Waddy, ‘Kootch’ on The Immediate Family: A Cover Band That Plays Original Material

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The Immediate Family

You may not recognize the band name, the Immediate Family, but if you’ve spent any time perusing liner notes of scores of classic albums from such performers as James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, Carole King and Jackson Browne, just to name a few, you’re certainly familiar with their work. The musicians in the band are some of the most recorded, respected and sought-after players in modern music.

Guitarists Danny Kortchmar and Waddy Wachtel, drummer Russ Kunkel and bassist Leland Sklar have come together, along with guitarist Steve Postell, as the Immediate Family and will be releasing their self-titled album on August 27, 2021, via Quarto Valley Records. Produced by the band, the new album features 12 original songs plus two bonus tracks: live versions of the Kortchmar/Browne composition “Somebody’s Baby” and the Warren Zevon favorite “Johnny Strikes Up the Band” from Excitable Boy, which Wachtel produced with Browne. The Immediate Family will be touring this fall; see the dates below.

This iconic supergroup has played together for decades. Wachtel moved from the East Coast to Los Angeles in 1968 “with a band that never got off the ground and in that time I met a few studio musicians and started thinking, ‘I can do that job. I can play on records for people,'” he tells Best Classic Bands. “I looked at these album covers and I’d see Russ Kunkel, Lee Sklar and Danny Kortchmar. I said to myself, ‘Who is this “Kootch” guy? Why does he get all that work?'”

He was referring, of course, to Kortchmar.

Wachtel was in his mid-twenties and working with producer Keith Olsen. “Keith booked Leland and myself on dates [recording sessions] and we got along right away. A couple of weeks after that, I was driving a ’57 Chevy, and out of this driveway at S.I.R. [Studios] comes another ’57 Chevy. And we stopped in the middle of Santa Monica Boulevard, holding up traffic, and Russell Kunkel looks at me and says, ‘Are you Waddy?’ And I went, ‘Yeah.’ And he said, ‘I’m Russ, man.’ And I said, ‘Good to meet you.’ And he said, ‘We better go but I’m gonna be seeing a lot of you.’”

By then, Sklar, Kunkel and Kortchmar had been working together on sessions for perhaps five years. Wachtel is asked if he’s able to pinpoint the precise moment when he played with the others for the first time.

“David Foster was the hot, new piano player in town from Canada and Nik Venet [a noted producer and mentor to Wachtel] said, ‘I’m bringing this guy down to hear you so bring your electric stuff. I want you to play slide, rhythm, lead,'” he recalls. “I did, and David told [legendary producer] Lou Adler, and a few days later I got a call from Lou’s office saying they wanted me to play a session for a Tim Curry album. So I get there and that was the minute I met ‘Kootch.’ After a year of, ‘Who is this fucking guy?’ we loved each other right away.”

Kortchmar concurs. “That was the first opportunity I had to play with Waddy. I had been hearing about him for a while. Lou put us together. That was the first time the four of us played together and it was actually the day Waddy and I met, as well. He and I got along right away. The first tune we played for Tim was a reggae and we were both reggae fanatics and still are.”

“That was the first date, at A&M Records. For Lou Adler,” marvels Wachtel, proudly. “That was the beginning of the Immediate Family. We just didn’t know it yet.” In the ensuing decades, the four have done hundreds and hundreds of sessions together.

Recorded over three days at 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 song was written by Kortchmar, with his friend, former Heartbreakers drummer Stan Lynch, and Wachtel. “It was my idea to make it like the Everly Brothers,” says Waddy, who had been in the duo’s touring band. “It’s a two-part harmony on the verse with Danny and Steve.”

Watch the video for “Can’t Stop Progress”

The fiery three-guitar interplay intertwines throughout the rest of the album on songs like “Time to Come Clean” and “Turn it Up to Ten.” The band’s love of rock ‘n’ roll’s roots surfaces in “Not Made That Way,” “A Thing of the Past” and the Brill Building-esque “Damage.”

Watch the video for a new single, “Fair Warning,” written and sung by Wachtel

“We are very proud of the people we’ve gotten to work with,” Kortchmar states, “but we’re also thrilled to now be playing our own music.” Wachtel concurs: “It’s too wonderful for words. I didn’t see this coming, and now I can’t imagine it having not happened.”

The Immediate Family (L-R): Waddy Wachtel, Leland Sklar, Russ Kunkel, Danny Kortchmar and Steve Postell

“We know how to play music together and how to play songs together,” says Kortchmar, who turned 75 on April 6. He’s asked about the recording process for the Immediate Family album, where they recorded some 17 songs in three days. “There was a lot of pre-production work where we figured out basically how things were going to go with what key, what tempo, and who was going to sing. The fact is: That’s what we do, we know how to learn songs and play them.”

