HATS OFF FOR LARRY
1940 - 2009
Of all the musicians I have talked about, over the years on my website, Larry Knechtel 's name may well be the most obscure, or at least tied with George Van Eps, Like George, Larry was certainly of the category I would call a Top Cat, but unlike George, most of the world has heard Larry play before ..... they just don't know it.
That's because Larry was a member of the elite west coast studio musicians known as the"Wrecking Crew" These musicians probably played on more popular hit records of all varieties than any others in history. Some of the crew members like Glen Campbell became "name artists", but mostly they remained unknown to the casual listener, working almost around the clock in Los Angeles, when it was the recording capital of the world. For at least 20 years they have had a cult like reverence to all who study music history. Now they are the subject of a forthcoming movie titled THE WRECKING CREW produced by Denny Tedesco the son of wrecking crew legendary guitarist Tommy. I for one can't wait to see it all, as I have enjoyed the trailer and everything about it that is currently online including the you tube stuff.
I'm sure Larry would of quietly enjoyed it too, he was a very quiet man, who let his playing do the talking, but he passed away from a heart attack a few weeks ago at his home in Washington state on August 20th.
I'm not going to attempt to try and list the all records Larry played on that I know you have heard, but if you click on the links on this page, I know you are in for some mighty big surprises..... but perhaps just a few names might entice you to click away ....
Byrds, Beach Boys, Bread, Duane Eddy, Frank Sinatra, Mamas & Papas, Righteous Brothers, 5th Dimension, Ronettes, Simon & Garfunkle , and the beat goes on, yes Sonny & Cher too ..... and when he came out of semi retirement the Dixie Chicks .....
I first became aware that Larry was "in town" around 1990 through Russ Pahl, studio player / co writer and one of my first friends here in Nashville. Russ met him on a session and was singing his praises on just how cool a cat Larry was. I certainly took note and hoped to get Larry to play on one of my demos someday and not miss the chance like I had with bassist Joe Osborne, another member of the wrecking crew and bass player for Ricky Nelson on most of Rick's big hits. When I first hit town in the spring of '87. Joe graciously offered his services on my song "The Man With The Leather Guitar", a song about Ricky, that I wrote in Florida, not long after his plane crash on New Years Eve 1985. That song led to my eventual move to Nashville. However Joe had moved home to Shreveport, Louisianna before I could get things together here.
Well one thing leads to another, especially in a music town like Nashville. I met Bob Cheevers, a transplanted Memphis & Californian tunesmith at a writers show one night in '93 and we just hit it off. We started writing together and because of Bob, I got my wish to have the honor of having Larry's talent grace a tune in my catalog. It almost didn't happen though because a huge ice storm hit Nashville when the session was booked and there was no power for several days. One of the key players booked for that session was (the now late too) Mike Botts who was the drummer in the group Bread, a group Larry played a major role in. Mike had to leave for home in California, but on the last day or so he was available, the power was restored. Then the all star A List players of Larry, Mike, George Marinelli ( guitarist with Bonnie Raitt ) and studio bass monster Michael Rhodes assembled at the County Q Studios here to record about 5 of Bob's songs. "The Q" as it was known had two studios joined by a large lounge. During a break, I was sitting in the lounge, when someone who was using the other studio looked in on our session through the open doors and exclaimed HOLY COW ! then asked me "Whose session is that for ! Wynonna, Vince Gill , Reba? " ... "No. I replied ... it's just a demo session"
There was another problem too. Because the power was off, the heat was off and the acoustic piano had detuned itself ever so slightly,and there was not enough time or even heat for that matter, for a piano tuner to correct it. Add to that, the fact that Larry was blessed or depending how you look at it, cursed with perfect pitch. He used a digital keyboard for most of the session, but wanted to use the acoustic grand piano on The Lone Wolf & The Whistling Moon, the tune I wrote with Bob..... and Larry knew best... the arrangement of the tune called for it. However when it came time to mix it, he insisted the piano get pulled back far enough in the mix as to not sour things, that most ears would of never been able to detect. This was in the days of still using 2 inch analog tape. In todays digital format, it probably would of been a quick fix, But the drive of his piano playing and his spirit is on that treasured tape and listening to it again this week just reminded me of what a lucky man I am, to have crossed musical paths even breifly with likes of a musicians of the caliber of Larry Knechtel.
The last time I saw Larry was at his Going Away Party held at the Exit In here in 1995. With his silver hair he looked just like his photo on here does. There were loads of musicians and writers there that night to say good by to a guy who brightened the music scene here for a few years. Two of the high lights for me that night was getting to hear Larry's old band mate Duane Eddy, play Rebel Rouser and to hear Larry play the piano part that he came up with for Simon & Garfunkle's hit "Bridge Over Troubled Water".
Here is the demo of the Lone Wolf that Larry played on and another song "Driving That Mercury" from that same session, that I would of written with Bob, had that rascal not done it all by himself .....On Driving That Mercury, you can really hear Larry on the keyboard and it's still one of my "Mr. Cheezer" faves, but those who know me, know I'm a always big sucker for a good car song.
JUST CLICK & CRANK IT !
LARRY's 2007 INDUCTION INTO THE MUSICIANS HALL OF FAME IN NASHVILLE
HE REPRISES HIS SINATURE PIANO PART HE PLAYED ON THE ORIGINAL RECORD OF
BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER
ACCOMPAINIED BY VINCE GILL ON THE VOCAL