the 1960s and early 1970s. Usually playing collectively in varying configurations, often anonymously, they backed dozens of popular acts on numerous top-selling hits of the era. They are now widely considered one of the most successful session recording units in music history.

The group's ranks began to materialize in the late 1950s, but in the early 1960s they fully coalesced into what became their most recognizable form when they became the de facto house band for Phil Spector, playing on many of the hits that he produced at the time, and contributing to the development of his Wall of Sound production methods. After the initial success of Spector's records, they became the most requested session musicians in Los Angeles, playing behind many popular recording artists such as Jan & Dean, Sonny & Cher, Barry McGuire, the Mamas & the Papas, Frank Sinatra, and Nancy Sinatra. They were sometimes used as "ghost players" on recordings credited to rock groups, such as the Byrds' debut hit rendition of Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" (1965), as well as the first two albums by the Monkees, and several of the Beach Boys' albums, including Pet Sounds (1966) and Smile (album) (recorded 1966/1967).

Though they had no official moniker during their active years, the nickname "the Wrecking Crew" was later popularized by drummer and member Hal Blaine in his 1990 memoir, in which he attributed the origin of the term to disparaging comments made about them in the early 1960s by older musicians who were critical of their embrace of rock & roll. The Wrecking Crew's contributions on so many hit recordings of the era went largely unnoticed until the publication of Blaine's memoir and the subsequent attention that followed.

Keyboardist Leon Russell and guitarist Glen Campbell later became popular solo acts, while Blaine is reputed to have played on over 140 top ten hits (including approximately 40 number one hits). Other musicians that constituted the unit's ranks were drummer Earl Palmer, saxophonist Steve Douglas, guitarist Tommy Tedesco, guitarist and bassist Carol Kaye, as well as keyboardist and multi-instrumentalist Larry Knechtel (later a member of Bread). Two of their members, Blaine and Palmer, were among the inaugural "sidemen" inductees to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2000, while the entire Wrecking Crew was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame in 2007. In 2008, they were the subject of the documentary The Wrecking Crew.


Hal Blaine was one of the "first call" drummers in Los Angeles during the 1960s and early 1970s and is usually credited with popularizing the name "Wrecking Crew".

The name "Wrecking Crew" was popularized by drummer and member Hal Blaine in his 1990 memoir, Hal Blaine and the Wrecking Crew.[1][2][3] Though the unit did not have an official moniker during their years of activity, Blaine has stated that the term was sometimes used disparagingly in the early 1960s by members of the industry's old guard of "coat and tie" session players, who felt that, with their penchant for wearing "t-shirts and jeans" to sessions and their embrace of rock and roll, they were going to "wreck" the music industry.[1] According to biographer Kent Hartman, "Some of the studio musicians I interviewed swear they heard it applied to themselves as early as 1963; others say it was later. One says it was never used at all".[4] Blaine's memoirs, and the attention that followed, cast new light on the Wrecking Crew's role in many famous recordings.[5]

Guitarist and bassist Carol Kaye has disputed Blaine's account of the name and stated, "We were never known as that. Sometimes we were called 'the Clique', but [the Wrecking Crew is] a Hal Blaine invented name for his own self-promotion in 1990 ..." Regarding the matter, Songfacts stated: "We couldn't find any references to 'The Wrecking Crew' in any publications from the era."[3][6] In response to Kaye's contention that Blaine invented the moniker to sell his book, Blaine denied that anyone had ever heard the name "The Clique".[7] Earlier, in the late 1950s, an embryonic version of the group was headed by Ray Pohlman that was sometimes referred to as "the First Call Gang", since they were the musicians many record producers would call first.[8]


Background and context

In the era when the Wrecking Crew was in demand, session players were usually active in local recording scenes concentrated in places such as New York City, Nashville, Memphis, Detroit, and Muscle Shoals, as well as Los Angeles, the Wrecking Crew's base of operations.[9][10][11] Each local scene had its circle of "A-list" session musicians, such as The Nashville A-Team that played on numerous country and rock hits of the era, the two groups of musicians in Memphis, both the Memphis Boys and the musicians who backed Stax/Volt recordings, and the Funk Brothers in Detroit, who played on many Motown recordings.[10][11]and The Swampers in Muscle Shoals.

