Hal Blaine and the Wrecking Crew: The Men Behind the Music

If you pulled back the curtain on rock and roll over the past four decades, there, hiding, would be Hal Blaine. I read a portrait of this man behind the famous “Wrecking Crew,” in the WSJ yesterday, and discovered that much of the music people think was performed by famous artists was actually done by someone else.

That would be the Wrecking Crew, who played on hits by the Byrds, The Beach Boys, the Mamas and the Papas, Jan and Dean and of course, the Monkees. The reason? Record companies simply felt that most of the rock bands weren’t good enough to play their own music, well not as good as these seasoned session guys at least. And according to Blaine, nobody revealed the Wrecking Crew’s truth because fans wanted to think their stars were actually good musicians.

The story reveals Blaine’s prodigious work ethic–he played on as many as seven studio sessions a day, going from a Beach Boys recording to Frank Sinatra’s ‘Strangers in the Night.’ A new movie has been released that documents some of the Wrecking Crew’s story, it’s waiting for music licensing to be released.

Blaine has a Valley connection: he was born Harold Belsky in Holyoke in 1929, and moved to California with his family, then went to college on the GI bill where he studied for two years and played percussion at strip clubs to earn a living.

He explained why stars like the Beach Boys had no problem letting the Crew do the heavy lifting during recording sessions. “My playing took the pressure off of him [drummer Dennis Wilson], he was living for surf and the beach. Besides, I made $65 for an afternoon at the studio and he made $65,000 that night in concert!”