With the passing of Glen Campbell comes an opportunity to share one of the best tidbits of American music history.
In the 1960s and early 1970s a group of highly skilled "session" musicians played in the recording studios of Los Angeles. They did more than back singers who were not part of bands, they were the musicians we heard on many of the top recordings of the day, performing the instrumental background tracks for the famous rock bands of the day. It was here Glen Campbell got his start.
His obituary only makes a passing reference to his start being in a recording session group. But he was, like the other members of the Wrecking Crew, one of the most talented musicians in the country when it came to backing famous artists of the day in each of their own styles of music.
Led by guitarist, Tommy Tedesco, a name rarely known outside of musician circles, the Wrecking Crew consisted of as many as 20 or more studios players over the years. Many of the well know guitar riffs that appear on different recordings were Tedesco weaving his magic or bassist Carol Kaye playing a charged up bass line like she did so well.
The Crew replaced, in the studio, many members of groups like The Beach Boys, Herb Alpert's Tijuana Brass, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, The Association, Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, Paul Revere and the Raiders, the Grass Roots, the Monkees, the Fifth Dimension, the Partridge Family, the Carpenters and the Captain and Tennille.
The Crew did not do the vocals, that was left to the singers in the groups.
They also provided instrumental accompaniment for Frank Sinatra, Johnny Rivers, Sonny and Cher, Vickie Lawrence, the Everly Brothers, Sam Cooke, Neil Diamond and Simon and Garfunkel as well as Richard Harris, Ike and Tina Turner, the Mamas and Papas and of course Glen Campbell on his hit songs. Changing styles from Sinatra's swing to Ike and Tina's style of R & B or soul was no trouble for these talented players.
The Crew were also the musicians who produced Phil Spector's famous Wall of Sound.
Spending hours in the studio as Brian Wilson explained what he heard in his head was also easy for the Crew. And then they could reproduce it as many times as needed.
It was in the framework of this genius pool that Glen Campbell got his start. They and he weren't just studio guys who came in, read their charts and left. They were at the top of their game and Campbell was one of them and then he went solo and made history.
The next time you hear the bass lines on The Beach Boys' Good Vibrations or Sonny and Cher's The Beat Goes On, it's Carol Kaye and the Wrecking Crew. When you hear the guitar playing the theme from Bonanza, the Munsters, the Brady Bunch and MASH, that's Tommy Tedesco, unofficial leader of the Wrecking Crew. He even played an electric sitar in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
The Wrecking Crew may not have achieved the notoriety of one of its most famous members, Glen Campbell, but what they created will last for many years.
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Thinking back on those country music singers who crossed over recording with and playing concerts with full orchestras Glen Campbell comes to mind. Two others Ray Price and Eddy Arnold.
All began careers as "hillbilly" singers, but transformed into greatness. In my mind, Campbell, Price and Arnold were the top of the line. Smooth and beautiful. Elvis, of course came a long way from the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport, but he, in my opinion, had to have the backup singers and full orchestra. The other three didn't.
Glen Campbell will always be Gentle on our Minds, Ray Price will share The Good Times and Eddy Arnold will Welcome us to His World. Memories of The Rinestone Cowboy, The Cherokee Cowboy and the Tennessee Plowboy.