Scott Mathews on Performing: What Path to Greatness?

The very same magazine you are reading right now once claimed that cigar-chomping Los Angeles session player (and former GP columnist) Tommy Tedesco was “in all probability, the most recorded guitarist in history.”
By Scott Mathews,

The very same magazine you are reading right now once claimed that cigar-chomping Los Angeles session player (and former GP columnist) Tommy Tedesco was “in all probability, the most recorded guitarist in history.”

Another picker in L.A. during the same era kicked off his career by doing sessions, too. His name is Glen Campbell, and few guitarists played on more hits than he did. Then, he went on to sell more than 45 million of his own records. He also had a voice…

This is the tale of two extraordinary human beings, both capable of doing anything required on guitar, and both had completely opposite approaches.

Tommy’s sight-reading abilities were unmatched. It has been said he’d be on a session reading literally any piece of music—no matter how complex—and carry on talking to someone while doing so. Glen never bothered to read a single note of music, but he could get the part down as quickly—and with as much feel—as anyone by simply listening to the song. If he heard it, he could play it.

For most of the ’60s, and through thousands of sessions, these two polar opposite gunslingers would be sitting sideby- side on the biggest sessions for the biggest hits in the world as essential members of the elite group of studio musicians called “The Wrecking Crew.” If I listed all of their credits, I’d take up every page in this issue and more—not to mention all the stories that came out of those sessions.

So, besides practicing and playing for no less than 10,000 hours, does it really matter how you become great? Is it any less of a challenge for you to take one path over another to be extraordinary? In fact, is there a right way and a wrong way?

All I can tell you is I was blessed to have worked with each of these giants, and they were both insanely gifted. But their work ethic was ridiculous. They stayed hungry—even in high times when they did several sessions a day. They learned to never say “no” to any gig, because as soon as you did, someone else would take your spot.

Most importantly, they loved what they did so much that just being around them made you a better player. In addition, between every take, they would have a joke or a quip that would have the entire room in stitches. Humor is a huge component to getting studio work—at least during that golden age when it was fun, fun, fun!

An essential documentary, The Wrecking Crew, made by Tommy’s son Denny is now in release, and it tells the tale of his dad and most all of the other greats that made up the most successful group of studio musicians in history. In a different style of tribute, three of Glen Campbell’s children played on his last tours before he retired. Sweet…

Scott Mathews is a record producer, composer, vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist whose music has sold in excess of 40 million units, and has generated more than 30 RIAA Gold and Platinum Awards in the pop, alternative rock, R&B, country, blues and dance genres.

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