At the time, multi-tracking equipment, though common, was less elaborate, and instrumental backing tracks were often recorded "hot" with an ensemble playing live in the studio.[12] Musicians had to be available "on call" when producers needed a part to fill a last-minute time slot.[13] Los Angeles was then considered the top recording destination in the United States—consequently studios were constantly booked around the clock, and session time was highly sought after and expensive.[14] Songs had to be recorded quickly in the fewest possible takes.[11][15] In this environment, Los Angeles producers and record executives had little patience for needless expense or wasted time and depended on the service of reliable standby musicians who could be counted on to record in a variety of styles with minimal practice or takes, and deliver hits on short order.[11][13][16] The Wrecking Crew were the "go to" session musicians in Los Angeles during this era.[11][17] The Wrecking Crew's members were musically versatile but typically had formal backgrounds in jazz or classical music, and were exceptional at sight reading.[18] The talents of this group of "first call" players were used on almost every style of recording, including television theme songs, film scores, advertising jingles and almost every genre of American popular music from the Monkees to Bing Crosby.[19]

Several of the Los Angeles recording studios in which the Wrecking Crew regularly appeared were Gold Star Studios, United Western Recorders built by Bill Putnam, Capitol Records' studios located at their tower on Vine Street, Columbia Records' Los Angeles complex, and the RCA recording facility, which was located on Sunset Boulevard near Wallichs Music City, a music store that often supplied instruments for L.A. session players.[20][21] Like all session musicians who worked in Los Angeles, the Wrecking Crew's members belonged to the American Federation of Musicians (AFM), Local 47, which represented their interests in areas such as pay scale and enforcement of regulations.[22]


Guitartist Barney Kessel was one of the earliest members in the Wrecking Crew and recorded with them for years.

The origins of the Wrecking Crew can be traced to the late 1950s with a group headed by bassist and guitarist Ray Pohlman, sometimes referred to as "the First Call Gang".[8] Pohlman became perhaps the first session musician in Los Angeles to use an electric bass in recordings, and by the early 1960s became highly sought after in rock recordings, playing on many of the records by acts such as Jan and Dean and early records by the Beach Boys.[23][24] Earl Palmer was originally from New Orleans and had recorded on many of the Crescent City rhythm and blues classics, such as with Fats Domino, often recorded at Cosimo Matassa's J&M Studio.[25] He moved to Los Angeles in the late 1950s and in the 1960s would play on hit records by a vast array of artists such as Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Glen Campbell, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Paul Anka, Ray Charles, Nat King Cole, the Ronettes, the Everly Brothers, Willie Nelson, Sonny & Cher, and Neil Young. Along with Pohlman and Palmer, some of the early members of the unit in the late 1950s were Barney Kessel, Mel Pollen, Bill Aken (aka Zane Ashton), and Al Casey.[8] Their home base at the time was Hollywood's General Service Studio.[8]

Peak years 1962–73

As Phil Spector's session unit

In 1962, Spector started a new label, Philles Records, and set about recording the song "He's a Rebel", which would be credited to the Crystals.[26] He enlisted the aid of his high-school friend, saxophonist Steve Douglas, who was also working as a consultant paid to recruit session personnel for studios.[26] Douglas helped him corral the backing unit, which included Pohlman, guitarists Howard Roberts and Tommy Tedesco, pianist Al De Lory, upright bassist Jimmy Bond, and Hal Blaine on drums.[26] They booked Studio A at Gold Star Studios, known for its deeply reverberant echo chambers, which became the preferred recording facility for Spector.[26]

