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The backbeat of the vast majority of the hits you hear from the 1960s-70s were played by a group of about 20 musicians who you’ve probably never heard of. Music impresario Phil Spector created what became known as the Wall of Sound, leveraging the talents of these musicians. They became known as The Wrecking Crew.
These musicians played on the hits of artists like Frank Sinatra, The Beach Boys, Nat King Cole, the Fifth Dimension, Cher, Simon and Garfunkel, and the Mamas and the Papas, to name a few.
A new documentary entitled “The Wrecking Crew” is out this year, and it features interviews with key members of this group of elite musicians. As I listened to them share their stories and phenomenal success, I realized that any business professional today could learn a lot from the ways they truly cornered their market.
Here are six lessons I learned from The Wrecking Crew.
1. Diversity produces a better product – These musicians came from different disciplines – jazz, country, classical, blues, pop, and rock and roll. They used their differences to create a unique sound that would have been impossible from a group of musicians schooled in just one genre.
2. Do a bunch of things well – They all spoke about the fact that they could each do 5 or 6 different things – whether that was playing 5 or 6 different instruments, or being able to slip into and play multiple styles of music.
3. Take care of the front man – As one musician said, “Our goal was to always make the front man look good.” So whether that “front man” was John Denver or Nancy Sinatra, they aligned to ensure the singer was successful. Having that common goal united their efforts.
4. Be opportunistic – This was one of the hardest-working groups in the history of music, and yet most people don’t know the names of members like: Carol Kaye, Hal Blaine, Tommy Tedesco and Dick Nash. Many stumbled upon the opportunity but once they saw the power of the group and what they could accomplish together, they followed each opportunity to make their mark.
5. It’s what you do with the notes – Members of the crew said their success was not about the notes on the paper but what they DID with those notes. The chords, the charts and the improvisation came together to create something special.
6. Leave egos at the door – This group talks about how they left their egos at the door, fully committed to collaborating to make each other look good, and were always raising the bar on their own performances.
Guitarist Tommy Tedesco was asked why he dedicated such a huge part of his life (and all the sacrifices that went with it) to this musical endeavor. He said that yes, in part it was for the money, but more importantly, it was for the relationships, the learning experience, and the ability to have a lot of fun together.
The Wrecking Crew reigned supreme for 10 years. Some members like Glen Campbell and Leon Russell went on to solo careers. Producers, singers, and songwriters waited in line to have a chance to go into the studio with these artists. They were so good, they made themselves indispensable.
How can you translate these winning lessons to your world of work?