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Waddy Wachtel

L. A. Weekly article - Waddy Wachtel

L. A. Weekly
September 20, 2017
The 20 All-Time Greatest L.A. Studio Musicians
By Andy Hermann, Tom Meek, Matt Wake

Studio musicians. Sidemen. Hired guns. Session guys. Whatever you want to call them, the pros who spend most of their careers backing up more famous artists are the lifeblood of the music industry. Here in L.A., that's been the case since the 1940s, when the film industry needed quality players to record its soundtracks; and it became especially true in the 1960s, when American popular music's center of gravity shifted from the Brill Building in New York to Capitol Studios in Hollywood. And it's still true today, ProTools and synthesizers notwithstanding.

In choosing the 20 players who make up this list, we looked not just at the total number of sessions played (though that certainly factored in) but the impact those sessions have had on popular music. We considered which players have earned the greatest respect from their peers and have had the longest runs as "first-call" guys — the ones who so dominate their instrument that, if someone else booked the gig, it's only because the first-caller turned it down. We focused on instrumentalists only, not background singers — because that could be an entire separate list unto itself.

A few of these players have retired or passed away but many are still active. They're not all based in L.A., but all recorded some of their most seminal work here, so we're claiming them as L.A. players. Some have become household names, but many still do their work in virtual anonymity, even after 50 years (or more) in the business. Let's give them some long-overdue acknowledgement now.

16. Waddy Wachtel
Wavy-haired guitarist Waddy Wachtel co-wrote and played that greasy slide solo on one of the biggest earworms ever, Warren Zevon’s pub rocker “Werewolves of London,” which also featured Fleetwood Mac drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie. Wachtel’s story intertwines significantly with the Mac. He played on Buckingham Nicks, the 1973 Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks duo LP, and when Nicks embarked on a solo career in the early ’80s, Wachtel was back, bringing just the right amount of rock edge to Nicks’ gypsy pop. That’s his dramatic guitar riff chugging through “Edge of Seventeen.” Wachtel also has recorded with Iggy Pop, Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, Steve Perry, Dolly Parton, Hall & Oates and Diana Ross, among many others. His long-running Monday night residency at the Joint on Pico, which sadly closed a few years ago, famously gave fans a chance to catch Wachtel’s many rock-star colleagues sitting in for a song or two. —M.W.


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