Spector's records backed by the Wrecking Crew usually featured arrangements by Jack Nitzsche.[27] For Spector the unit operated under the name "the Phil Spector Wall of Sound Orchestra" and was an essential component in creating his "Wall of Sound" style starting with "He's a Rebel" and a series of several more hits by the Crystals ("Da Doo Ron Ron" and "Then He Kissed Me") and other girl groups, such as the Ronettes ("Be My Baby" and "Baby, I Love You").[26] It was on these recordings that the Wrecking Crew emerged in their most recognizable form and became the most coveted session players in Los Angeles' thriving recording scene.[26] With them, Spector went on to produce other records by the Righteous Brothers ("You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'", "Ebb Tide", and "Unchained Melody") and Ike and Tina Turner ("River Deep – Mountain High").[nb 1]

Choice of producers

The Wrecking Crew proceeded to work with dozens of other producers, such as Brian Wilson, Terry Melcher, Lou Adler, Bones Howe, Jimmy Bowen, and Mike Post.[28] As side players, they were teamed with artists as diverse as Jan & Dean, Bobby Vee, Nancy Sinatra, the Grass Roots, Simon & Garfunkel, Glen Campbell, the Partridge Family, David Cassidy (in his solo work), the Carpenters, John Denver and Nat King Cole.[29] During this heady period the unit worked long hours—15-hour days were not unusual—but they were paid exceedingly well.[30][31] Carol Kaye commented, "I was making more money than the President".[30]

Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys made regular use of the Wrecking Crew in many of their recordings during the 1960s.

Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys produced and co-wrote many of their most famous tracks, and used the Wrecking Crew's talents extensively in the mid-1960s, including on songs such as "Help Me, Rhonda", "California Girls", and "Good Vibrations" as well several of their album projects of the period, including Pet Sounds and the original sessions for Smile.[32][7][33] Members of the Wrecking Crew served as "ghost players" on the first single by the Byrds, "Mr. Tambourine Man", because Columbia Records—namely, producer Terry Melcher—did not feel that the group (except for Roger McGuinn) were seasoned enough to deliver the kind of perfect take needed, particularly in light of the limited time and budget allocated to the newly signed and unproven group—on a label that was only just beginning to embrace rock.[34][35] Lou Adler was one of Los Angeles' top music executives and produced records by acts such as Jan and Dean and the Mamas & the Papas, which were often backed by the Wrecking Crew, as on "California Dreamin'" and "Monday Monday".[36] Bones Howe had worked as an engineer under Adler and used the Wrecking Crew when he produced hits by the Association (including "Windy", "Along Comes Mary", and "Never My Love") and the 5th Dimension (including "Up, Up and Away", "Stoned Soul Picnic", and "Aquarius").[37][30] Sonny and Cher recorded several Wrecking Crew-backed hits including "I Got You Babe" and "The Beat Goes On", which were produced by Sonny Bono, who had previously worked as Phil Spector's aide.[38] Many of Cher's solo records in the 1960s and early 1970s, featured the backing of the Wrecking Crew, such as "Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves" produced by Snuff Garrett in 1971.[39][29] Jimmy Bowen produced Frank Sinatra's "Strangers in the Night" in 1966 and Mike Post produced Mason Williams' 1968 hit "Classical Gas", both of which were backed by members of the Wrecking Crew.[40]


Joe Osborn (pictured in 2012) was one of the first-call bassists during the heyday of the Wrecking Crew.

Carol Kaye provided an exception to the predominantly male world of Los Angeles session work in the 1960s.[41] Originally a guitarist, she began doing session work in Los Angeles in the late 1950s, playing behind Richie Valens on "La Bamba" and in the 1960s becoming a regular contributor on Phil Spector's recordings as well as on Beach Boys songs, such as "Help Me Rhonda" and their subsequent Pet Sounds and Smile LPs.[42][43] Ray Pohlman, who had assumed an early leadership position in the Wrecking Crew, became the musical director for the Shindig! TV show in 1965, resulting in reduced studio work from that point on.[23][24] After Pohlman's move to television, Kaye began to gravitate to the electric bass.[44] She supplied the signature bass line in Sonny and Cher's "The Beat Goes On" released in 1967.[45][46] Joe Osborn played bass on numerous Wrecking Crew-backed songs, such as Glen Campbell's "By the Time I Get to Phoenix", the Mamas & the Papa's "California Dreamin'", Richard Harris' "MacArthur Park", and the Fifth Dimension's "Up, Up and Away".[47] Other notable electric bassists who played with the Wrecking Crew were Bill Pitman, Max Bennett, Red Callender, Chuck Rainey, and Bob West, as well as Jimmy Bond, Lyle Ritz, Chuck Berghofer, who played acoustic upright bass.[48][49][50]

