Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Wrecking Crew: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll's Best-Kept Secret by Kent Hartman

While searching for a Monkees biography for a timely review, this title popped up in the recommended widgets. I had known for some time that the Monkees did not play in the studio for their first two albums, and it occurred to me other groups of the day would have made use of studio musicians. That the majority of the best-known songs recorded during rock and roll's first few decades had been performed by a core group left me wanting to know more, and author Hartman's meticulous biography of "The Wrecking Crew" traces their history from the days when popular music shifted from deep-voiced crooning to raucous rockabilly and on through the eclectic seventies. Some names are familiar, others not so much, but in a way that is probably fitting, given that the music (no pun intended) seemed to take center stage.

Kent Hartman's account of this group's evolution in The Wrecking Crew (AMZ) puts focus on a number of players, some within the crew and others the peripheral movers in the music business who benefited from their skills. Some names may be familiar with students of early rock -- drummer Hal Blaine who coined the moniker, the lone female Carol Kaye, and the rare crossover success story, Glen Campbell. For much of the 50s through the 70s, when singing groups tended the dominate the charts more often than actual bands, the Wrecking Crew handled the majority of studio performances, including songs by Simon and Garfunkel, Sonny and Cher, The Beach Boys (some of the crew would actually tour as ersatz members), The Monkees, The Grass Roots, The Fifth Dimension, and so forth.

The Wrecking Crew presents the evolution of the rock era through a series of vignettes that paint a colorful picture of the industry -- from tales of Sonny Bono's ballsy maneuvering into the business to dealings with the enigmatic Brian Wilson. The book presents a most fascinating history.

Rating: A

Kathryn Lively is a mystery author and book blogger.