LARRY KNECHTEL

Born Lawrence William Knechtel, 4 August 1940, Bell, California.
Died 20 August 2009, Yakima, Washington

Born and raised in Bell, California, which is part of Southeast Los Angeles, Larry Knechtel began playing piano at an early age. In 1957 he joined one of L.A.'s most important rock 'n' roll bands, Kip Tyler and the Flips, a group that has included Steve Douglas, Sandy Nelson, Bruce Johnston and Jim Horn, though not all at the same time. They cut two strong 45s for Challenge ("Jungle Hop"/"Ooh Yeah Baby" and "Shadow Street"/ "She's Got Eyes") and a single for Lee Rupe's Ebb label ("She's My Witch"/"Rumble Rock"), before Duane Eddy raided the band to form his touring unit, the Rebels. At first only Steve Douglas and drummer Mike Bermani left to go on the road with Duane ; Knechtel followed them a year later, in 1959.

The first Duane Eddy record on which Larry can be heard is Duane's third LP, "The Twang's the Thang", recorded in November 1959. Tired of the road, Knechtel decided to quit Eddy's touring group in 1963, but he continued to work with Duane in the studio until the late 1960s. Eddy and Knechtel wrote seven songs together : "Drivin' Home" and "Runaway Pony" (two good Jamie singles), "Tuesday" and "Carol" (from the "Girls, Girls, Girls" LP), "Young and Innocent" (for Miriam Johnson, soon to become Duane's wife), "Memories of Madrid" (on the RCA LP "Twangy Guitar, Silky Strings") and "Return of the Avenger" (recorded in 1999, with Knechtel on piano).

In the sixties, Knechtel became one of the top session men in Hollywood, a member of what Hal Blaine later called "The Wrecking Crew" *. For his Wall of Sound, Phil Spector would use two or three pianos simultaneously and Larry was usually one of them. Though primarily known as a pianist, Knechtel could handle a number of instruments with equal aplomb : organ and other keyboards, bass (which he plays on "Mr. Tambourine Man" by the Byrds, for instance) and harmonica (on Duane's Colpix recordings). The list of records on which Knechtel plays is almost endless. Many big names among them, like Elvis Presley, The Beach Boys, The Mamas and the Papas, The Monkees, Jan and Dean, Johnny Rivers, etc., etc. Overview at http://home.cogeco.ca/~mansion3/larryknechtel.html Probably his best known piano accompaniment is the one on "Bridge Over Troubled Water" by Simon and Garfunkel, for which he received a Grammy. After a short stint with the group Smith, Knechtel joined David Gates' group Bread in 1971 and scored several Top 20 hits with them until the band dissolved in 1973. Larry's two solo albums, "Mountain Moods" and "Urban Gypsy", were both released in 1979, on Capitol. Not having heard them, I can't tell if they're any good, but they seem to be in the jazz fusion genre, which is not really my cup of tea. Knechtel continued to do session work until the end of the century. Today he is semi-retired and lives on a farm in Naches, Washington.

* The Wrecking Crew was a loose aggregation of West Coast session musicians, who played every day in the L.A. studios. Earl Palmer writes: "The period we're talking about, I don't remember going four or five days without seeing Tommy Tedesco, Carol Kaye, Red Callender, Buddy Collette, Ernie Freeman, Rene Hall, Plas Johnson, Red or Lyle Ritz on acoustic bass, occasionally Jimmy Bond. When things went to the Fender bass, you had Carol Kaye, Bill Pittman, or Ray Pohlman. Ernie Freeman, Larry Knechtel, Don Randi and Leon Russell played piano. For a brief period, Dr. John. On guitar you had Barney Kessel, Tedesco, Herb Ellis, Howard Roberts, Billy Strange, and Glen Campbell. The other drummers were Hal Blaine, Jimmy Gordon and Richie Frost."

("Backbeat": Earl Palmer's Story". By Tony Scherman, 1999. Page 119.)

 
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