Guitarist Tommy Tedesco, studio musician who lent his talents to records by Phil Spector, the Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald as well as such TV themes as “Bonanza” and “MASH,” died Nov. 10 at his Northridge home after a lengthy bout with lung cancer. He was 67.
Tedesco’s guitar was heard on hundreds of hit songs and dozens of movies and TV shows for more than 35 years.
Tedesco was a top session guitarist whose work ran the gamut from performances on “Round Midnight: The Nelson Riddle Sessions” to the “Partridge Family Album” and sessions with Frank Zappa, the Fifth Dimension, the Supremes, Cher, Barbra Streisand and the Mamas and the Papas.
His guitar work was one of the key building blocks in Spector’s fabled “Wall of Sound” heard on scores of hit recordings, including “Be My Baby” by the Ronettes.
In addition to his blazing guitar solo on the “Bonanza” theme, he was also the guitarist on TV theme tunes for “MASH,” “Batman” and “Green Acres.” His movie soundtrack work included “The Deer Hunter,” “The Godfather” and “Field of Dreams.”
Tedesco was also featured on the Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds,” “Best of Ella Fitzgerald,” “On and On: The Hits of Stephen Bishop” and “Stoned Soul Picnic: The Best of Laura Nyro.”
Tedesco had a reputation for irreverence: He once appeared on “The Gong Show” dressed like a ballerina singing “I Used to Be No. 1.”
Under the pseudonym Tommy Marinucci, he was also a regular on “Fernwood 2 Nite.”
Born in Niagara Falls, N.Y., Tedesco was the son of an insurance salesman and was about six years old when he began playing guitar. He was a Niagara Falls nightclub regular by age 11.
Tedesco moved to Los Angeles a decade later and by the 1960s he was part of a session team that included drummer Hal Blaine, bassist Joe Osborne, keyboardist Leon Russell and guitarist Glen Campbell.
Hit songs with Tedesco’s guitar included “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” by the Righteous Brothers; “Eve of Destruction” by Barry McGuire; “Dead Man’s Curve” by Jan & Dean; “MacArthur Park” by Richard Harris; “Along Comes Mary” by the Association; “Strangers in the Night” by Frank Sinatra; and “Gypsies Tramps and Thieves,” by Cher.
Tedesco wrote guitar instruction books and wrote a column for Guitar Player magazine for 15 years. He also taught and supervised studio guitar studies at the Musicians Institute in Hollywood.
Survived by his wife of 47 years, Connie; three sons, a daughter, two grandchildren and two sisters.