The Wrecking Crew (music)

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For the documentary film based on these musicians, see The Wrecking Crew (2008 film).
"The Wrecking Crew"
Also known as The Phil Spector Wall of Sound Orchestra
Origin Los Angeles, California
Genres Pop, rock
Years active 1960 (1960)s–1970 (1970)s
Past members See below

"The Wrecking Crew" was a nickname coined by drummer Hal Blaine for a group of studio and session musicians that played anonymously on many records in Los Angeles, California during the 1960s. The crew backed dozens of popular singers, and were one of the most successful groups of studio musicians in music history.[1][2] They were occasionally featured on productions by Phil Spector under the name the Phil Spector Wall of Sound Orchestra.[3]


The Wrecking Crew's members were musically versatile but typically had formal backgrounds in jazz or classical music. 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. Notable artists employing the Wrecking Crew's talents included: Nancy Sinatra, Bobby Vee, the Partridge Family (group), David Cassidy (solo), Jan & Dean, the Mamas & the Papas, the 5th Dimension, the Association, the Carpenters, Glen Campbell, Cher, John Denver, the Beach Boys, Simon & Garfunkel, and the Grass Roots[4] and Nat King Cole.

The record producers most often associated with the Wrecking Crew are: Phil Spector, who used the Crew to create his trademark "Wall of Sound"; and Beach Boys member and songwriter Brian Wilson, who used the Crew's talents on many of his mid-1960s productions including the songs "Good Vibrations", "California Girls", Pet Sounds, and the original recordings for Smile. Members of the Wrecking Crew played on the first Byrds single recording, "Mr. Tambourine Man", because, with the exception of Roger McGuinn, Columbia Records—namely, producer Terry Melcher—did not trust the musical competency of the band's members.[5] Spector used the Wrecking Crew on Leonard Cohen's fifth album, Death of a Ladies' Man.

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, while the entire Wrecking Crew was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame in 2007.[6][7][8]

According to Blaine, the name "the Wrecking Crew" was derived from the impression that he and the younger studio musicians made on the business's older generation, who felt that they were going to wreck the music industry. Prior to that, in the late 1950s, the small group headed by Ray Pohlman was often referred to as "the First Call Gang," since they were the musicians many record producers would call first. With home base being Hollywood's "General Service Studios", this early group consisted of talented musicians such as Earl Palmer, Mel Pollen, Bill Aken, Barney Kessel, and Al Casey.[9]

The Wrecking Crew's Pet Sounds sessions are featured in the Brian Wilson biopic Love & Mercy.[10]


Glen Campbell later achieved solo fame as a singer-guitarist in the late 1960s and 1970s, and Leon Russell and Mac Rebennack (as Dr. John) both went on to be successful songwriters and had hit singles and albums. Also, Nino Tempo with his sister Carol (under her stage name April Stevens) had a U.S. #1 hit song in 1963, "Deep Purple and drummer Hal Blaine, who has played on tens of thousands of recording sessions, including Sinatra's, and is believed by some to be the most recorded drummer in history. Among his vast list of recordings, Blaine is credited with having played on at least forty U.S. #1 hits and more than 150 Top Ten records.

Al Casey worked for many years as a session musician. Jim Gordon also drummed on many well known recording sessions and was the drummer in the group Derek and the Dominos. Gordon also toured with Frank Zappa on the Grand Wazoo tour with Jay Migliori. Ray Pohlman doubled on both bass and guitar, and started heading sessions in the 1950s with a regular group of musicians including, Mel Pollen, Earl Palmer, Bill Aken (aka Zane Ashton), Al Casey, and others. Pohlman would also become the musical director for the TV show Shindig!, while Aken became musical director on Shock Theater, both shows being nationally televised. Aken was the musical director on the critically acclaimed syndicated radio show "The Country Call Line" in the mid-1980s and also conceived, arranged, and produced the music for the very first 'Farm-Aid' radio special in collaboration with Willie Nelson and LeRoy Van Dyke.

Jim Keltner would go on to a successful career as a session drummer for much of the 1970s, '80s, and '90s, playing with Ringo Starr's All-Starr band, and playing drums on both albums by the supergroup Traveling Wilburys, (where he is credited as "Buster Sidebury.")

The Wrecking Crew worked long hours and 15-hour days were not unusual, although the rewards were great—Carol Kaye has commented that during her peak as a session musician, she earned more per year than the President.

The Wrecking Crew, or at least part of it, was the house band for 1964's The T.A.M.I. Show. During shots of the right side of the stage, one can often spot musical director Jack Nitzsche, drummer Hal Blaine, electric bassist Jimmy Bond, guitarists Tommy Tedesco, Bill Aken, and Glen Campbell, upright bassist Lyle Ritz, pianist Leon Russell, saxophonist Plas Johnson, and others.

