The heart and soul of your favorite ‘70s hits come to life in a new documentary.
You might be familiar with the infamous, revving guitar start in Stevie Nicks’ “Edge of Seventeen,” but are you familiar with the musician behind it? That would be the work of guitarist Waddy Wachtel, the session musician who helped hone the signature guitar hook with Nicks. Along with Danny Kortchmar, drummer Russ Kunkel, and bassist Leland Sklar, these five musicians cultivated the generation’s biggest hits and are behind some of the greatest musicians of the 1970s. They’ve played for James Taylor, Carole King, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, Don Henley, Phil Collins, and more. Today, their own journey—one behind the stardom—is on full display in a new documentary, Immediate Family, directed by Denny Tedesco.
“When you say ‘singer-songwriter,’ it makes it sound like you’re talking about a solo act,” says Tedesco. “It was just the opposite of that. The musicians who played on the albums by all those stars were integral. They weren’t just playing along on the tracks. They were helping to create them.”
“What appealed to me is that we could make a film about these session guys who have known each other for over 50 years, played on and contributed so much to popular music.”Greg Richling
As the film documents over the course of its 1 hour and 42-minute runtime, these musicians became an integral fabric in each musician’s touring bands. And as you’ll see, in many moments, the musicians functioned not only as musical backgrounds but as arrangers. At times, they even took on the qualities of a producer.
“I knew we had a great idea with a real arc [with this story],” adds Greg Richling, who serves as the film’s producer. After learning about the band’s journey to stardom through a friend, he immediately fell in love with the members and their stories. “What appealed to me is that we could make a film about these session guys who have known each other for over 50 years, played on and contributed so much to popular music. And now, in their 70s, they’re in a band, playing newly written material as well as the hit songs they wrote for other artists.”
Today, along with guitarist Steve Postell, the members have come together to form their own band, aptly called the Immediate Family. And in a few weeks, their new album, Skin In The Game, will be released on February 16 (via Quarto Valley Records). The fourteen tracks delve into their experiences with love, self-expression, and of course, rock n’ roll. Today, the Family shares that they rarely do session work, as they have other gigs, but also because their old line of work has become scarce. With new technology, artists have the technology to make records by themselves on computers at home, eliminating the need for expensive sidemen musicians.
“The landscape has changed for everyone. Most of the studios have closed down.”Danny Kortchmar
“The landscape has changed for everyone,” shares Kortchmar. “Most of the studios have closed down.” In that regard, the musicians express how grateful they are for their time in music in the past few decades and the culture they helped create. “We were working like crazy back then,” Kortchmar laughs. “It was heaven.”
And despite music’s relatively uncertain future, Richling and the team want the documentary to serve as a beacon of light, encouraging the next generation of musicians to push through the noise and continue pursuing what they love. “I hope it’s inspiring for people to see how these players have turned their passion for music into a lifetime of making amazing, classic art and have developed deep, lasting friendships cultivated through decades of those experiences.”
Homepage image Carole King; above image: James Taylor. Images courtesy of Magnolia Pictures. Immediate Family is available to stream on Prime Video, and more.