Eulogies are pliable. They can take the form of a song, a poem, or an essay. For Denny Tedesco, his eulogy for his father has lasted 19 years, and he’s now finally ready to share it with the public: The Wrecking Crew!, a new documentary from Magnolia Pictures that’s earning rave reviews, takes you behind the curtain of the L.A. music scene from the ’60s to the ’80s. Back then, it wasn’t the big name pop stars striking the keys or strumming the strings on hits like “Mr. Tambourine Man”, “California Girls”, and “Good Vibrations,” it was the unsung studio musicians.
During these earlier decades, “The Wrecking Crew” was the gang of musicians who came into the studio and assumed all the working parts of a song, playing it to perfection until it was ready for radio. Tommy Tedesco was one of these heavy hitters — he held many of the guitar and string sections — but it wasn’t until he was diagnosed with cancer in 1996, when his son, Denny, began considering a film that would capture the essence of how important “The Wrecking Crew” was to popular music.
“What I realized growing up. I didn’t realize what he did,” Denny told Uproxx in an interview. “I knew he went to work and played guitar, and that was it. It wasn’t til much later that I realized the work that they were doing, as monumental as it was with these guys. It was hard to explain. It’s funny because you could explain it to someone, but until you hear it from their words and hear the music, you have no idea. So, for me, I realized that making the film was an easy way to explain that to people. When he was passing on, I thought, if I don’t jump on this, I’ll never be able to. If he goes, it’s over. I’ll never be able to tell this story. And that’s when I wanted to jump into it.”
The “Crew” are responsible for a gaggle of hits, including songs from Frank Sinatra, Cher, The Beach Boys, Sam Cooke, Elvis, and many more. Tommy, himself, has credits on the theme songs for M*A*S*H and the iconic 1966 Batman series. The magnitude of their contributions is almost unquantifiable, especially considering their work on classics like Pet Sounds, Smile, and Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound” went uncredited. As Denny was putting together The Wrecking Crew! documentary, he found that the music was not only the most powerful part of the film, it was also a bit of a hindrance.
“There was no way you could tell this story without the music, and we always knew that,” Denny said. “Everybody said at the beginning, you’re never going to be able to get the music because you’re not going to have people — the labels, the publishers — agree upon putting their music into the film. And the other thing was, you’re never going to get a price where it was affordable, where you could sell the film because it’s going to cost so much. So, we just had to, over the years, come up with a way of getting the music. No one helped us. We ended up doing it through donations.”
Denny, after spending years compiling interviews, footage, and music, began showing The Wrecking Crew! at film festivals and events in 2008. Because of the expensive music, and because producers and distributors considered the film “niche,” he had a tough time getting a distribution deal. He continued to show the film for several years, hoping to finally strike a deal with a studio.