Today, we’re introducing you to one of the most prolific groups of session musicians that few have heard of!
The Wrecking Crew was a loose collective of LA-based session musicians who played on thousands of studio recordings throughout the 60s and 70s.
Because much of their work went uncredited, the exact number of musicians in the collective is unknown.
The beginnings of the group can be traced to session musicians of the late 1950s including Earl Palmer, Hal Blaine, and Ray Pohlman.
After being unofficially known as “The Clique” or “The First Call Gang”, member Hal Blaine coined the name The Wrecking Crew in his 1990 memoir.
They quickly became the most requested session musicians in LA, working with the likes of Sonny & Cher, the Mamas & the Papas, the 5th Dimension, John Denver, Simon & Garfunkel, Nat King Cole, and Frank Sinatra.
Members of the Crew acted as “ghost players” on recordings credited to other groups, such as the Byrds’ “Mr. Tambourine Man” and The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. Their contributions went largely unrecognized until the publication of Blaine’s memoir.
A quick rundown of some of the most notable members:
Carol Kaye was one of the only women in the predominantly male world of LA session musicians. Kaye became known as one of the most prolific and widely heard bass guitarists, playing on an estimated 10,000 recordings over the course of her 50 year career.
Earl Palmer was a drummer from the New Orleans session scene, working with Fats Domino and Little Richard. He moved to LA in 1957, quickly becoming popular among musicians including Ike & Tina Turner, The Everly Brothers, and Sonny & Cher.
Along with Palmer, Hal Blaine was one of the most recorded studio drummers in the history of the music industry, claiming over 35,000 sessions and 6,000 singles.
Though he became better known as a highly successful country music artist, Glen Campbell played guitar in the Crew during the 1960s. He appeared on Beach Boys classics like I Get Around and Help Me Rhonda.
Ken Hartman said it best:
“If a rock and roll song came out of an LA recording studio between 1962 and 1972, the odds are good that some combination of the Wrecking Crew played the instruments. No single group of musicians has ever played more hits in support of more stars than this superbly talented—yet virtually anonymous group of men (and one woman).”
Here’s a very small sampling of the Wrecking Crew’s discography: