CLICK "SUBSCRIBE" FOR MORE FROM THIS CHANNEL Glen Campbell, Hal Blaine, Larry Knechtel, Joe Osborn, Jim Horn, Don Randi, Carol Kaye, Earl Palmer, Jim Keltner, Lee Sklar, Bones Howe, Nancy Sinatra. Produced, directed and edited by Gil Baker.
THE SESSION MEN STORY
1965. At Western Studios in LA, a group of musicians (later known as The Wrecking Crew) are working on a song called Help Me Rhonda. They include Glen Campbell, Hal Blaine, Larry Knechtel, Don Randi and Ms. Carol Kaye on bass. When Rhonda shoots to Number One, the Beach Boys are heralded for their brilliant musicianship. But their live shows don't sound like their records. And no wonder.
The Wrecking Crew performed on all of the big Beach Boys hits. Brian Wilson requested these players after hearing the magic they created for Phil Spector on productions like Be My Baby, Da Do Ron Ron and He's a Rebel. It's not widely known that Capitol's contract with The Beach Boys, who were signed by Nick Venet, stipulated that they hire studio musicians.
Wrecking Crew players also tracked hits for The Byrds (Mr Tambourine Man, Turn Turn Turn) Association (Never My Love, Cherish) Mamas & Papas (California Dreamin', Monday Monday) Grass Roots (Midnight Confessions, Sooner or Later) Carpenter's (Close To You, We've Only Just Begun) Fifth Dimension (Wedding Bell Blues, Marry Me Bill) Monkees (Mary Mary) Paul Revere's Raiders (Kicks, Steppin' Stone) Jay's American's (Cara Mia, Come a Little Bit Closer) Sonny & Cher (I Got You Babe, The Beat Goes On) Herb Alpert (Lonely Bull, This Guy) America (Ventura Highway, Horse with No Name) Frank (Strangers in The Night) and Nancy (Boots) to name just a few.
Crew member Larry Knechtel, who won a Grammy for his piano and arrangement of Bridge Over Troubled Water, is responsible for the organ on Never My Love, the bass on Mr Tambourine Man and that electric six-string solo on Bread's classic, The Guitar Man.
Through the 1950's, studio musicians were expected to show up on time and read the parts an arranger had written for them. But with folk and rock dominating radio in the 1960's, sheet music went out the window. Great records in these genres demanded session players who could figure out their own parts, and come up with an arrangement themselves. Recording acts, composers, producers, publishers all received royalties. But the session men were paid what amounted to an hourly wage for their invaluable contributions on huge hits. This inequity eventually lead the session men in LA to threaten a strike. But the Musician's Union settled for an increased hourly wage and some added benefits. Still no royalty of any kind for the session men. Not even a single percentage point to split between them.
The Wrecking Crew's counterpart in Alabama was the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. Roger Hawkins, David Hood, Jimmy Johnson, Pete Carr, Spooner Oldham and Barry Beckett were kids when they began cutting classics like Mustang Sally, When A Man Loves a Woman, I'm Your Puppet, Kodachrome, My Little Town, Tonight's the Night, Old Time Rock & Roll and Aretha's signature, Respect. They also cut hits with The Osmond Brothers, Dr Hook and other major label acts.
As members of Nashville's A Team, Grady Martin, Bob Moore, Buddy Harman, Ray Edenton and Pig Robbins played on well over 15,000 sessions between 1957 and 1987, including the biggest country and crossover hits of all time. These legendary studio musicians created the instrumental magic behind Elvis, Patsy, Conway Twitty, Brenda Lee, Jerry Lee Lewis, Marty Robbins, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Johnny Cash, George Jones, Tom T Hall, Crystal Gayle and literally hundreds of other stars.
The American Studios Band ruled in Memphis, where Reggie Young, Gene Chrisman, Bobby Wood, Bobby Emmon, Mike Leech and Tommy Cogbill pasted the groove on classics like Sweet Caroline, Drift Away, Son of A Preacher Man, Angel of The Morning, Hooked on A Feeling, You Were Always on My Mind, Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues, Suspicious Minds, In The Ghetto, Kentucky Rain, Funky Broadway, singles by The Box Tops (Cry Like A Baby, The Letter) and dozens of other hits.
After helping to invent The Sound of Philadelphia heard on hits like Love Train, Me & Mrs Jones, If You Don't Know Me By Now, Backstabbers and Elton's Philadelphia Freedom, the MFSB Rhythm Section players, led by Bobby Eli, Earl Young and Vince Montana, created a new 70's genre with dance tracks like Disco Inferno.
NYC studio greats Will Lee, Chuck Rainey, Paul Griffin, Vinny Bell, Herbie Lovelle, Hugh McCracken and David Spinozza discuss their careers and perform - with John Sebastian, (who played on dozens of sessions for other artists) providing commentary.
Along with profiles on the key players at Motown, Stax, Criteria and the studio scenes in Chicago and London - Session Men explodes some long standing myths, and celebrates these unsung heroes of popular music.