Billed as "the most recorded guitarist in history," Tommy Tedesco was certainly one of the top session guitarists of all time, able to play convincingly in virtually every style of music, but concentrating on pop/rock, jazz, and soundtrack work. Tedesco was born July 3, 1930, in Niagara Falls, NY; after moving to Los Angeles, he carved out a career as one of the area's most in-demand session musicians, appearing on his first recording in the late '50s. Tedesco's notable associations during the '60s included the Beach Boys, Jan & Dean, Phil Spector, Van Dyke Parks, the 5th Dimension, the Monkees, and Elvis Presley. He also did some of his most acclaimed work in 1968 on Frank Zappa's Lumpy Gravy; according to legend, Tedesco and some of the other session men caught wind of Zappa's freaky reputation, and showed up for the session dressed in wacky costumes, not realizing Zappa's music would turn out to be too complicated for them to play the first time through.
In the '70s, Tedesco appeared on Partridge Family recordings and also worked with Herb Alpert, adding to his list of more traditional pop and jazz credits which already included work with Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Barbra Streisand, and Sarah Vaughan. With the advent of the fusion era, jazz became Tedesco's primary focus for a time; he began leading his own combo and (finally) releasing albums under his own name, beginning with 1978's Autumn and When Do We Start. Alone at Last followed in 1979, as did the quintet album My Desiree in 1981. Two more albums appeared in 1983: the live trio set Carnival Time, and Thomas and Ocean Tedesco. However, they essentially marked the end of Tedesco's flurry of activity as a leader; the 1986 trio album Hollywood Gypsy would be his last for several years.
From the outset of his career, Tedesco also worked extensively in the film and television industries. He lent his guitar to the opening theme songs of shows like The Mickey Mouse Club, The Ozzie & Harriet Show, The Twilight Zone, Bonanza, Green Acres, Gilligan's Island, The Munsters, Happy Days, M*A*S*H*, and Dallas, among others. As for his film work, just some of his credits include the soundtracks toCool Hand Luke, The French Connection, The Exorcist, The Deer Hunter, The Godfather, Jaws, E.T., Blade Runner, and Field of Dreams.
In addition to his recorded work, Tedesco gave guitar lessons and clinics around the country, and authored several instructional books; he also wrote a regular column in Guitar Player magazine. In 1992, he returned to solo work with the albums Fine Fretted Friend and the symphonic Tommy Tedesco Performs Roumanis' Jazz Rhapsody. However, that same year, he also suffered a stroke. Within a year, Tedesco rebounded to write an autobiography, Confessions of a Guitar Player, which was filled with behind-the-scenes details of various sessions he had been involved in. Tedesco was able to continue his teaching activities for a time, even after he was diagnosed with lung cancer not too long afterwards. On November 10, 1997, Tedesco succumbed to the disease at his home in Northridge, CA, at the age of 67.