The Funk Brothers, the Wrecking Crew, the Memphis Boys, the Blue Moon Boys, the Nashville A-Team and the Tennessee Two.
Their names alone carry Rushmore-like heft, but it's the music that these six studio groups made — blockbuster hits by everyone from Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and Patsy Cline to the Beach Boys, Stevie Wonder and Bob Dylan — that's for the ages.
Though they are largely anonymous as individuals, these behind-the-scenes players finally will be getting their due when they are inducted into the inaugural class of the international Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum.
"We're not people who like to toot our own horns," said Bobby Wood, keyboardist for the ubiquitous Memphis Boys, the studio unit that played on more chart hits than the bands at Stax and Sun Records combined, including Dusty Springfield's "Son of a Preacher Man" and Elvis Presley's "Suspicious Minds."
"A while back, though, (A-Teamer) Pig Robbins, a great talent whose licks on piano hooked records like 'Brown Eyes Blue' and 'Behind Closed Doors,' nearly left us and I got kind of fed up," added Wood, who moved to Nashville 35 years ago.
"Too often an artist like Pig dies and hardly anybody hears about it. We saw that when we lost A-Team guitarist Hank Garland, so I got on the phone and said, 'Something needs to happen, especially here, in Music City USA'."
Established in Nashville in June of last year, the Musicians Hall of Fame will honor its first class of inductees at a 7:30 p.m. awards show at Schermerhorn Symphony Center on Nov. 26.
"These guys have been overlooked for so long," said Hall of Fame CEO and founder Joe Chambers in an interview prior to Thursday's press conference. "This is the only musicians Hall of Fame, and it's here because this is truly Music City."
The Nashville A-Team, a prolific group featuring the likes of Grady Martin, Floyd Cramer, Bob Moore and Boots Randolph, worked on some of the biggest hits by pop stars ranging from Elvis Presley and Roy Orbison to the Everly Brothers and Brenda Lee. They worked with virtually every country luminary of the 1950s, '60s and '70s.
Three of the other studio ensembles to be inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame next month made their biggest mark in Memphis. In addition to Wood and his fellow Bluff City pickers, these include guitarist Luther Perkins and bassist Marshall Grant of Johnny Cash's Tennessee Two, as well as guitarist Scotty Moore, drummer DJ Fontana and the late bassist Bill Black of Elvis' immortal combo the Blue Moon Boys.
Out of the shadows
The remaining two studio groups that will be feted at the Schermerhorn next month, Detroit's Funk Brothers and West Coast heavy-hitters the Wrecking Crew, hail from farther away, but their impact has been no less monumental.
Recently celebrated in the film Standing in the Shadows of Motown, the Funk Brothers laid down indelible grooves for all of the great Motown groups, from Martha and the Vandellas and Smokey Robinson & the Miracles to the Temptations and the Supremes.
The Wrecking Crew, led by guitarist James Burton, keyboardist Larry Knechtel and the drummer extraordinaire Hal Blaine, galvanized the biggest hits by the Beach Boys, Simon & Garfunkel, Frank Sinatra and likes of the Crystals and the Ronettes in producer Phil Spector's stable of groups.
"This first year, we're covering a whole lot of ground," Chambers explained. "All six inductees are going in as studio groups.
"Musicians will have a chance to be elected as individuals later, but we're starting with these six groups."