Back in the 1980s when I was a teenager, I spent countless nights with headphones on, playing the music of artists like Jackson Browne, James Taylor, and Warren Zevon. While the vinyl was spinning I was busy studying the inner sleeves of the LPs. I devoured their liner notes as though a spot quiz might follow at any minute.
One night it just hit me. I realized that all of these artists seemed to share the same core group of backup musicians. It prompted me to dig deeper. There I’d also find their names on records made by Stevie Nicks, Keith Richards, Carole King, Linda Ronstadt, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. They were everywhere! Danny Kortchmar (guitar), Waddy Wachtel (guitar), Russ Kunkel (drums), and Leland Sklar (bass) were their names, and they became synonymous with the music that mattered to me most. Much like The Wrecking Crew before them, this group of musicians was shaping a sound that would forever be associated with Los Angeles.
At that time they were known as “The Section,” and (sans Wachtel and with keyboardist Craig Doerge) recorded a few albums under that name that are best described as progressive rock. In this musical forum they were allowed to really stretch out and strut their razor-sharp chops. But straightforward four on the floor rock and roll would always be their calling, and it was there that they made those chops leave a mark.
In the present day, Danny Kortchmar, Russ Kunkel, Leland Sklar and Waddy Wachtel have come together again along with guitarist Steve Postell, to perform their own songs as The Immediate Family. They will be releasing their highly anticipated full-length, self-titled album on August 27th via Quarto Valley Records. Produced by the band, the new album features twelve original songs plus two bonus tracks: live versions of the Danny Kortchmar/Jackson Browne collaboration “Somebody’s Baby” and Warren Zevon’s “Johnny Strikes Up the Band.”
Recorded over three days at Jackson Browne’s studio in Los Angeles, the new album kicks off with a blast of electric guitars with the lead track “Can’t Stop Progress.” The fiery three-guitar interplay intertwines throughout the rest of the album on songs like “Fair Warning,” “Time to Come Clean,” and “Turn it up to Ten.” The band’s love of rock and roll’s roots surfaces in the funky, bluesy tones of “Slippin’ and Slidin,” “Everything That’s Broken,” and the Brill Building-esque “Damage.”
The release of The Immediate Family comes on the heels of the band’s two previous EPs, Slippin and Slidin’ (which debuted at No. 6 on Billboard’s Blues chart) and Can’t Stop Progress. The band will be touring in the fall following the new album’s release.
Activity around the band isn’t just limited to music. Production continues on The Immediate Family documentary by filmmaker Denny Tedesco, expected to be released in 2022. (He also produced The Wrecking Crew documentary and is the son of legendary Wrecking Crew guitarist Tommy Tedesco. More on The Wrecking Crew can be found in WL Woodward’s article in Copper Issue 135.)
We hosted a Zoom call with the entire band and spent a good hour talking about The Immediate Family, their musical mission, and how such a powerful collection of songs could be so masterfully performed and recorded in short order. The passion and energy these cats brought to the call was contagious, and a great reminder of how rock and roll brings all of us together like family, and can keep us fit and fresh for an entire lifetime.
During the interview, which you can view below, this lifelong fan of each and every musician and their body of work tried not to gush too much and to keep the time spent mostly in their court, allowing them to tell some remarkable stories about the artists they have worked alongside with, and the music they helped make famous and forever fun.
In the video, the participants are, from top left to right: Danny Kortchmar, Steve Postell and Russ Kunkel; from bottom left to right: Leland Sklar, Ray Chelstowski and Waddy Wachtel.