The Wrecking Crew
Lunch Box Entertainment
Now Showing at: Cincinnati World Cinema June 28 and 29
Review by: Larry Thomas
Sometimes it seems like it takes forever for some talented people to get their just recognition. Perhaps you remember a terrific documentary a few years back called Standing in the Shadows of Motown. It was a tribute to “The Funk Brothers,” a group of exceptional musicians who played on many, if not most, of Motown’s biggest hit records. These unsung musical heroes never had their name in lights for providing the great memorable moments in Motown music.
And they weren’t alone. In the 1960s, Los Angeles record producers had “The Wrecking Crew,” an equally unsung group who provided the sparkle and pizzazz on recordings for The Beach Boys, The Monkees, Nancy Sinatra and hundreds more. If you grew up during this period and hummed along to the popular tunes of the day, then you no doubt were entertained by the nameless, faceless day-to-day players who made 60s pop music really sizzle. The film, also called The Wrecking Crew, is the labor of love of filmmaker Denny Tedesco, son of Tommy Tedesco, one of the kings of session guitar players during that era. While the younger Tedesco does focus on his father, he gives plenty of screen time to the other members of the crew, who were all long-time friends.
The film makes good use of historical stills and archive footage to punctuate the stories of these musicians who were so instrumental to American pop music. Tenor sax player Plas Johnson, who had a solo career as well as studio gigs, is seen playing along with a recording of “The Pink Panther Theme.” That solo was a huge part of the appeal of Henry Mancini’s music, but very few knew who played it. Ditto many of the others, be they guitarists, bassists, drummers, or keyboardists. You will likely be astounded to find out which bands, besides The Monkees, really did not do their own playing on the recordings, and which musicians actually created the riffs and solos that are legendary today. Many of the crew were primarily interested in jazz, such as drummer Earl Palmer, and guitarists Howard Roberts and Barney Kessel, but they played the rock-n-roll sessions as a way to earn a steady income.
The only member of The Wrecking Crew to carve out a major solo career for himself was Glen Campbell. He and the others are seen in interview footage offering up plenty of interesting backstage stories. There are also tales from the likes of Cher, Herb Alpert, and Brian Wilson, among others.
Although Denny Tedesco may not be a completely accomplished filmmaker, he more than makes up for it with the heart and soul he pours into this loving tribute to his father and the others. And sometimes, that’s enough to make a great piece of entertainment.
The Wrecking Crew is a presentation of Cincinnati World Cinema. There are two showings: this afternoon at 4 pm, and tomorrow night at 7 pm, at the Carnegie Arts Center in Covington. Today’s showing will also feature live music from The New Lime, one of the top 60s groups in Cincinnati. The Monday screening will feature a post-film discussion of Cincinnati’s music scene during the 60s, led by Mickey Foellger, of The New Lime and Wheels. Both screenings will benefit the Michael W. Bany Music Scholarship Fund.
For more information about Cincinnati World Cinema, visit www.cincyworldcinema.org or call (859) 781-8151.