Category Archives: Rock and Roll

The Monkees, The Wrecking Crew (Studio Musicians) and Leon Russell


Remember the big hoopla about 1966 – 67 that the Monkees didn’t play their own instruments? Boy, I do. And it raged for years. The Rock and Roll snobs were really ugly about it.

The Monkees never pretended that their origins were anything other than a massive casting call at Screen Gems. I was a member of their fan club and lots of articles included the original ad that began “Madness: Wanted four ….”. The years have taken their toll. I used to could quote the whole ad.

They were the brainchild of Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider. Their idea was a television show about a loony rock and roll band, with music videos. Marketing began … at the beginning. According to Wikipedia (and if I remember correctly a pre-1968 article in TV guide) the story about the group using studio musicians broke when Mike Nesmith, Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork put their collective foot down to be allowed to play their own instruments. Part of the reason they were hired was that they all actually were musicians, except possibly Jones. He was a professional singer, having played the Artful Dodger in the London stage production of Oliver! and had recorded a solo album.

Fast forward a few years to 2007. While looking through some old issues of American Heritage magazine, I saw a piece on the Wrecking Crew (click here for the article online. Note: as of 3-1-2012 this link has been updated). Up until then, the only Wrecking Crew I was familiar with was the movie with Dean Martin. One of his Matt Helm, pseudo James Bond type things.

The article had pictures of people playing instruments during recording sessions. I think the only one I recognized was Glen Campbell. And even though I’ve always liked Glen Campbell, I’m not really a fan so I just skimmed through it; a couple of years later I was looking through old magazines and sat down to actually read it rather than just looking at the pictures.

(Even though I love to read books and really love magazines, there’s this quirky thing about not reading articles in them. Like a kid, I look at the pictures. I have years worth of Victoria magazines that I’ve never read, just looked at. National Review is an exception. There are very few photos in it and I usually read it cover to cover, often on the day it arrives – except for tax and libertarian pieces.)

Well, lo and behold. The Wrecking Crew was a group of studio musicians in Los Angeles. And yeah, they played the instruments on the Monkee’s first 2 albums.

But they also played for The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, the Byrds and a whole lot more. They were Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound. They played everything from jazz to rock and roll to jingles for television commercials. They were fantastic.

There was an interview posted online with Tommy Tedesco’s son Denny, which has been removed.  Tommy was a studio guitarist. Denny made a documentary titled “The Wrecking Crew”, here is a video interview with him. Wish the whole film was on youtube because it looks fascinating.

Glen Campbell and Leon Russell were the only names I recognized. A more complete list of Leon Russell’s keyboard backups is here at Tulsa TV Memories. (Leon Russell is a Tulsa native.)

The Funk Brothers backed up Motown. here

For those of us who still like the Monkees:

Go here for a review of a Micky Dolenz concert. Nice article. Micky tells of being in the Abbey Road studio with the Beatles.

In this Wikipedia article on Davy Jones, it mentions that he was on Ed Sullivan the same night that the Beatles debuted, February 9, 1964.

Oh, my. Mike Nesmith is 68. Ouch. Here’s his bio on Wikipedia. My husband saw the current photo of Mike and said he looks like a senator.

And here’s the Wiki article on Peter.

Ah, memories.

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Filed under 1960's, Music, Oklahoma, Rock and Roll, Tulsa, YouTube

Go Go Boots a la 1966

My parents bought me a pair of white Go Go boots about 1965 when I was in the 5th grade, a year before these were featured in the 1966 Fall/Winter Catalog. I loved them and felt so stylish and teenagery.

Go Go boots were absolutely the In Thing. I remember seeing lots of pairs of them unevenly lined up under the benches at The Wheel on Friday nights. The Wheel was the roller rink at the edge of Mohawk Park in Tulsa and my friend Judy would pick me up to go with her. When you rented the skates, you simply put your shoes/boots under the bench – not in a locker. Our friend, Carol had her Go Go boots stolen one night. Carol’s boots were probably a big temptation because her family had more money than the rest of us in Mingo, and I’m sure that her boots were probably more expensive.

It was always a little scary there to me because we were just about 10 years old and the greasers were there, too. Remember how the kids looked in “The Outsiders“? That’s them. Something about how they just looked made me uneasy – and I never ever saw anything worse than somebody smoking outside the door. But the boys did have the greased back hair and and wore pointed-toed black shoes (kind of like the ones that the band members are wearing in the Pretty Woman link below). The girls had lots of eye make-up and would crowd into the tiny girls’ bathroom. Roy Orbison’s played on the p.a. (public address system) a lot. The kids seemed to really like it.

Whenever I hear that song I don’t think about the hooker movie; no, I’m back at The Wheel.

Perhaps Susie Hinton was there, too. She went to Rogers High School and was writing “The Outsiders” at that time. These are the people she was writing about.

Aren’t these knee socks and stockings just the coolest thing?! We wore lots of them.

Here I’m striking an embarrassingly silly pose on the back of my dad and brother’s work truck in our front yard. This would’ve been about 1966 (not ’65 as I tagged the photo) and the knee socks look just like the ones from the catalog, so Mama may’ve ordered them from that very page.

But I confess, I even wore them with my cowboy boots – no photo of that (and you should be grateful)!

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Filed under 1960's, 1965, 1966, Books, Books, Boots, Entertainment, Ephemera, Fiction, Mingo, Movies, Music, Oklahoma, Rock and Roll, Sears, Shoes, Tulsa, Vintage catalogs, YouTube