Selection of Wrecking Crew Hit Recordings[edit]

Song Title Artist Year
"The Lonely Bull" Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass 1962
"Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans 1962
"He's a Rebel" The Crystals 1962
"Surfer Girl" The Beach Boys 1963
"Surfin' USA" The Beach Boys 1963
"Da Doo Ron Ron (When He Walked Me Home)" The Crystals 1963
"Surf City" Jan and Dean 1963
"Be My Baby" The Ronettes 1963
"I Get Around" The Beach Boys 1964
"Dead Man's Curve" Jan and Dean 1964
"Little Old Lady (from Pasadena)" Jan and Dean 1964
"You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" The Righteous Brothers 1964
"Mountain of Love" Johnny Rivers 1964
"Help Me, Rhonda" The Beach Boys 1965
"Mr. Tambourine Man" The Byrds 1965
"This Diamond Ring" Gary Lewis and the Playboys 1965
"California Dreamin'" The Mamas & the Papas 1965
"Eve of Destruction" Barry McGuire 1965
"I Got You Babe" Sonny & Cher 1965
"Good Vibrations" The Beach Boys 1966
"Poor Side of Town" Johnny Rivers 1966
"Monday Monday" The Mamas & the Papas 1966
"(You're My) Soul and Inspiration" The Righteous Brothers 1966
"I Am a Rock" Simon & Garfunkel 1966
"Strangers in the Night" Frank Sinatra 1966
"These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" Nancy Sinatra 1966
"Never My Love" The Association 1967
"Up, Up and Away" The 5th Dimension 1967
"San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)" Scott McKenzie 1967
"Woman, Woman" Gary Puckett and the Union Gap 1967
"Him or Me (What's It Gonna Be)" Paul Revere & the Raiders 1967
"The Beat Goes On" Sonny & Cher 1967
"Wichita Lineman" Glen Campbell 1968
"Midnight Confessions" The Grass Roots 1968
"MacArthur Park" Richard Harris 1968
"Mrs. Robinson" Simon & Garfunkel 1968
"Valleri" The Monkees 1968
"Young Girl" Gary Puckett and the Union Gap 1968
"Classical Gas" Mason Williams 1968
"Galveston" Glen Campbell 1969
"Holly Holy" Neil Diamond 1969
"Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" The 5th Dimension 1969
"Dizzy" Tommy Roe 1969
"The Boxer" Simon & Garfunkel 1969
"(They Long to Be) Close to You" The Carpenters 1970
"Cracklin' Rosie" Neil Diamond 1970
"Arizona" Mark Lindsay 1970
"I Think I Love You" The Partridge Family 1970
"Bridge Over Troubled Water" Simon & Garfunkel 1970
"Rainy Days and Mondays" The Carpenters 1971
"Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves" Cher 1971
"Sooner or Later" The Grass Roots 1971
"Don't Pull Your Love" Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds 1971
"Indian Reservation" Raiders 1971
"Hurting Each Other" The Carpenters 1972
"(Last Night) I Didn't Get to Sleep at All" The 5th Dimension 1972
"It Never Rains in Southern California" Albert Hammond 1972
"Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu" Johnny Rivers 1972
"Mother and Child Reunion" Paul Simon 1972
"Yesterday Once More" The Carpenters 1973
"Half-Breed" Cher 1973
"All I Know" Art Garfunkel 1973
"The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" Vicki Lawrence 1973
"Chevy Van" Sammy Johns 1974
"The Way We Were" Barbra Streisand 1974
"Rhinestone Cowboy" Glen Campbell 1975
"Love Will Keep Us Together" Captain & Tennille 1975

Source:Hartman, Kent (2012). The Wrecking Crew: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll's Best-Kept Secret (1st ed.). Thomas Dunne Books. ISBN 9780312619749 (Trade Paperback).

The Wrecking Crew[edit]

The Wrecking Crew were featured in the 2008 documentary film The Wrecking Crew directed by Tommy Tedesco's son, Denny Tedesco.


  • Inducted in 2007 to the Musicians Hall of Fame

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hartman, Kent (February–March 2007). "The Wrecking Crew". American Heritage (American Heritage) 58 (1). Retrieved 30 June 2012. 
  2. ^ Hartman (2012)
  3. ^ "Phil Spector Presents The Philles Album Collection - Featuring The Crystals, The Ronettes, Darlene Love, and More - Arrives as 7-CD Box Set". Sony. August 4, 2011. Archived from the original on July 3, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b "The Grassroots official website". Retrieved 2015-01-19. 
  5. ^ Einarson, John (2005). Mr. Tambourine Man: The Life and Legacy of The Byrds' Gene Clark. Backbeat Books. pp. 56–57. ISBN 0-87930-793-5. 
  6. ^ "The 2000 Induction Ceremony". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 2000-03-06. Retrieved 2014-09-11. 
  7. ^ Gilbert, Calvin (27 November 2007). "Unsung Heroes Honored at Musicians Hall of Fame Induction". Country Music Television. 
  8. ^ "The Wrecking Crew". Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum. November 2007. Retrieved 2014-09-11. 
  9. ^ Pinnock, Tom (June 8, 2012). "The Making of Good Vibrations". Uncut. 
  10. ^ Marissa Visci (June 10, 2015). "Here's What's Fact and What's Fiction in Love & Mercy, the New Biopic About Brian Wilson". Slate. 


External links[edit]