Film Spotlight: The Wrecking Crew

Two decades in the making, The Wrecking Crew, a documentary about the group of musicians who played on records by the likes of Nancy Sinatra, Bobby Vee, The Partridge Family, The Mamas & the Papas, The Carpenters, The 5th Dimension, John Denver, The Beach Boys, Simon & Garfunkel, The Grass Roots and Nat King Cole, showed at the Cleveland International Film Festival way back in 2008. Since that screening, producer and director Denny Tedesco, son of late Wrecking Crew guitarist Tommy Tedesco, has been trying to get the money together to secure rights to the 110 songs that appear in the movie.

"I started the film in 1996," he says in a recent phone interview. "My dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer. After he passed away, I made a 14-minute teaser hoping that someone would come in and do it. We kept going until 2006. We spent hundreds of thousands of dollars. We didn't even have a film. I just had footage. It's like having a property that overlooks this gorgeous place and I had the plans but I couldn't sell it. I had an idea about how much the music would cost. No one would touch it, even with the awards. We had awards all around the world and the reviews were extraordinary. We were this hot coal that no one wanted to touch."

After some creative fundraising strategies, the final product opens on Friday at the Cedar Lee Theatre.

The film documents the way in which a group of behind-the-scenes players became sought-after musicians even though they never achieved name recognition outside of music industry circles. It's ultimately more than just a music film. It's also about friendship and the value of hard work. And it's about living life with the satisfaction that your efforts matter to the people who matter even if they haven't been particularly profitable.

"I had people at screenings crying because it touched them," says Tedesco. "The movie touched them, partly because of the music at the time. Someone asked me if they were the musicians were upset that they weren't stars. They were stars for the stars. The stars were appreciative. Nancy Sinatra would hold up the dates so she could get them to tour with her. [Composer] John Williams once told my father to leave his schedule open for two weeks. That's when you know you did it. He's not asking for a guitar player. He's asking for him. There's nothing better than someone of that stature respecting you."

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Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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