They played on "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'," "Good Vibrations," "The Beat Goes On" and scores of other hit records.
They were known as the Wrecking Crew, even though hardly anyone knew their names. They were the Los Angeles musicians called on by producers including Phil Spector, because the Beach Boys, the Byrds, the Association and others were not proficient enough instrumentally in the recording studio.
"At one point in the '60s, I was making more [money] than the president of the United States," bassist Carol Kaye said.
She is one of many musicians interviewed in "The Wrecking Crew," a film that is part illuminating rock documentary and part valentine to the filmmaker's dad, guitarist Tommy Tedesco.
Denny Tedesco worked on this film for more than 12 years. He still hasn't found a distributor, because he needs to raise more than $300,000 to cover fees for the use of more than 130 songs from the 1960s.
It was a time when the studio musicians wearing blue blazers weren't quite ready to play that newfangled rock 'n' roll, so Tedesco, saxophonist Plas Johnson, bassist Kaye and others gladly recorded the music in the same studios where they had worked with Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole. The story of the filmmaker's dad (who also did TV and movie themes) is but a chapter in the tale of an in-demand musician whose opportunities faded in the 1970s when bands started playing on their own albums.
Only three members of the Wrecking Crew -- guitarist Glen Campbell and pianists Leon Russell and Dr. John -- moved on to become recording artists. Drummer Hal Blaine, who played on more than 40 No. 1 songs, toured with Elvis Presley and John Denver. Most of these session artists faded into obscurity.
In the film, testimony from the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson, the Byrds' Roger McGuinn, Cher, Herb Alpert and the Monkees' Micky Dolenz, among others, adds gravitas. The Wrecking Crew was "the secret starmaking machine," says songwriting giant Jimmy Webb.
Just as the award-winning 2002 documentary "Standing in the Shadows of Motown" shed light on the Detroit session band known as the Funk Brothers, "The Wrecking Crew" can give these splendid L.A. musicians the recognition they deserve and give music fans a greater appreciation for so many great records.