They Say That Love Can't Pay the Rent

The Wrecking Crew: Interview with Session Keyboardist, Jazz Musician, Club Owner- Don Randi

Song River 03/09/2015

Tommy Tedesco: The Most Famous Guitarist You’ve Never Heard Of” 
Michael Leonard 12/26/2003

So many songs to be sung, so many stories to be told. Music, she comes from all different walks of life. Some carry a particular sound with them, and others when they arrive... well... they march to their own beat.

The session bands, no one spoke about, were a breed of musicians all unto themselves. A special and unique line-up of talents really. Maybe people were innocent of their existence, or music really was just, “It's got a good beat and you can dance to it!” methodology way of thinking. It didn't matter who played, just as long as it sounded good and the crowd could groove. However, there was a large cast of true masters who never received their due credit, paychecks yes, but listed on the credits? No. The group was known as The Wrecking Crew and they really were the foundation, the skeletal structure and the beams that made so many well known names not only sound good, but made them solid gold records. Yes, we recognize the well known names such as; Linda Ronstadt, Quincy Jones, The Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra, The Monkees, Sarah Vaughan and Frank Zappa to name just a few. Yet, who were the people behind making these vocalist sound so good? One of them was none other than keyboardist, jazz club owner, and session member of The Wrecking Crew... Don Randi.
When I finally caught up with Don Randi, he was out playing with drum sticks at a local music shop with his good buddy and long time Wrecking Crew comrade in music, master drummer, Hal Blaine. We didn't get long to talk, but the excitement of all those years of being a part of something special could still be felt and heard in Don's voice.

Don's arrival in Los Angeles after his father's passing in 1954 was probably the key to the success to follow. Needing work, he began in 1956 his employment with a record distribution company, this opened up the introduction of jazz, which influenced Don greatly. The music industry was on the west coast, the time was right, and the music scene was flourishing. Music could be found everywhere. It was as if new life had breezed in on a lyrical note, or a sense of a, “Yeah go daddy-o... cool beat man!” was felt everywhere. Many times the movies made were more about the music, and the attitude the tunes carried, the scripts being written were secondary. Commercial jingles had a rhythm, and there was a wave being swept through, this is where the session musicians could give the American public what they were craving.  

Speaking with Don I asked him though if he ever felt like, “HEY! Where's my name?” or “Why aren't the girls screaming for me?” I wanted to really know how hard it was to be the unknown sitting in the studio, with other studio musicians creating the sound, but receiving nothing verbally back from the public. Don said with a smile, “We were paid well. We were creating hit records... one after another, after another, after another. We would be like driving in our car and we would hear our songs. In truth, we were so busy. (paused) This was job security.” And lets face it, job security can be a good thing.

Like many of his other session mates, Don held down many jobs, while working as a studio session musician. Don's love for music, especially jazz, fueled him on. Working in nightclubs, Don eventually in 1970, opened his own jazz club, The Baked Potato. Still going strong, the nightclub hosts various bands nightly. Now his son does the booking for the shows, and music pumps into another generation.

Over the years Don has been involved with numerous recorded albums, approximately over 300 hit records. Having worked closely with Glen Campbell (former Wrecking Crew), Nancy Sinatra (and still does) Lee Hazelwood, and even Phil Spector. I guess you can say that The Wrecking Crew has been on about all the records from, Herb Alpert to Frank Zappa, yes truly the beat from A to Z.

The Wrecking Crew film is not only a tribute to the father of Denny Tedesco, mega studio session guitarist talent- Tommy Tedesco, but to all the members of The Wrecking Crew who have finally been given their due... on their well deserved credit line. It's truly an artistic badge of honor to be able to familiarize ones self to the talents that made up a unique blend of men, and one woman, bassist Carol Kaye, making their own stanza in American music.

Towards the end of our conversation Don wistfully shared with me how important he really felt this film was. “The film finally gives credit where credit is due. Those who come to see it are the same ones who come to my club, the care about music. And mostly certainly you should take you kids to see this historical piece on music, we are The Wrecking Crew.”

The film, The Wrecking Crew documents a period of time when the West Coast Sound was the only sound playing over the airwaves. It's an era unlike any other, and a group of people who could play anything handed to them, and at times nothing more than words were spoken and they were expected to deliver the rest, and they always did. Never before had a team of studio sessions created so much, so effortlessly, and been so righteously spot on. The music fans never guessed that the guitars, drums, horns, keyboards... were being played by this group. The Wrecking Crew film will give you a deeper appreciation and understanding of music from yesterday that built the foundations of where we are today.

After I watched the invitation only screening of the film,The Wrecking Crew, I was honored with the chance to ask Denny Tedesco, who produced this film his father would have been so proud of, how important he felt it was to give credit where credit is due. This is what he had to say, That was one of my favorite things in the credits. I always dreamed of being able to put credits in the DVD and the CD booklet of the sound track album.  For the last few years, I've been working with the American Federation of Musicians to give me the contracts so that we could pull the names off.  

At the end of the film, we have over 297 musicians listed.  I decided to list everyone that was on those contracts.  We did it by instruments.  Guitar, Bass, Drums, Horns, Accordion, and even String players.  Its probably the first time that string players have seen their name on the screen.  

One of my fondest moments came after a screening in Hollywood and a girl came up in tears at the end of the film.  Her dad was a string player and recently passed away.  She was thrilled to see her dad’s name up there.  I knew exactly the emotion she was going through.  

Because those credits run for minutes, it cost more money for every song we used.  But it was worth it, just for that moment to see how much it meant for her.”

The Wrecking Crew... a feeling of warmth, a beat for the heart of rock n roll, a great trip down memory lane.  Thank you Denny Tedesco for giving us all, all of you.

All Photos Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures
Photo Credits: The Wrecking Crew

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Song River is the owner of CowGirlZen Photography. She is also a freelance photojournalist. Currently working with L3 Magazine, Vents Mag, Silverplatter. You can follow her interviews, reviews of great musicians, writers, artists on her blog,  She is also quite active in social media working as a copywriter for several companies, and individuals. Never wrong, always right... and filled with a twisted satirical outlooks onlife sometimes... you have to be thinking out of the box most of the time to catch her.  A mess of delight and quandary at times, but known for her love and compassion to help others succeed. A die hard Nikon proficient!