Inside the North Hollywood prop house History for Hire, a technician clamps down a sheet of pearl finish plastic and cuts a strip to fasten around the wooden hoop of a Slingerland bass drum.
Another worker is busy rebuilding a black Ludwig drum to precisely match the same set — right down to the manufacturer's keystone logo — used by the Four Seasons during a 1966 performance on the Ed Sullivan show.
FOR THE RECORD:
History for Hire: An article in the Aug. 28 Business section about North Hollywood prop house History for Hire included a photo caption that made a reference to the testing of Marshall amplifiers. The amplifier undergoing a test in the photograph was manufactured by Vox. —
It's one of many tiny details the technicians must get right as the company supplies 18 drum kits, along with 46 guitars and basses, 37 amplifiers, eight keyboards and more than 60 microphones for the movie "Jersey Boys," a musical biography being directed by Clint Eastwood, that spans the four-decade career of the quartet led by Frankie Valli.
"This is probably the biggest music show that we've done," said Jim Elyea, a co-owner of History for Hire.
Hollywood has long turned to musical acts for inspiration in such movies as "Ray" and "Walk the Line." The industry is once again in a musical groove, producing a string of nostalgic films about industry giants including Brian Wilson and James Brown.
"Jersey Boys" began production last week, filming scenes in the Palmdale-Lancaster area and at a former women's prison in Monterey Park. This week, the crew is shooting on Vine Street in Hollywood and on Pico Boulevard in West Los Angeles, according to a film permit.
"Love & Mercy," about the life of the reclusive Beach Boys songwriter and musician Brian Wilson, and starring John Cusack and Paul Dano, started filming in L.A. last month. Locations have included a studio in Hollywood, a home in Bel-Air and the Harold A. Henry Park in Central L.A., where the crew filmed last week.
Another local project is "Imagined," in which Al Pacino plays an aging rock star who sets out to reconnect with his son after being inspired by an old letter written to him by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. "Imagined" was filmed in Pasadena, Commerce, Beverly Hills and Agoura Hills, among other locations, and wrapped production this month.
Also on the way is an untitled movie about James Brown. Tate Taylor, the Mississippi native who directed "The Help," announced this week that he will produce and direct a biographical movie about "the Godfather of Soul" in his state this fall.
The activity is music to the ears of History for Hire, which has supplied drum kits, guitars, keyboards and other props for all three films — and hopes to do the same for the upcoming James Brown movie, co-produced by Brian Grazer and Mick Jagger.
Last year, the prop house supplied dozens of guitars, amplifiers, drum kits and other equipment to the movie "The Identical," which was filmed in Nashville and follows a musical family from the bebop 1950s through the glam-rock 1970s.
"These movies about the music industry are fantastic for us,'' said Pam Elyea, who co-owns the prop house with her husband. "They've allowed me to hire more people and spend more money locally."
Established in 1985, History for Hire occupies a 30,000-square-foot warehouse stocked with hard-to-find historical props, such as Revolutionary War muskets and vintage Rickenbacker electric guitars.
About 20% of the company's sales comes from renting out musical props for music videos, commercials, TV shows and films. Weekly rental rates range from $4 for a harmonica to $750 for Hammond electric piano with amplifier. Moviemakers can be lucrative customers: the prop house made $40,000 in rental income from its work on "Identical."