Drums and percussion

Drummer Earl Palmer contributed to a handful of hits in the 1960s with the Wrecking Crew, including Phil Spector-produced tracks such as Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" in 1964, and Ike and Tina Turner's "River Deep – Mountain High" in 1966.[51][52][53] Hal Blaine, with his abundance of musical skills, personality, and charisma, is also mentioned as having a prominent role in the Wrecking Crew's success during their heyday.[54][3][55][nb 2] Though he had played primarily big band and jazz, he took a job in Tommy Sands' rockabilly group in the late 1950s, discovering a newfound appreciation for rock and roll, which by the beginning of the new decade led to session work in Los Angeles studios, where he became acquainted with Earl Palmer and saxophonist Steve Douglas.[57] Blaine played on Elvis Presley's 1961 hit "Can't Help Falling in Love".[2] Shortly thereafter, he began playing on sessions for Phil Spector, quickly becoming the producer's preferred drummer, and, along with Earl Palmer, became one of the two top session drummers in Los Angeles.[58] Blaine is reputed to have played on over 140 top ten hits including approximately 40 No. 1 hits, such as "I Got You Babe" by Sonny & Cher, "Mr Tambourine Man" by the Byrds, and "Strangers in the Night" by Frank Sinatra, as well as numerous others and has been mentioned by Drummerworld as perhaps the most prolific recording drummer in history.[2][59] Jim Gordon began as an understudy of Blaine, but with the passage of time emerged as a first call player in the Wrecking Crew, playing on parts of the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds album and on hits such as "Classical Gas" and "Wichita Lineman".[2][60] He would eventually play in Derek and the Dominoes in the early 1970s.[61]

Other drummers who played in the Wrecking Crew were Frank Capp, John Clauder, and Joe Porcaro.[62][50][63] Gary Coleman played vibraphone and a variety of percussion instruments and contributed to works such as the soundtrack of the musical Hair and Simon & Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water album.[64] Some of the other Wrecking Crew percussionists were Julius Wechter, Milt Holland, Gene Estes, Victor Feldman, Frank Capp, and Joe Porcaro.[64][50] Drummer Jim Keltner is sometimes mentioned in connection with the Wrecking Crew, because he befriended Hal Blaine in the 1960s and would later play with the Wrecking Crew on John Lennon's Rock 'n' Roll album recorded in 1973, but he is more often associated with the later generation of session players who eclipsed the Wrecking Crew in terms of popularity during the 1970s.[nb 3]

Glen Campbell was a session guitarist with the Wrecking Crew before he became famous as a solo performer.

Guitarist and sometimes bassist Bill Pitman factored prominently in much of the Wrecking Crew's work.[67] For a brief time in the late 1950s he provided guitar lessons for a young Phil Spector, before Spector formed the Teddy Bears, who went on to record the surprise hit "To Know Him Is to Love Him" in 1958.[68] Pitman ended up playing on Spector-produced records in the 1960s such as "Be My Baby" by the Ronnettes.[69] He can be heard on numerous hits from the period such as "The Little Old Lady (from Pasadena)" by Jan & Dean, and "Mr. Tambourine Man" by the Byrds.[70] Tommy Tedesco, born in an Italian family in Niagara falls New York, was another one of the Wrecking Crew's most renowned guitarists, playing along with Pitman on "Be My Baby" and "The Little Old Lady (from Pasadena)", as well as on the Champs "Limbo Rock".[71] He provided the flamenco-influenced guitar licks in the 5th Dimension's "Up and Away" as well as the guitar intro to the popular M*A*S*H theme.[72][73] Billy Strange was one of the top guitarists with the Wrecking Crew and played on hits such as "The Little Old Lady (from Pasadena)" and the Beach Boys' version of "Sloop John B".[74] Guitarist Bill Aken divided his time between L.A. and Nashville, playing for Pappy Daily of Musicor Records for such artists as George Jones.[75] Like Mike Melvoin, Aken was also classically trained at Juilliard.[76] In addition to playing sessions in Memphis, guitarist James Burton often recorded with the Wrecking Crew in Los Angeles in the 1960s.[77][78][79]

