Denny Tedesco (“The Wrecking Crew”) Interview

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Denny Tedesco “The Wrecking Crew”

My musical career started as a studio musician/writer. It can be pretty interesting and exciting work.  Every day a completely different project; maybe a cartoon with Stravinsky influence, next day a Rap track, then a song for Lee Greenwood. You have to be open to all musical styles and very quickly find the truth for that song and project. Not too many musicians have done that better than “The Wrecking Crew”.  They were the musicians on ‘Pet Sounds’ and ‘Smile’, that also created Phil Spector’s “Wall Of Sound” and albums by Simon and Garfunkel, Frank Sinatra, Captain and Tenille, The Monkees, The Archies etc.  Denny Tedesco’s father, guitarist Tommy Tedesco, was one of the primary members of “The Wrecking Crew”. Denny’s created an incredible film about those musicians and songs.  I was fortunate to see a screening a couple of years ago and hope you get to see it one of these days.

DENNY TEDESCO

Denny Tedesco grew up in Los Angeles and is an alumnus of Loyola Marymount University. He started his film career as a set decorator on feature films such as ‘Eating Raoul.’ He then traveled the world as a lighting technician and location producer for IMAX films. From the shark infested waters of Australia, to an exploding Volcano of Mt. Pinatubo (Philippines), and to the plains of Africa, he has filmed under the most challenging conditions.

Over the last 17 years, Denny directed/produced the Documentary called the “Wrecking Crew”.  It’s the story of the Los Angeles Studio Musicians that worked on almost all the hits that came out of LA in the mid 1960’s.  The film is playing around the world to sell out crowds and earning audience awards as well. “The Wrecking Crew”

The “Wrecking Crew” was his labor of love, but he has produced promos, videos and commercials for various companies and networks over the last 15 years.  Recently he has been directing Game Show Network Promos and producing commercials for the Time Life Musical collections as well as a project with “The Courtyard Hounds”, a new band with Dixie Chick sisters Emily and Martie. In the late 90s, he produced the Comedy Central Show called Pulp Comics. Most notably in 2000, he produced the Academy Awards ‘opening’ with Billy Crystal and also the award winning music video for Elton John’s song, ‘I Want Love,’ directed by artist Sam Taylor Wood and starring Robert Downey Jr.

Our Scattered Words:  Did you play instruments growing up?
Denny Tedesco: Yes but never practiced.  I could have been a one man band with everything I quit.  Piano, Guitar, Sax, Accordion.

Our Scattered Words:  How did you get started on “The Wrecking Crew” project?
Denny Tedesco: My father, Tommy Tedesco was a session guitarist and in 1996 he was diagnosed with cancer.  I didn’t want to have the biggest regret in my life of not recording his stories and history before he passed.  So I put together a  round table of players.  Drummer  Hal Blaine, Bassist Carol Kaye, and Saxophonist, Plas Johnson.

Dad passed in 97 but I continued to interview players and artists.  Cher, Brian Wilson, Nancy Sinatra, Herb Alpert, Mickey Dolenz, Roger McGuinn, Jimmy Webb, Peter Tork, and so many others.

Our Scattered Words:  Who was “The Wrecking Crew” and how did the differ from “The Funk Brothers”?
Denny Tedesco: Its really a collection of players that were working in LA in the early 60s that were doing all the rock recordings because the older guys weren’t taking them or they didn’t want to do it.

There isn’t much difference in the Funk Brothers themselves.   All of these musicians are amazing.  But the business was different in Detroit vs LA.  LA had so many different types of music coming out in the 60s.  It was a factory town in another way.  The labels were pushing music out as fast as they could to see if they could grab onto something.

That was the hardest thing for me to tell the story.  You have to have the music to show the quantity that they did.  If you play Supremes, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, and Temptations, you know where its coming from.  Motown.  But if you have Sinatra, Beach Boys, 5th Dimension, Mamas and Papas, Byrds, and Chipmunks, what is the common thread there?  The musicians vs the sound. So I had to show quantity and not always quality sometimes.

Our Scattered Words:  How long did you think it would take to complete and release the film when you started?
Denny Tedesco: I thought I could do it pretty quickly.  We had a beginning, a middle and the end.  But no one ever came to the table to help so we kept going on our own.  Breaking the first rule of Hollywood. Don’t put your own money into your own project.  It’s a stupid rule and we kept breaking it.  I kiddingly say that the only ones that came to help were Visa, Wells Fargo, Master Charge and Country Wide.  Finally they stopped helping.

So, in 2006 we came to the conclusion we have to make this film on our own.  We hired an editor/producer and cut the film for the festivals in 2008.

