Wrecking Crew Guitarist Bill Pitman Dies at 102

Wrecking Crew Guitarist Bill Pitman Dies at 102
Photos: Jan Pitman (left), Magnolia Pictures (right)
Bill Pitman — the artist known best as guitarist of the Wrecking Crew who also recorded with the Beach Boys, the Mamas & the Papas, the Everly Brothers and many more — has died. His wife, Janet Pitman, told The New York Times the artist passed away following treatment in Palm Springs, CA, after a fall that left him with a fractured spine, and hospice care at his home in La Quinta, CA. He was 102.

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

Notable recordings to feature Pitman — who taught lessons on the instrument to a teenage Spector — include the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations" and Pet Songs and Smile albums, the Byrds' take on Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man," and B.J. Thomas' "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head," on which he strummed ukulele.

Pitman's playing can also be heard on musical accompaniment for films and television series including Goodfellas, M*A*S*H, Jerry McGuireFast Times at Ridgemont High and many more.

Pitman and his fellow players in the Wrecking Crew were the subject of a 2008 documentary named for the band, directed by Denny Tedesco (son of Wrecking Crew guitarist Tommy Tedesco).

In tribute to the late artist, Tedesco shared on Facebook, "Growing up, as a little kid, 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 got older did I understand the impact that he made. Bill could be heard from 'Mr. Tamborine Man' to 'Good Vibrations.' Hundreds and hundreds of film and television [soundtracks]. He 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 young. He was an amazing man. Best to his wife Jan and his children."

In Tedesco's documentary film, Pitman would recall of the Wrecking Crew's rammed recording schedule, "You leave the house at 7 in the morning, and you're at Universal at 9 till noon. Now you're at Capitol Records at 1. You just got time to get there, then you got a jingle at 4, then we're on a date with somebody at 8, then the Beach Boys at midnight, and you do that five days a week."

Pitman's Wrecking Crew bandmate, drummer Hal Blaine, passed away in 2019 at age 90.