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Lew McCreary
Lew McCreary

(This Northumberland, Pennsylvania native got his start in the early 1940s playing in dance bands as a fifteen year old high school student when he filled in for older musicians who were being drafted. In 1945, he too went into the army, and after the war's end, got musical training at the Berklee School of Music. After school, Lew started playing with "name" bands like Charlie Barnett, Ray Anthony, Freddie Martin and spent five years with Harry James. In the late '50s, he became a staff player at CBS in Hollywood, and working on a daily radio show called 'Matinee,' he met Billy Strange. Lew: "When Billy began writing for a lot of rock 'n' rollers and started working as a session leader, he brought me in." Twenty years, and over twenty thousand records later, when asked which one he's most proud of, Lew said 'The next one' and 'All of them.')

LEW: "I did a lot of recordings with Brian. Most of the sessions, there was one trombone...maybe two. It was always fun because he was such a talented musician. You wondered where these ideas came from; they just seemed to flow from him. We were in the horn section, and he would just hum something to us or play it on the piano. Then, we would get together and work it out. It always sounded great.

"Back in those days, the record companies had their own AOR guys on staff, and for the most part, they sat in the booth and accepted takes. If they heard something wrong, they would mention it. Guys like Nelson Riddle and Billy May really ran the sessions. When people like Brian came along, as musician/producer, they started running the sessions themselves both from inside and outside the engineering booth.

"When it came to Brian directing the horn players, it had to with the phrasing; that was the difference between the rock 'n' rollers and the older guys of the time. Their breeding ground was going on the road with 'name' bands, and they phrased and interpreted music a certain way. And they weren't going to bend for that different way that guys like Brian and H.B. Barnum wanted it. If there were a bunch of the old line musicians on a date, they would play a figure laid back. Brian would stand up and say 'I want to hear it live. Make it come alive.' He wanted them to put some excitement into it. It was like he was saying, 'It's not a swing band, it's a rock 'n' roll band.'

"On sessions when you were just overdubbing a horn line, you didn't have the faintest idea what was going on. We would finish the section and he would play the whole thing back, and that's when the miracle exposed itself. Brian had so many innovative ideas. You would keep going back to his sessions, and every time, he came up With a new kind of magic. And it worked.

"During that period, the early '60s to '80s, the record era was happening here in L.A. It was very exciting. That magic brought people from all over the world. I love to relive all those years...What a thrilling life I've had. It's such a pleasure to have worked with Brian and been part of that."

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