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Space Age Music Maker

Tommy Tedesco

  • Born 3 July 1930, Niagara Falls, New York
  • Died 10 November 1997, Northridge, California

Called "the most recorded guitarist in history" by Guitar Player magazine, Tedesco was Hollywood's first call guitarist for over 35 years, playing on so many pop, rock, and soundtrack recordings that it's not too much of a stretch to say it's more likely the guitarist you're hearing on any given pop tune from the 60s and 70s is Tedesco than anyone else.

He started playing the guitar when he was 7, and he was a professional musician before he was in his teens. After spending a few years with trouing groups, he settled in Los Angeles around 1958. A proficient sight reader, he quickly became a mainstay among session musicians for his versatility. He could play folk, rock and roll, funk, jazz, country, classical, and big band rhythm guitar--with such proficiency that he often did the recording work for better-known performing players. His best-known solo is probably on the theme song to the television series, "Bonanza," but he's there on hundreds of other hits heard on oldies stations every day: many of the Beach Boys' singles, most of Phil Spector's productions, Elvis' good, bad, and awful movie tunes, all of the Monkees, countless surf instrumentals, many of the Motown tunes recorded after the label shifted most of its production work to Hollywood, even Frank Zappa albums such as the great Lumpy Gravy. He was the guitarist on the themes to "M*A*S*H," "Green Acres," and "Batman," to name just a few, as well as "The Deer Hunter," "The Godfather," and "Jaws." Tedesco was held in such regard by producers that he was one of few session musicians before the mid-1970s to be mentioned by name. He provided the lead guitar for most of Tommy Garrett's "50 Guitars" albums.

Tedesco was also an active proponent of the craft of guitar playing. For many years, he wrote a column, "Studio Log," in Guitar Player, and he regularly taught workshops around the country, showing other guitarists how he produced effects like the "underwater" sound heard on "Jaws." His main electric guitar was a well-used Fender Telecaster, but he played acoustical nearly as often as electric, and could play mandolin and other instruments if that's what was called for. He once appeared on "The Gong Show" singing and playing a banjo.

He also recorded under his own name, sporadically in the 1960s, and more regularly in the 1970s and 1980s, with small jazz combos on the Discovery label. Perhaps his earliest, Calypso Soul, is the best for space age pop fans to seek out, since he stretches out a little more than on his other 60s albums, which are fairly straightforward instrumental covers of hit tunes.


  • The Electric 12-String Guitar, Imperial LP-9263
  • Guitars, Imperial LP-9295
  • Calypso Soul, Imperial LP-9381
  • Twangin' Twelve Hits, Dot DLP 25449
  • My Desire, Discovery DS-851
  • Autumn, Discovery LP
  • When Do We Start?, Discovery LP
  • Carnival Time (Live), Discovery LP
  • Hollywood Gypsy, Discovery DS-928

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