Though Glen Campbell became better known as a highly successful country music artist in his own right, he played guitar in the Wrecking Crew during the 1960s and appeared along with them on several of the Beach Boys' classics of the period such as "I Get Around" and "Help Me Rhonda".[80] In 1965 he toured with the Beach Boys, and in 1966 he and the Wrecking Crew played on the Pet Sounds album.[81][nb 4] Campbell enlisted the Wrecking Crew as a backup unit on many of his own solo records during the 1960s, such as on "Gentle on My Mind", and on two songs written by Jimmy Webb, "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" and his single "Wichita Lineman".[83]

Leon Russell pictured in 1970, the year he became a solo recording artist

The Wrecking crew's ranks included a circle of keyboardists who contributed piano and organ parts to many of the famous songs of the era. Larry Knechtel, later in Bread, was a multi-instrumentalist who played keyboards on "California Dreamin'" and "Classical Gas", as well as upright bass on "Eve of Destruction" and electric bass on Byrds' "Mr. Tamborine Man".[84] Mike Melvoin, a classically trained pianist, had an English degree from Dartmouth College and played in several cuts on the Beach Boy's Pet Sounds.[85] Don Randi contributed the piano part on Barry McGuire's 1965 hit "Eve of Destruction". [86] Before becoming a solo artist, Leon Russell was a regular member of the Wrecking Crew and played in the Ronettes' "Be My Baby", and Jan & Dean's "The Little Old Lady (from Pasadena)".[87] New Orleans' Mac Rebennack (later Dr. John) did session work with the Wrecking crew while living in Los Angeles in the mid-1960s.[88] Mike (Michel) Rubini was the son of Jan Rubini, a classical violinist, and initially played concert piano, but later became enamored with R&B and switched to playing popular music, eventually becoming a member of the Wrecking Crew and playing on hits such as Sonny & Cher's "The Beat Goes On" and Frank Sinatra's "Strangers in the Night".[89]

Brass, woodwinds, harmonica, and backing vocals

Saxophonist Steve Douglas, who attended Fairfax High School with Phil Spector in the 1950s, got a call in 1962 to play on Spector's debut recording as a producer, "He's a Rebel", and would, from then on, become a regular fixture with the Wrecking Crew.[90][91] Years later, in 1978, Douglas played on Bob Dylan's 1978 "Street-Legal" album and accompanied Dylan on tour that year as part of his eight piece backing band.[91][92] Jim Horn played both saxophone and flute, and contributed parts to numerous tracks with Wrecking Crew, such as in the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin" and Frank Sinatra's "Strangers in the Night".[93][94] He played flute in the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows" and "Good Vibrations" and would later become a member of John Denver's backing band.[94] Plas Johnson provided the saxophone line in "The Pink Panther Theme" in the Champs' 1962 instrumental version of "Limbo Rock".[95] Nino Tempo, who along with his sister Carol (under her stage name April Stevens), had scored a U.S. number 1 hit song in 1963, "Deep Purple", was also a member of the Wrecking Crew and played saxophone in the Ronettes' "Be My Baby" and later appeared on John Lennon's Rock 'n' Roll album.[96][97] Other saxophonists played sessions with the Wrecking Crew were Jackie Kelso, Jay Migliori , Gene Cipriano, Bill Green, and Allan Beutler.[98] On trombone were Richard "Slyde" Hyde, Lew McCreary, and Dick Nash [98][99] and on trumpet Bud Brisbois, Roy Caton, Chuck Findley, Ollie Mitchell, and Tony Terran.[98][100] Tommy Morgan played harmonica on Wrecking Crew-backed tracks such as "The Little Old Lady (from Pasadena)".[101] When backing vocals were needed the Ron Hicklin Singers were called in.[100]

