barney kessel

Legendary drummer Hal Blaine passed away at age 90 on March 11th

I (David Kessel) had the pleasure of growing up in the recording studio along with my brother Dan. We worked with Hal Blaine on many,

David Kessel and Hal Blaine

many Phil Spector sessions, as 2nd generation Wrecking Crew musicians.  My Dad, Barney Kessel and Stepmother, B.J. Baker (one of the top background vocalists and vocal contractors in LA) were friends of Hal. Hal once said to me at a session  “The trick is, that if you make a mistake at the beginning of a take, you have to remember the mistake through the whole song.” I asked our Cave Hollywood wordsmith Harvey Kubernik to remember Hal Blaine.

By Harvey Kubernik Kubernik © 2019   

I knew Hal Blaine for 50 years. I did a term paper on him during high school. He invited me to a 5th Dimension session, too.

Hal steered me to Pro Drum Shop on Vine Street. My life changed seeing the sparkle sets and equipment on the wall. I never knew there was a place for drummers and percussionists besides Wallichs Music City and Drum City.

For decades I called him Belsky, his real last name, and he would call me Harvala.  

In the seventies I interviewed him numerous times for domestic and international publications. He once gave me a lift on his motorcycle between a 3 session day and also picked me up hitch-hiking once on Sunset Blvd. when he saw me at a bus stop on Fairfax Avenue when my car was in the shop.  “Take me to Gold Star! I need to see this session.” After it wrapped, Hal’s parting comical advice was: “Harvala. Please don’t get married in California!” Then every Wrecking Crew session veteran started laughing their heads off. I didn’t quite comprehend the reality on display. Just about every cat started running down words I never heard like alimony and visitation… Continue reading

Jazz Pianist Oscar Peterson

Oscar Peterson Plays and Talks in ’06

Oscar Peterson, the great Legend of Jazz Piano, played a rare concert live, in September 2006.
This had special importance for me as my father, Guitar Jazz Great, Barney Kessel, played with the Oscar Peterson Trio in the 50’s. Oscar and Barney also toured as band mates with the Jazz at the Philharmonic series, led by Norman Granz. Barney promised Norman that he would tour with Oscar, along with Ray Brown, for 1 year. After that Barney became head of A&R for Norman’s jazz record label, Verve Records.
When my brother Dan and I were kids in the 50’s, it was a typical occurrence for us to come home from school to find Oscar, Barney and Ray jamming in the living room.

When Oscar greeted me at the gig, he embraced me and said, “Barney’s my man, Barney’s my man!”

We were lucky enough to have a camera along to capture some of these magical moments with Oscar. It turned out that this would be one of his last public performances.

-David Kessel

The Historic Gold Star Recording Studio and the Audio Legacy of Producer Phil Spector

Phil Spector at GoldstarPhil Spector has been away from his Alhambra, California-home and the recording studio since spring of 2009, when a California jury convicted him of second-degree murder in the 2003 death of actress and comedian Lana Clarkson.
At the moment Spector is serving 19 years to life for the fatal shooting of Clarkson. Spector is actively preparing his appeal from Corcoran State Prison in Central California.

There is saying in the game of American football. “Everyday is like 4th and 1.”

The legacy of Phil Spector’s recordings and songwriting achievements as well as the ongoing impact and omnipresent influence of the Gold Star recording studio in Hollywood, Ca. where he executed his historic productions should never be forgotten, tarnished or even tainted by the results of this legal decision.

Spector’s catalogue is now controlled by EMI who administrates both his music publishing and masters tapes.

Summer and fall 2009 is expected to bring licensing deals for his potent sound copyrights and word has it, some unreleased work and reissues of his classic endeavors, specifically “A Christmas Gift For You.”

Gold Star was an atmosphere and schmuck-free sound laboratory that gave us the most-programmed record in history, Spector’s “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feelin'” by The Righteous Brothers, (arranged by Gene Page) and over 100 Billboard Top 40 hit records. Continue reading