The Wrecking Crew: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll's Best-Kept Secret by Kent Hartman St Martin's Press Session musicians are the unsung heroes of rock music. When a band can't deliver in the recording studio, talented session players are called in to play instead. Working anonymously for fees that, if the player is in demand, can be very high, the session musician delivers the necessary performance and lets the band take the credit. Some session players move on to have their own careers in the spotlight. Guitarist Jimmy Page, for instance, cut his teeth as a top London session man before forming Led Zeppelin. But session life is generally good, and those who are successful are happy to spend their lives in the background. So The Wrecking Crew, a well-researched and nicely written book by Kent Hartman, is unusual. The book tells the story of a legendary extended family of Los Angeles musicians who provided the backing for many of the classic hits of the 1960s. Thought it was the Beach Boys who played on Pet Sounds? Band leader Brian Wilson actually used the Wrecking Crew instead. The Byrds and their hit Mr Tambourine Man? Well, with the exception of the twangy 12-string guitar, it was the Wrecking Crew. Two Crew players, singer/ guitarist Glen Campbell and pianist Leon Russell, went on to stardom in their own right but many rock fans won't know members such as bass guitarist Carol Kaye - the outfit's only female musician - and drummer Hal Blaine. Hartman, a music industry entrepreneur, does a better job at writing than many journalists. He says he did hundreds of interviews to research the work, and it shows. There is little of the speculation that usually permeates such biographies. Most of the stories are so good on musical detail, they could only come from first-hand recollections. Hartman writes in a suitably casual style, but concentrates more on getting the facts straight than giving opinions. Refreshingly, it stays away from the salacious reportage that's common in rock biographies. While the drug excesses of some of the Crew are noted, Hartman generally describes the musicians as the hard-working men - and woman - that they were. It's a potted history, but it all adds up. Most of the musicians came from poor backgrounds, and saw the booming rock'n'roll phenomenon of the late 1950s as a way to turn their love of music into an escape route from the poverty trap. Kaye began her career in her early teens, when a friendly guitar teacher was moved by the sight of her struggling with a guitar that was too big for her. Campbell's first tour was a fly-by-night venture with his impoverished Uncle Bob: the two made so little cash they had to sell their guitars to get home. The Crew correctly predicted that rock'n'roll - and later pop - would quickly become a phenomenon. The style was so new at that time, there simply weren't enough people around who could play it well. The Crew filled that gap. Later, they worked for storied producer Phil Spector, provided the music for the put-together TV band the Monkees, and backed up stars ranging from Frank Sinatra to Eric Clapton. This book is an essential read for anyone interested in the history of classic rock.