The T.A.M.I. Show (1964)

Several members of the Wrecking Crew played in the house band for 1964's The T.A.M.I Show, which was captured on film and sent to theaters around the country.[102] Seen in camera shots showing the right-hand side of the stage are musical director Jack Nitzsche, Hal Blaine, Jimmy Bond, Tommy Tedesco, Bill Aken, Glen Campbell, Lyle Ritz, Leon Russell, Plas Johnson, among others, all providing incidental music and backing for many of acts such as Chuck Berry, the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, and Lesley Gore.[102][103][104]


The Wrecking Crew's level of success could not be maintained indefinitely, and their collective services eventually fell out of demand.[105] Biographer Kent Harman cites several factors in the Wrecking Crew's demise, beginning even as far back as 1968 when the unit was at their peak of popularity: "By the middle of 1968, popular music was changing once again. In fact it was getting downright heavy. In the aftermath of the recent Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. slayings, the bloody Tet Offensive in Viet Nam, and the ever-growing level of campus unrest at universities around the country, Top 40 radio gradually began to lose step with the times".[106] Hartman mentions that the runaway success that year of Richard Harris' elaborate seven-minute epic hit, "MacArthur Park", written by Jimmy Webb and featuring the Wrecking Crew's intricate backing, might have been another early seed in their eventual decline:

Webb's creation additionally generated another unexpected consequence, one that would begin to subtly affect the Wrecking Crew's livelihood. Because the song had broken through the AM radio barrier, it had suddenly made it okay for lengthier songs to make the playlist. And the longer each song, the fewer minutes left during each hour for the station to play other songs. That was the unfair, mathematical irony of the whole equation; the Wrecking Crew had just played their hearts out on an all-time award-winning hit, yet its very success contributed toward a drop in the total number of songs making it on the air. And with fewer songs finding airtime, there gradually evolved a diminishing number of rock-and-roll recording dates for them to play on.[107]

In 1969, after scoring hits as a solo artist such as "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" and "Wichita Lineman", Glen Campbell left the Wrecking Crew.[108] [109] Carol Kaye, exhausted from the constant pressure of the L.A. recording scene, went on to other musical endeavors.[109] According to guitarist Bill Pitman, "You leave the house at seven o'clock in the morning, and you're at Universal at nine till noon; now you're at Capitol Records at one, you just got time to get there, then you got a jingle at four, then we're on a date with somebody at eight, then the Beach Boys at midnight, and you do that five days a week ... jeez, man, you get burned out".[88]

The Wrecking Crew continued to be in demand in the early 1970s, even enjoying several hits, but by the end of 1973 they began to experience a downturn in bookings, as a series of changes in the recording industry began to take hold.[110] Unlike earlier bands such as the Monkees and the Grass Roots, who often utilized the Wrecking Crew for backing tracks, and perhaps because of it, rock groups in the early 1970s began having it stipulated in their recording contracts that they be allowed to play their own instruments on records.[111] By the early 1970s, younger session players such as Larry Carlton, Andrew Gold, Danny Kortchmar, Waddy Wachtel, Russ Kunkel, Jeff Porcaro, Leland Sklar, and Jim Keltner arrived with a more contemporary sound well-suited to the changing musical tastes of the unfolding decade.[65] By the mid-1970s, particularly with the arrival of 16-track and 24-track tape recording machines and automated large-format multi-channel consoles, advances in recording technology made it viable for instruments to be recorded, often close-miked, onto separate tracks individually, reducing the need to hire ensembles to play live in the studio.[112][113][114] Synthesizers were brought in which could approximate the sound of practically any instrument and, eventually, drum machines would become the norm, which could be specially programmed to keep beats in place of a drummer or be used for click tracks played in musicians' headphones, making it easier to overdub or re-record any part in-synch and achieve a more uniform and consistent tempo.[115][116] By the mid-1970s many of the Wrecking Crew's members scattered and drifted into different spheres.[117] Though the unit did a brief, but ill-fated reunion session with Phil Spector in 1992, and more recently backed Glen Campbell in his song "I'm Not Gonna Miss You" taken from the soundtrack of the 2015 documentary Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me, they have spent most of the last four decades engaged in separate projects.[118]

