It’s one of the best kept secrets in the music business: in the sixties most Pop and Rock musicians didn’t play on their records. The Beach Boys, The Monkees, The Byrds (except for Roger McGuinn), The Turtles, The Mamas and the Papas, and many more didn’t play any instruments in the studio, they only sang.
Back in the sixties there were no computer and synthesizers and there were limited tracks on the tape machines. So a lot of things had to be recorded live. A mistake was a mistake, you couldn’t easily edit it. In the studio musicians had not only to play perfect and with the right feeling, but they also had to record fast, because time was money. Only professional studio musicians could do it. The average Pop or Rock musician didn’t have the chops. On AmericanHeritage there’s fine article about the musician who created the classic sound of hundreds of hits in the sixties. The article concentrates on the studio musicians in Los Angeles, such as drummers Hal Blaine and Earl Palmer, electric bass player Carol Kaye, guitarists Billy Strange, Tommy Tedesco and Glen Campbell, piano players Larry Knechtel and Don Randi and many more.
Thanks to Tony Borgosano, webmaster of the Duane Eddy Tribute Page for calling attention to this article.