Wrecking Crew guitarist Bill Pitman dies at 102

Photos: Jan Pitman (left), Magnolia Pictures (right)

Posted on August 12, 2022

Bill Pitman – the artist best known as the Wrecking Crew guitarist who also recorded with the Beach Boys, the Mamas & the Papas, the Everly Brothers and many others – has died. His wife, Janet Pitman, said The New York Times the artist died after treatment in Palm Springs, Calif., after a fall that left him with a fractured spine, and hospice care at his home in La Quinta, Calif. He was 102 years old.

Pitman and the Wrecking Crew originally formed in the early 1960s as producer Phil Spector’s house band, working towards achieving his Wall of Sound style of production. They went on to become highly sought after session musicians in Los Angeles, performing on beloved recordings by Sonny & Cher, Frank Sinatra, the 5th Dimension, Nancy Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett, the Byrds, the Monkees and more.

Notable recordings by Pitman – who taught the instrument to a teenage Spector – include The Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” and pet songs and Smile albums, the Byrds’ version of “Mr. Tambourine Man” by Bob Dylan and “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” by BJ Thomas, on which he strummed the ukulele.

Pitman’s playing can also be heard as musical accompaniment to films and television series, including Freedmen, MASH POTATOES, Jerry McGuire, Fast times at Ridgemont High and much more.

Pitman and his Wrecking Crew bandmates were the subject of a 2008 documentary bearing the band’s name, directed by Denny Tedesco (son of Wrecking Crew guitarist Tommy Tedesco).

In tribute to the late artist, Tedesco shared on Facebook: “Growing up, when I was little, I always knew who Bill Pitman was. He was my dad’s friend who played guitar and golf with him. It wasn’t until I grew up that I understood the impact he had. Bill could be heard from “Mr. Tamborine Man” to “Good Vibrations”. Hundreds and hundreds of movies and TV [soundtracks]. It became the first call with the Danelectro guitar for many years. The interview I did with Bill for the WC Movie, he was 82 years old. He was an incredible man. Best to his wife Jan and children.”

In Tedesco’s documentary film, Pitman recalled the Wrecking Crew’s busy recording schedule: “You leave the house at 7 a.m. and you’re at Universal at 9 a.m. until noon. Now you’re at Capitol Records at 1 o’clock. you have time to go, then you have a jingle at 4 o’clock, then we have a date with someone at 8 o’clock, then the Beach Boys at midnight, and you do that five days a week.

Drummer Hal Blaine, a member of Pitman’s Wrecking Crew, died in 2019 at the age of 90.

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