Post-Wrecking Crew

In the mid-1970s some Wrecking Crew veterans such as Carol Kaye, Gary Coleman, Earl Palmer and Tommy Tedesco switched to television soundtrack work.[117] Mike Deasy became a born-again Christian preacher.[117] Guitarist Al Casey continued to work for many years as a session musician. In similar fashion to Ray Pohlman, who had left a decade earlier to became the musical director for the Shindig! TV series, Aken became the musical director for Shock Theater, both shows being nationally televised. Aken was the musical director for the critically acclaimed syndicated radio show The Country Call Line in the mid-1980s and also conceived, arranged, and produced the music for the first Farm Aid radio special in collaboration with Willie Nelson and LeRoy Van Dyke.[19][119][120]

After leaving the Wrecking Crew in 1969, Glen Campbell went on to become one of country music's most popular performers during the 1970s with hits such as "Rhinestone Cowboy" and the Allen Toussaint-penned "Southern Nights".[121] Leon Russell and Mac Rebennack (as Dr. John) both went on to become successful solo artists and songwriters, enjoying hit singles and albums during the 1970s.[122][123] Jim Keltner went on to a successful career as a session drummer for much of the 1970s–90s; he played in Ringo Starr's All-Starr band and was the drummer on both albums by the supergroup Traveling Wilburys, where he is credited as "Buster Sidebury".[124][125] Beginning in 1973 he hosted a regular weekly jam session at Los Angeles clubs called "the Jim Keltner Fan Club" frequented by many of the younger L.A. session musicians of the time (Danny Kortchmar, Russ Kunkel, Waddy Wachtel, Leland Sklar, and Jeff and Steve Porcaro, etc.).[126]


The Wrecking Crew backed dozens of popular acts and were one of the most successful groups of studio musicians in music history.[127][128] According to Kent Hartman, "... if a rock-and-roll song came out of an L.A. recording studio from between about 1962 and 1972, the odds are good that some combination of the Wrecking Crew played the instruments. No single group of musicians has ever played on more hits in support of more stars than this superbly talented—yet virtually anonymous group of men (and one woman)".[129] According to The New Yorker, "The Wrecking Crew passed into a history that it largely created, imperfectly acknowledged but perfectly present in hundreds of American pop songs known to all".[88] In 2008, the Wrecking Crew were featured in the documentary film The Wrecking Crew, directed by Tommy Tedesco's son, Denny Tedesco.[130] In 2014, its musicians were depicted in the Brian Wilson biopic Love & Mercy.[131] Two of their members, drummers Hal Blaine and Earl Palmer, were among the inaugural "sidemen" inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000, and the entire Wrecking Crew was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame in 2007.[132][133][134] In 2010, Blaine was elected into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame.[135]

List of members by instrument

Sources: Kent Hartman (The Wrecking Crew)[136] and Robert Lloyd ("Time of the Session"; LA Weekly)[50]