But no one touched the film due to the high cost in licensing so I had to keep going and we have been taking donations over the last five years to pay off the labels and publishers.  They gave great deals but there was so much music.

So now we’ve paid off the labels and publishers and the last 250K goes to the Musicians Union so the musicians will be paid and the last few songs and stock footage that’s left.

Our Scattered Words:  How were “Standing In The Shadows of Motown” and “20 Feet From Stardom” able to get their films out so quickly?
Denny Tedesco: I think they both had Angels on board before the film was even shot.  I’ve had angels that have donated from $5.00 to $50,000 over the years.  It just takes more time that way. But I’m happy the way it’s going.  We’re just about to go for the last chunk of money through Crowd funding.

Our Scattered Words: What interview (or interviews) did you enjoy the most?
Denny Tedesco: Jimmy Webb was brilliant.  I always said that you could put his hour interview into an edit bay and just pick a number between 0-60 and it could go into the film.

There were other interviews that were awesome, like Snuff Garrett, Bill Medley, Jackie DeShannon and others that just couldn’t get it into the film.  So we have the out take reel.

Our Scattered Words: Which musicians/singers have been the most generous with their time/help on the project?
Denny Tedesco: Most have been very very generous of their time, but Herb Alpert and Nancy Sinatra of the artists have really helped giving me advise and pushing me forward.  They gave me their masters for free.

Hal Blaine and Don Randi have been unbelievable to me.  I feel my father never left with them around.

Our Scattered Words:  How many screenings have you done so far?
Denny Tedesco: Probably over 250 with festivals and  fundraising screenings around the country.

Our Scattered Words: You’re starting a Kickstarter in a couple of weeks.  What are the goals for that?
(NOTE: It’s now live, check it out and please pledge HERE )

Denny Tedesco: I need to go for 250K.  I can’t keep dragging this thing on by one song at a time. The musicians, the fans of the music, my friends and my family can’t keep going like this.  I can’t.  I have to just go for it.

I didn’t know how much we had to raise for the last bit until last June.  But the timing is good.  We built an audience close to 50K with Facebook Fan Page and our Website.

If it doesn’t work, I go back out and keep pounding.

Our Scattered Words:  What do you hope people take away from watching “The Wrecking Crew”?
Denny Tedesco: People have asked me, “Aren’t you tired of watching the film at all these screenings”.  I’m not watching the film anymore.  I’m watching the audience.  I love it.  I love seeing them laugh, smile, and even cry.  This music meant so much for so many people.  And every song means something different for every person watching the movie.

I’ve watched this film in Israel, Barcelona, and England.  This was America’s greatest export.  The world knows this music.

Our Scattered Words: What are you most proud of?
Denny Tedesco: I’m proud that I never gave up.  I’m proud when someone comes to me and says thank you for bringing back great memories of their youth or of their parents playing this music. I’m proud the musicians love the film and non-musicians love it just as much.  But I’m most proud of when someone tells me a story of how my father was kind to them in a studio, a music shop or in an airport.   That makes me the proudest.

I’m also proud of my two children, Isabella and Rafael are younger than the film but are still patient with Daddy’s work.  I’m proud that my wife Suzie never once said that we should ever stop pushing forward.  Also happy she never smothered me in my sleep.  She is a saint!

Our Scattered Words: What is your favorite songwriting lyric?
Denny Tedesco: Call me crazy- but with the song, arrangement, and playing comes together, I love this song!

“Up, up and away
My beautiful, my beautiful balloon
Balloon…”

Our Scattered Words: If you could go back and be part of any album session what would it be?
Denny Tedesco: “Be my Baby”.   Those sessions seem to have lots of teasing and fun in between takes.

Our Scattered Words: If you could sit down and talk about songwriting with anyone that you have not, who would it be and why?
Denny Tedesco: I’m a filmmaker. So I could never really talk songwriting with Jimmy Webb, Brian Wilson, Jackie DeShannon and the others.

I’m just blown away being around some of the greatest musicians and artists in the world my whole life and wondering what makes them tick.  Something inside them wants to share and feel they communicated their message or there art.  I think that’s what kept me going with this film.  We all want to be heard.

The Wrecking Crew on the web
Website
Kickstarter

There are no bonus features here this time.  If you want to see clips from the films and interviews please go to

http://wreckingcrew.tv/

Thanks for stopping by!

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4 thoughts on “Denny Tedesco (“The Wrecking Crew”) Interview

  1. There are no bonus features here this time.  If you want to see clips from the films and interviews please go to

    Thanks for stopping by!

    You left out a link at the end of this .

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