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Documentary Review: 'Immediate Family' Cements the Legend of Session Players of the 70s and 80s

If there is a song you love from the 70s or 80s, it was likely shaped by the session musicians who defined the era.

By Sean PatrickPublished 4 months ago 7 min read

Immediate Family (2022)

Directed by Denny Tedesco

Written by Documentary

Starring Danny Kortchmar, Leland Sklar, Russ Kunkel, Waddy Wachtel, Steve Postell

Release Date Unknown


Published November 18th, 2022

One of my favorite concert experiences of recent memory was traveling to Milwaukee to see The Funk Brothers, the band of session musicians who played on nearly every song produced by Motown Records in the 1960s and early 70s. It was amazing, a terrific show. And I got to go backstage and shake hands with a man who played on every record that Stevie Wonder, The Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, and The Supremes made at Motown. It inspires awe in me just thinking about the music history that man was a part of. It also says something that I don't remember his name. That's the thing about session players, they rarely received the credit they deserved when the record came out.

The players that make up the similar touring session band, Immediate Family are among the few who can relate to The Funk Brothers. Immediate Family is comprised of the most in demand session players in 1970s Los Angles, another rich vein of wildly talented musicians capable of expanding on the sound of just about any performer. Danny Kortchmar, Leland Sklar, Russ Kunkel, Waddy Wachtel, and Steve Postell are not household names but if you love Jackson Browne, James Taylor, Carole King, Crosby Stills and Nash, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Steve Perry, Keith Richards, and a raft of other famous names and bands of the 1960s and 1970s, you can thank the Immediate Family for helping create their sound.

The documentary Immediate Family is a lovely trip through the history of early 1970s music. Players such as Jackson Browne, James Taylor and Carole King had each explored being in bands and even had played together. But, with their songwriting prowess and their star making charisma, the call for them to become solo acts was made by record companies who saw the potential of them as individual superstars. Watching Immediate Family however, you will learn that they themselves never saw themselves as solo artists. They credited the Immediate Family band members for their success as much as any record company.

The structure of the documentary is terrific as director Danny Tedesco cross cuts from recorded performances of some of the most famous songs of the early 1970s and in-studio modern recording of the members of Immediate Family playing the parts that they helped make into hits. Thus you hear Carole King's epic hit, I Feel the Earth Move and you get to see and hear Danny Kootch Kortchmar in perfect sync, play the part he played in the original recording.

And the documentary proceeds like that with cool stories being told by the various session players and superstars involved and these beautifully edited scenes of these men playing with all of the timing and skill they exhibited as session superstars of the early 1970s all the way through the 1980s and to now where these session players have now carved out a niche playing the music they love together, for the first time, as an official band.

My favorite of the many, many brilliant, funny, and eye opening stories about some of the greatest songs in music history comes from guitarist Waddy Wachtel. He relates a very fun story about how he essentially rescued the Steve Perry hit 'Oh Sherrie' by riffing out an iconic guitar solo. It's more fun hearing Wachtel relate the story, he's so much fun, I will only reiterate how amazing it is to think that that song would never have made number 1 on Billboard or remained a staple of classic pop radio to this day if Waddy Wachtel hadn't called an audible in the studio in 1984.

That's kind of history altering moments the Immediate Family were part of nearly every time they stepped in a studio for a session. You won't see a credit for Waddy Wachtel anywhere on 'Oh Sherrie' on Wikipedia but he changed a small course of music history as that song doesn't become number one without him. You have to search high and low to find out who the session players are on most songs and that's another aspect of Immediate Family.

Friend of the Family James Taylor

The documentary is a call to arms to call for credit for these session players. Think of all of the songs that would not be what they became without The Funk Brothers, without The Wrecking Crew, those session players in L.A who preceded the Immediate Family, and without the Immediate Family and dozens of other session players who dropped in for a day or a week and were never given a second thought despite contributing to some of the most iconic music of the 21st century.

Find my archive of more than 20 years and nearly 2000 movie reviews at Find my modern archive of more than 1000 reviews on my Vocal Profile, linked here. Follow me on Twitter at PodcastSean. Follow the archive blog on Twitter at SeanattheMovies. Listen to me talk about movies on the Everyone's a Critic Movie Review Podcast. If you have enjoyed what you have read, consider subscribing to my writing here on Vocal. If you'd like to support my writing you can do so by making a monthly pledge or by leaving a one-time tip. Thanks!

In case you don't fully comprehend the importance and impact of the session players that make up Immediate Family, I'm including a list of the songs that at least one or more of the Immediate Family have played on since the early 1970s...

Rich Girl

Hall and Oates

Somebody's Baby

Jackson Browne

Poor Poor Pitiful Me

Warren Zevon

Only the Lonely


All She Wants to Do Is Dance

Don Henley

Laughter in the Rain

Neil Sedaka


James Taylor

Lawyers Guns and Money

Warren Zevon

I Feel the Earth Move

Carole King

Teen Age Idol

Ricky Nelson

You've Lost That Loving Feelin

The Righteous Bros.

It's Too Late

Carole King

Blue Monday

Fats Domino

Something In The Way She Moves

James Taylor

Night Owl

James Taylor and the Flying Machine

Fire and Rain

James Taylor


Joni Mitchell

Sweet Baby James

James Taylor

Country Road

James Taylor

You've Got a Friend

James Taylor


James Taylor

Frozen Smiles

Crosby & Nash

Up on the Roof

James Taylor

Honey Don't

Carl Perkins

Only Love is Real

Carole King

Short People

Randy Newman

Doctor My Eyes

Jackson Browne


Joni Mitchell

Lovely Day

Bill Withers

Hurt So Bad

Linda Rondstadt

Werewolves of London

Warren Zevon

Mr. Bojangles

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

Tumblin' Dice

Linda Rondstadt

Honey Don't Leave LA

James Taylor

Nothing But Time

Jackson Browne

How Sweet It Is To Be loved By You

James Taylor

You're No Good

Linda Rondstadt

Back In The U.S.A.

Linda Rondstadt

Blue Bayou

Linda Rondstadt

Running on Empty

Jackson Browne

Whip It


Dance Hall Days

Wang Chung

Dirty Laundry

Don Henley

All She Wants to Do Is Dance

Don Henley

Weight of the World

Neil Young

Edge of Seventeen

Steive Nicks

Betty Davis Eyes

Kim Carnes

Oh Sherrie

Steve Perry

Leather and Lace

Stevie Nicks & Don Henley

Take It So Hard

Keith Richards Xpensive Winos

Under the Milky Way

The Church


Jimmy Buffett

Don't Lose My Number

Phil Collins

Take Me Home

Phil Collins

Just a Song Before I Go

Crosby Stills and Nash

River Of Dreams

Billy Joel

Lonely Boy

Andrew Gold

That's Right (You're Not From Texas)

Lyle Lovett

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About the Creator

Sean Patrick

Hello, my name is Sean Patrick He/Him, and I am a film critic and podcast host for Everyone's a Critic Movie Review Podcast. I am a voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, the group behind the annual Critics Choice Awards.

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