Selected recordings

Year Song[139] Artist US
1962 "The Lonely Bull" Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass 6 22
"Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans 8 45
"He's a Rebel" The Crystals 1 19
1963 "Da Doo Ron Ron (When He Walked Me Home)" The Crystals 3 5
"Surf City" Jan and Dean 1 26
"Be My Baby" The Ronettes 2 4
1964 "I Get Around" The Beach Boys 1 7
"Dead Man's Curve" Jan and Dean 8
"Everybody Loves Somebody[142] Dean Martin 1 11
"Little Old Lady (from Pasadena)" Jan and Dean 3
"You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" The Righteous Brothers 1 1
"Mountain of Love" Johnny Rivers 9
1965 "Help Me, Rhonda" The Beach Boys 1 27
"Mr. Tambourine Man" The Byrds 1 1
"This Diamond Ring" Gary Lewis and the Playboys 1
"California Dreamin'" The Mamas & the Papas 4 23
"Eve of Destruction" Barry McGuire 1 3
"I Got You Babe" Sonny & Cher 1 1
1966 "No Matter What Shape (Your Stomach's In)[143] The T-Bones 3
"Good Vibrations" The Beach Boys 1 1
"Poor Side of Town" Johnny Rivers 1
"Monday Monday" The Mamas & the Papas 1 3
"River Deep – Mountain High" Ike and Tina Turner 88 3
"(You're My) Soul and Inspiration" The Righteous Brothers 1 15
"Strangers in the Night" Frank Sinatra 1 1
"These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" Nancy Sinatra 1 1
1967 "Never My Love" The Association 2
"Up, Up and Away" The 5th Dimension 7
"San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)" Scott McKenzie 4 1
"Somethin' Stupid"[144] Frank & Nancy Sinatra 1 1
"Woman, Woman" Gary Puckett and the Union Gap 4
"Him or Me (What's It Gonna Be)" Paul Revere & the Raiders 5
"The Beat Goes On" Sonny & Cher 6 29
1968 "Wichita Lineman" Glen Campbell 3 7
"Midnight Confessions" The Grass Roots 5
"MacArthur Park" Richard Harris 2 4
"Mrs. Robinson" Simon & Garfunkel 1 9
"Valleri" The Monkees 3 12
"Young Girl" Gary Puckett and the Union Gap 4 1
"Classical Gas" Mason Williams 2 9
1969 "Galveston" Glen Campbell 4 14
"Holly Holy" Neil Diamond 6
"Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" The 5th Dimension 1 11
"Dizzy" Tommy Roe 1 1
"The Boxer" Simon & Garfunkel 7 6
1970 "(They Long to Be) Close to You" The Carpenters 1 6
"Cracklin' Rosie" Neil Diamond 1 3
"Arizona" Mark Lindsay 10
"I Think I Love You" The Partridge Family 1 18
"Bridge over Troubled Water" Simon & Garfunkel 1 1
1971 "Rainy Days and Mondays" The Carpenters 2
"Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves" Cher 1 4
"Sooner or Later" The Grass Roots 9
"Don't Pull Your Love" Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds 4
"Indian Reservation" Raiders 1
1972 "Hurting Each Other" The Carpenters 2
"(Last Night) I Didn't Get to Sleep at All" The 5th Dimension 8
"It Never Rains in Southern California" Albert Hammond 5
"Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu" Johnny Rivers 6
1973 "Yesterday Once More" The Carpenters 2 2
"Half-Breed" Cher 1
"All I Know" Art Garfunkel 9
"The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" Vicki Lawrence 1
1974 "Chevy Van" Sammy Johns 5
"The Way We Were" Barbra Streisand 1 31
1975 "Rhinestone Cowboy" Glen Campbell 1 4
"Love Will Keep Us Together" Captain & Tennille 1 32
2015 "I'm Not Gonna Miss You"[118] Glen Campbell


  1. In 1977 Spector would once again use the Wrecking Crew to do the backing tracks on Leonard Cohen's fifth album, Death of a Ladies' Man.[26]
  2. Blaine (born Harold Simon Belsky in Holyoke, Massachusetts) spent most of his childhood in Hartford, Connecticut, but his family moved to southern California in the late 1940s where he became a professional drummer.[56]
  3. Its release was delayed until 1975 due to numerous problems legal and otherwise, such as when producer Phil Spector ran off with the sessions' tapes.[65][66]
  4. Campbell and the Wrecking Crew played on "Strangers in the Night" by Frank Sinatra.[82]


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