Wachtel and Sklar both turned 74 in May. Kunkel turns 73 in September.

As for their upcoming tour, audiences will certainly hear plenty of “covers.”

“We go with songs that we wrote and ones that are closely associated with us,” says Kortchmar. “We’re a cover band that plays all original material. All the stuff we play is stuff that we wrote or co-wrote. We arrange everything for three guitars, bass and drums. If it fits us and we like it, the five of us can play just about any song and make it ours. It depends on who’s singing it and who can deliver it. We know how to learn songs and play them. We’ve been at it forever; we’ve been doing it our whole lives.”

Watch them perform “Somebody’s Baby” in quarantine in 2020

Kortchmar, Sklar, and Kunkel have worked together since the early ’70s and made up three-quarters of The Section, best known for both their studio and live work in support of some of the top-selling singer-songwriters and solo singers in the history of music. “Kootch,” for instance, wrote or co-wrote such classics as “All She Wants to Do is Dance” and “Sunset Grill” for Don Henley. Wachtel co-wrote “Werewolves of London” for Zevon. That’s Waddy’s chugging guitar on Stevie Nicks’ “Edge of Seventeen.”

Related: Our interview with Tedesco on his film, The Wrecking Crew

Watch the video for “Slippin’ and Slidin’,” released earlier

Kortchmar is asked if this debut album from these veteran musicians got nominated for the Grammy Award for Best New Artist. “That would be hilarious,” he said, laughing.

Keep an eye out for our career-spanning interviews with Wachtel and “Kootch.”

Production continues on a documentary about them by filmmaker Danny Tedesco, expected to be released in 2022. Tedesco produced and directed the acclaimed film on the the 1960s Los Angeles studio musicians known as the Wrecking Crew.

The Immediate Family Track Listing
1 Can’t Stop Progress
2 Slippin’ and Slidin’
3 Everything That’s Broken
4 Damage
5 Divorced
6 A Thing of the Past
7 Fair Warning
8 Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead
9 House Will Fall
10 Not Made That Way
11 Time to Come Clean
12 Turn it Up to Ten

Bonus Tracks
Johnny Strikes Up the Band (LIVE)*
Somebody’s Baby (LIVE)*

The Immediate Family 2021-2022 Tour (Tickets will be available via the individual venue and here)
Nov 03 – San Juan Capistrano, CA – The Coach House
Nov 06 – Santa Barbara, CA – Lobero Theatre
Nov 07 – Agoura Hills, CA – Canyon Club
Nov 16 – Norwalk, CT – Wall Street Theatre
Nov 17 – Yarmouth, MA – The Music Room
Nov 18 – Derry, NH – Tupelo Music Hall
Nov 20 – New York NY – The Concert Hall
Nov 21 – Ardmore, PA – Ardmore Music Hall

Feb 14-18 – The Rock Legends Cruise IX
Feb 19 – Boca Raton, FL – The Funky Biscuit
Feb 20 – Hallandale Beach, FL – The Sport of Kings Theatre at Gulfstream Park & Casino

More shows will be announced.

Best Classic Bands Staff

4 Comments so far

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  1. LowPlainsGrifter
    #1 LowPlainsGrifter 3 August, 2021, 01:27

    To me anyway,this is a great read,
    and I gotta tell ya that I for one will be
    looking for this disc to buy and own.
    My first exposure to Danny Kortchmar was
    his involvement with theJUDAS JUMP lps
    and his first solo,and then from there his
    sitting in on many artists that I own.
    Waddy Wachtel was in the group RONIN
    and as time went by I found out what a
    marvelous addition he was to others,
    as they put their offerings to vinyl.
    Speaking as someone who believes that
    society’s moral decay can firmly be traced
    back to pretty much the absolute absence
    of the steady infusion of creative music,
    in this case Rock Music,and the subsequent
    handing off of the the baton,so to speak
    to the next listening generations..
    If it takes older musicians of their caliber
    to bring it to me,so be it.I’m all ears.

    Reply this comment
    • JCB
      JCB 4 August, 2021, 08:55

      Lowplains nailed it. The decay of this republic can be seen thru the absolute decline of it’s music. I’d hate to be a young person in a society that is as unhealthy and intellectually bankrupt as we have collectively become.

      Reply this comment
    • Billy
      Billy 4 August, 2021, 20:32

      I played with Waddy in Newport when he left The Orphans and joined Twice Nicely with Judy Pulver, George Hitchcock…and a few others….

      Reply this comment
  2. Dooles
    #2 Dooles 9 August, 2021, 15:52

    Looking back on my COWSILLS LPs I Saw Waddy Wachtel’s name on the II X II album.
    Interesting little bit of history .

    Reply this comment

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