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The Wrecking Crew: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll's Best-Kept Secret Hardcover – February 14, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


It makes good music sound better. (Janet Maslin in The New York Times)

Hartman's book is a great tour through the California music scene of the 60s and 70s and a great introduction to how the music business functioned back then. This story has all the makings of a great HBO series. (The Hollywood Reporter)

A sweet and wistful meditation on the early days of the music business, full of little gems and wonders fit for serious music fans and a commendable, long-overdue tribute to the legendary Wrecking Crew - the ridiculously talented, go-to guys behind so many hits. This book will make your head spin. (Shirley Manson, lead singer, Garbage)

I've been in the music business for over forty years and I didn't know any of this! The Wrecking Crew is a total page-turner. I couldn't put it down. Kent Hartman is one gifted storyteller. (John Kosh, three-time Grammy-winning art director and legendary album cover designer of Abbey Road, Who's Next, and Hotel California)

Hartman makes a compelling case for the skill of his subjects, who often fabricated the crucial hooks that brought their clients fame. Some chapters, such as one about the recording of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," are rich in fly-on-the-wall detail. (Kirkus)

Is Larry Knechtel one of your favorite 1960s musicians? How about Hal Blaine? Carol Kaye? Oh yes they are. These three were part of The Wrecking Crew, a group of brilliant performers who supplied the music for many of the biggest hits during the blazing high noon of American rock. But nobody knew. Until now, that is, because Kent Hartman has at last written, with a verve and enthusiasm underpinned by scrupulous research, rock's great missing chapter. (Richard Snow, former editor-in-chief of American Heritage, author of A Measureless Peril)

Turns out the heart of rock and roll isn't Cleveland after all. It's the Wrecking Crew. Kent Hartman's behind the scenes look at the early days of rock turns much of what we thought we knew about popular music upside down. So many secrets revealed. You won't think about artists such as The Beach Boys, The Mamas & the Papas, or Simon and Garfunkel quite the same. Mr. Hartman's book should go platinum. (Larry Colton, author of No Ordinary Joes, Counting Coup and Goat Brothers, and founder of the Wordstock literary festival)

A fascinating look into the West Coast recording studio scene of the 60s and the inside story of the music you heard on the radio. If you always assumed the musicians you listened to were the same people you saw on stage, you are in for a big surprise! (Dusty Street, legendary radio air talent (KMPX, KSAN, KROQ) and current host of "Classic Vinyl," broadcast live around the world from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Sirius/XM)

From 1962 to 1975, one group of studio players, the Wrecking Crew, provided the tracks for records as various as "He's a Rebel," "Surfer Girl," "California Dreamin'," "MacArthur Park," "Classical Gas," and "Bridge over Troubled Water." Industry insider Hartman opens our eyes to this fascinating group of musicians, tracing the careers of three members of this group--Glen Campbell, Carol Smith, Hal Blaine--who shared little more than an innate inner drive, musical talent, and a work ethic shaped by grinding poverty. Campbell, for example, lit out on the road when he was 13 to play guitar. Eight years later, Campbell joined the Champs, whose "Limbo Rock" Chubby Checker would soon record as "The Twist." In 1962, Phil Spector gathered Campbell, Smith, Blaine, Billy Strange, Bill Pitman, and seven other highly skilled session musicians to lay down the tracks for "Zip-a-Dee-Do-Dah," added the voices of Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, and a #1 record and the Wrecking Crew were born. Hartman also traces the work of later members of the Crew such as Leon Russell, Larry Knechtel, and Jim Gordon, as well as the successful solo careers of Campbell and Russell. Hartman's fast-paced tale offers dazzling insights into a little known chapter of rock and roll history. (Publishers Weekly)

In Los Angeles in 1960s-70s, if you wanted to record a chart-topping track or album, you called in the crack session musicians collectively known as the Wrecking Crew. Consisting of artists unknown outside the music industry, like drummer Hal Blaine and bass player Carol Kaye, as well as those who would go on to recording fame of their own, such as Glenn Campbell and Leon Russell, the Wrecking Crew was the West Coast's cream of the crop of session players, backing top-notch hit makers Phil Spector, Frank Sinatra, the Beach Boys, Simon & Garfunkel, and many more. Hartman (marketing, Portland State Univ.), who has worked with many well-known recording artists including Hall & Oates, Three Dog Night, and Lyle Lovett, tells the group's definitive story with a music industry insider's insight and enthusiasm. The only other work on these behind-the-scenes pros is Blaine's Hal Blaine and the Wrecking Crew, which is more narrowly focused on the experiences of the stalwart drummer. Verdict: Recommended for readers interested in popular music and the music industry, particularly West Coast pop and classic rock. (Library Journal)

One of the key innovations of rock and roll was that it empowered young artists to not only write their own material but also play their own music. But in the music industry capital of L.A. in the sixties, even some of rock's most innovative performers sometimes needed a helping hand in the studio. They got it from the assortment of L.A. session players collectively known as "The Wrecking Crew," who are, in many ways, the unsung heroes of the West Coast sound. Dan John Miller narrates the book with the sly tone of an L.A. hustler, chewing on the words, making sure they snap with the same vibrant resonance as a twangy guitar or shimmering cymbal, as befits this fascinating story of musical and cultural legend. (AudioFile)

