“The Wrecking Crew” director Denny Tedesco never gave up on making the movie about session players in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, despite knowing the rights to use the music in his film would come at a big cost. Even as the movie became a financial burden, Tedesco found a way to keep going through screenings to raise money.
The result of his effort is a documentary that plays tribute to musicians like his father, guitarist Tommy Tedesco, drummer Hal Blaine and bass player Carol Kaye, who made their living as backup musicians to stars from Frank Sinatra to The Beach Boys. There were few hit songs to come out of Los Angeles at that time that didn’t feature members of the Wrecking Crew.
“I started this in 1996 when my dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I tracked everyone down to film a roundtable discussion. Then I kept shooting film. I wasn’t doing a lot of editing, and in 1998 all I had was a 14-minute cut,” Tedesco says.
He finally edited the film, which is this month’s presentation by Fresno Filmworks. Between the two screenings Friday, May 8, the director will be at the Tower Theatre to field questions about the film, his father and the music industry.
One huge topic is the cost of the movie. Although publishing companies weren’t asking for a fortune to use songs like “California Dreaming” or “These Boots Were Made for Walking,” the financial realities meant it was nearly impossible for the documentary to ever recoup costs. Tedesco has raised money with screenings, by participating in film festivals and seeking donations. The movie, which is being released on DVD, can be purchased at wreckingcrewfilm.com.
“We are still in a hole with this film,” he says. “But, we are doing better. No one thought this would ever come out. I just kept going.”
Tedesco was surprised that he could not find a sponsor in any of the companies that made the musical instruments the session players used.
“These are the guys that made their instruments sing. I just find it strange they are always looking to the next great musician instead of embracing their history. They should do both,” Tedesco says
With a little more money, the director could make more movies since he has years of recordings that include 79 interviews. Part of the unused footage includes an interview with Fresno’s Barry McGuire. Tedesco says the interview with the local musician — who is scheduled to be at the local screening — was some of his best material, but he could not fit it into this first movie.
When it comes to his dad’s thousands of performances, Tedesco’s favorite is “Memories” by Elvis Presley. The song starts with his father playing and Elvis singing.
The movie plays at 5:30 and 8:45 p.m. Tickets cost $10 general admission and $8 for students and seniors. Visit FresnoFilmworks.org for more.
As part of its community outreach program, Fresno Filmworks has invited students from vocal and instrumental music classes from the School of the Arts at Roosevelt High to attend the screening at no charge.