Published on Jan 14, 2014
AMERICAN STUDIO BAND Reggie Young, Mike Leech, Bobby Emmons, Bobby Wood, Gene Chrisman. MEMPHIS HORNS: Wayne Jackson and Andrew Love. Cinematography Rob Lindsey, Matt Coale. Sound Matt Andrews. Produced, directed and edited by Gil Baker.
THE SESSION MEN STORY
1965. At Western Studios in LA, a group of musicians now known as the Wrecking Crew are working on a song called Help Me Rhonda. In a matter of hours they will figure out the stellar instrumental parts heard on that track. When Rhonda shoots to Number One, the Beach Boys are hailed as great musicians. But their sold out concerts don't sound much like the records they make. And no wonder.
The Wrecking Crew performed on all the Beach Boys biggest hits. Brian Wilson requested these players after hearing the magic they created on Phil Spector productions like Be My Baby, Da Doo Ron Ron and He's a Rebel.
Through the late 50's, studio musicians were expected to show up on time and play the notes an arranger had written. But recording sessions in the 60's called for players who could improvise. While recording acts, composers, publishers and producers received a royalty when their record sold, these intuitive players - who created their own parts - were only being paid a wage for their time.
With rock'n roll dominating radio, the music industry relied on a relatively small number of undervalued players, whose improvisational skills and arrangements helped make hits. This inequity eventually lead the musicians to threaten a strike. But their union settled for an increased hourly wage and benefits. No royalty would ever be paid for their contributions.
Wrecking Crew players included drummer Hal Blaine, bassist Joe Osborn, Larry Knechtel and Don Randi on keyboards, guitarists Glen Campbell, Tommy Tedesco, Al Casey, Jerry Cole and Ms. Carol Kaye, who also played most of the Beach Boy bass parts that Brian Wilson took credit for.
Knechtel, the Crew's Grammy winning mullti-instrumentalist, is the pianist on Bridge Over Troubled Water, the organist on Never My Love, the bass player on Mr. Tambourine Man and the six-string soloist on Bread's classic, The Guitar Man.
Along with albums for The Byrds, Association, America, Mamas & Papas, Grassroots, Carpenters, Monkees, Tijuana Brass, Paul Revere's Raiders and Jay's Americans - the Crew cut classics like McArthur Park, Secret Agent Man, Strangers In The Night and hundreds of other Top 40 tracks.
The Wrecking Crew's Alabama counterpart was the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. Jimmy Johnson, Roger Hawkins, Tommy Cogbill, David Hood, 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, Tonight's The Night, Old Time Rock & Roll and Aretha's signature hit, Respect.
In Memphis, the American Studios Band dominated the charts. Reggie Young, Mike Leech, Gene Chrisman, Bobby Emmons and Mike Wood pasted the groove on records like Sweet Caroline, Suspicious Minds, In the Ghetto, Son of A Preacher Man, Hooked On A Feeling, You Were Always On My Mind and Angel of The Morning. ASB also cut million sellers like Cry Like A Baby and The Letter for a popular 60's recording act known as The Box Tops.
As the Memphis Horns, Andrew Love and Wayne Jackson had a career that spanned five decades recording gold and platinum hits with Elvis, Aretha, Sam & Dave, Otis, Wilson, Percy, BB, BJ, U2, Sting, Rod, Willie, Dusty, Bonnie, Isaac, Stills, Cocker, Winwood, James Taylor, Billy Joel, Neil Diamond, Dobie Gray, Al Green, Neil Young, Cinderella, Collective Soul, Peter Gabriel, The Doobie Brothers, Boxtops and others.
Before finding fame as Booker T & The MG's, Memphis greats Steve Cropper, Duck Dunn, Al Jackson and Booker Jones were the Stax Studio Band heard on soul stirring tracks like Dock Of The Bay, Hold On, I'm Comin, Soul Man and Wilson Pickett's Midnight Hour.
After inventing The Philly Sound heard on hits like Love Train, Me & Mrs Jones, If You Don't Know Me By Now and Backstabbers, MFSB Rhythm Section players Bobby Eli, Earl Young and Vince Montana helped create a new 70's genre with hot dance tracks like Disco Inferno.
Known as Nashville's A Team, Grady Martin, Bob Moore, Buddy Harman, Ray Edenton and Pig Robbins are heard on the biggest country and crossover hits by artists like Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Johnny Cash, George Jones and many others.
Session Men also includes NYC studio greats Chuck Rainey, Paul Griffin, Herb Lovell, Dave Spinoza, Hugh McCracken, Will Lee and Vincent Bell. This unique film explodes some long standing myths and exposes, for the first time, these true geniuses of popular music.