By Christian Groves and Erin Finnegan
Friday September 23, 2011 – Denny Tedesco, Producer / Director of award winning documentary “The Wrecking Crew” joined The Institute of Production and Recording for Adam Levy’s DIY-360.
Denny reached out to IPR little more than a month before his Minneapolis screening for “The Wrecking Crew”, and a friendship was born. In his initial contact with us Denny wrote “Looking at some of your courses on the website, there isn’t a course that I haven’t needed to finish this film.” He saw value in what we do, and he generously invited IPR to his screening, offered discounted seats to our students, and agreed to be a guest with Adam Levy for his weekly series, DIY 360.
The day began with a rock n’ roll history lesson: “The Wrecking Crew” trailer. For two-and-a-half minutes Robinson hall was filled with songs from the 60’s and 70’s while studio musicians and famous personalities like Dick Clarke and Brian Wilson filled the screen and lauded the unsung heroes behind some of the greatest rock n’ roll hits of all time. But the trailer only told part of the story.
Denny Tedesco’s “The Wrecking Crew” was inspired by his father, Tommy Tedesco; according to Wikipedia, Guitar Player magazine describes Tommy as the most recorded guitar player in history. As Denny spoke about his father, it was clear that this movie was as much about honoring his Father’s life and work as anything else.
“My father is from Niagara Falls, New York. Like everyone, he got involved with music to meet girls but went to school for accounting. A band came to play at his school and their guitar player ended up leaving the band and my father auditioned for the part. He got it and the next day he was on the road and was with them for a few months. Then one day when they were in Dallas he was fired because the band found a guy who was able to play guitar and sing. When he got back to New York he got his mother and brother and the three of them moved to L.A.” L.A. is where Tommy began his career as a well-known studio guitarist.
In the 60’s and 70’s a group of studio musicians dubbed “The Wrecking Crew” played on an amazing string of hits for everybody from the Beach Boys to Sonny and Cher to Frank Sinatra, Nancy Sinatra, and The Monkees (just to name a few). Though there was never an official roster, in the film, musicians and engineers alike estimate “The Wrecking Crew” consisted of around 20 musicians, maybe a few more, that were young and brought a new skillset to the table for studio work. Tommy Tedesco was a part of this elite group.
When asked about his father’s influence Denny explained that he never saw his father pick up a guitar until the late seventies because, for his father, this was his job. “The whole movie is about getting a gig and keeping the gig” stated Denny. “My dad wasn’t the best guitar player but he was the type of guy you hired when you needed someone who knew how to do everything. My dad knew how to do everything, he wasn’t the best but he was a man of many trades.”
Some of “The Wrecking Crew” didn’t even read music, but the most skilled of them contributed creative ideas to the music, they could sight read, if necessary, and they could improvise at will. The previous generation of west coast studio musicians were so steeped in tradition that many would refuse to play on sessions unless they had a piece of sheet music to read; they were sidelined by their own limitations. In many cases, it appears the old guard felt rock n’ roll was beneath them. Rock n’ roll gave way to producers needing a more flexible, well rounded studio player to address the specific needs of the popular new genre, and “The Wrecking Crew” was born.
Denny said the hardest part of making the film was “Finding the footage.” He continued to explain, “Back then, when people were going into the studios, they didn’t think they were doing anything special or out of the ordinary.” They didn’t have cell phones to capture video footage on the fly, and most of them wouldn’t have considered what they were doing to be worth documenting anyhow. It was a paycheck. Denny said, “It was just their job. Luckily, my mother had a lot of home videos that I ended up using.” Denny went on to explain that the first time he showed the film to his mother she was surprised to find she was in the film. Amidst Denny’s commandeering mom’s home movie footage and the interviewing process she thought Denny was simply making more home movies.
Despite the fact “The Wrecking Crew” has garnered numerous awards and been lauded by famous artists, engineers, record executives and producers, it cannot be released until all funding for music licensing has been met. There is an enormous amount of music in the film and licensing has billed-in at around six-hundred-thousand dollars. Denny has taken the film all over the country and used film screenings as a way to generate donations to pay for licensing. He has been successful, and anticipates having the final two-hundred-thousand dollars paid before 2012 (visit this link if you’d like to make a donation).
For the last question of the day an IPR audience member asked “What was the most important thing your father taught you?” With no hesitation Denny responded “He taught me how to be patient, the importance of listening when people are talking and how to feel a room. People would call my father all the time for advice that didn’t have anything to do with guitar. He was that kind of man.” And “The Wrecking Crew” honors Tommy Tedesco appropriately.
On behalf of IPR, and Adam Levy’s DIY 360, we were very honored to have Denny Tedesco as a guest, and we’re looking forward to the pending release one of the best rock n’ roll documentaries of all time: “The Wrecking Crew”. Thanks for including us Denny.