About the Author

KENT HARTMAN is a longtime music industry entrepreneur who has worked with dozens of well-known artists, including Three Dog Night, Steppenwolf, Hall & Oates, Counting Crows, and Lyle Lovett. He has written for American Heritage, The Oregonian, and Portland Tribune. Hartman teaches marketing at Portland State University and for several years produced The Classic Comedy Break, a nationwide radio feature. He lives in Portland.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; 1st edition (February 14, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031261974X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312619749
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (295 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #136,042 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

78 of 83 people found the following review helpful By Robert Catania on February 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover
As a long time music fan and student of music history, I always have been aware of the studio musicians who played a huge part of the hit making process. With The Wrecking Crew, Kent Hartman has put a face on all those musicians who played such a vital role in those hit songs we all loved hearing on the radio. Kent highlights several key players in The Wrecking Crew and follows them from childhood to stardom. The Glen Campbell story is especially touching considering all he is going through see what an amazing life he has had. When I started the book I expected a great history lesson and I certainly got that. What I didn't expect was a page was hard to put down and I finished this in a couple of days. Kent weaves all the interlocking stories in a way that forces you to read "just one more chapter" but then you can't stop. For any real music fan this is a must read. The insights into the musicians and the inside stories of all those songs we all sang along to make this a compelling story.The research is unbelievable and when Kent creates a "scene"(like Sonny Bono writing the lyrics to I Got You Babe on a pizza box) feel like you are there with the artist. My only complaint: I wanted more and hope one day there is a Wrecking Crew #2.
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350 of 400 people found the following review helpful By Carol Kaye on July 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I was totally mis-quoted in this wrong skewered and silly book. Quotes from me are totally wrong and un-true, and I'm sure with others also. Our group of 350-400 1960s-70s studio musicians were never known by this Hal Blaine 1990-invented term, invented by someone who wanted to be famous - this book is full of slander also. The person who invented that clownish term never was good enough to be a movie film musician, so the fine movie-TV-film studio musicians are slandered...they never said that, they complimented us.....I know, I was there doing 100s of movie scores 1,000s of record date with them. No-one ever said "wrecking" at all, that's all invented by a jealous musician...

Please don't buy this phony book by a "writer" who made false promises of the "truth" (for a magazine article, never a book!) he changed my words, and others' words too, to fit his own needs for $$$ -- he wanted to be in "our studio business" etc. This is another bad poorly written wrong phony book, please don't buy.
CAROL KAYE 1st Call Bassist All Hollywood Studios, 1960s-1970s, author & leading educator, over 30 courses and tutors.
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60 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Dana Jeffries on February 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I'll never hear Simon and Garfunkel's
"The Boxer" the same ever again since
reading The Wrecking Crew by Kent Hartman.
And the same goes for other huge hits such as
"Good Vibrations" by the Beach Boys
"The Beat Goes On" by Sonny and Cher,
"Dream a Little Dream of Me" by the Mamas & the Papas,
"MacArthur Park" by Richard Harris and many, many more.

This book is filled with detailed behind-the-scenes
stories about so many classic music hits from the 1960s and
'70s---and about the "anonymous" musicians (i.e. members of the "Wrecking Crew") who were
really playing the musical instruments on those records. It was never who
I thought I was listening to! And one of the
musicians was a woman...brave Carol Kaye.

Hartman's book is so much fun to
read and savor. Every single time I read a chapter
I hear the songs again that he writes about.
Classic songs I thought I'd heard a hundred times
before are made even MORE special.

So much fun to read!
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Mark on February 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Congratulations to Kent Hartman for delivering a fine book on a heretofore under examined aspect of sixties pop music: the rise and dominance of the studio session player. Beginning with the migration of Glen Campbell, Carol Kaye and Hal Blaine to Southern California and early work done for Phil Spector, passing through the story of the Monkees, the Grass Roots, the Union Gap, the Mamas and the Papas and other bands and ending with the rise of the multi-track era and the tragic story of Jim Gordon, this is a well written, concise and highly readable volume. I stop short of all five stars for one reason: the ending is quite abrupt in a you-can-almost-smell-the-brakes sort of way. I would have loved to hear a little about what these great talents are doing today, perhaps a few final looking-back-on-it-all valedictory thoughts from those who are still around. Still, anyone with any interest in the subject should enjoy this brisk and informative book. Now, after reading it, I've got to break out my old vinyl 45s and get reacquainted with the music!
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Terry Goodall on February 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book took me by complete surprise in a couple of ways. First, I learned that apparently much of the music that I know and love from the 1960s was actually played by other people than the bands themselves. What??? Second, the background stories here are fascinating. Especially the ones about the Byrds, the Mamas & the Papas, and the Grass Roots. Though it is classified as a nonfiction title, this book, to me anyway, reads more like a novel or something, with one dramatic behind-the-scenes thing happening after another. And I sure never knew that Glen Campbell and Leon Russell started their careers as part of the Wrecking Crew. Really a great book. Gonna have to fire up my iPod now and listen to what I've just been reading about.
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