'The Original Cowboy Rides Again'
Becoming a bonafide living legend isn’t as easy as Glen Campbell makes it look. First, you have to have a solid foundation of talent on which to build — like being one of the hottest guitar players in the world. Then you have to record songs that will stand the test of time — standards such as “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” and “Wichita Lineman.” Check and double check!
It certainly doesn’t hurt to have a witty, bantering stage style that draws fans like college students to Daytona Beach, or a hit television show viewed by 50 million people every week for three years.
When you put it all together, the result is a career that spans forty-five years and fans that cross generational and international lines. In other words: Glen Campbell.
Although Glen was already hitting the top of both the country and pop charts by 1969, the Goodtime Hour gave his career “legs.” The popular CBS musical variety series was simulcast on the BBC from England to Singapore to Australia and paved the way for five BBC specials. The exposure gave Glen a global presence he enjoys to this day, 37 years later.
Besides having one of the most successful variety shows in television history, Glen will be remembered as one of the best guitarists of his generation.
His musicianship has inspired many of today’s most renowned pickers, including Alan Jackson and Steve Wariner, and lives on in the tracks of the most legendary collections of the 20th century.
And now, after years in the vaults, Time Life has packaged the variety show’s best performances for the first time on DVD in 'Glen Campbell Goodtimes Again', a seventy-five minute compilation that features duets with Willie Nelson, Linda Ronstadt and Cher, among others. In addition, the DVD includes Glen’s original on-camera introductions as well as a newly taped exclusive interview featuring insights into the show and its numerous guests.
Back in the late ‘60s you were one of the hottest properties out there, working with everyone from Frank Sinatra to Merle Haggard. In reflection what was one of the most stand out moments for you, one that you would never have imagined in your wildest dreams growing up you would ever have accomplished? "Oh yeah. I liked the Dean Martin movies with Jerry. I'd had him on my TV show and then I did his TV show and all I could think was 'Wow, this is really something.' Because, I always liked Dean Martin for some reason. He's a good crooner. A classy guy."
And knowing Dean, did everything go according to plan?! "Oh yeah, he got the job done."
Back in the day you replaced Brian Wilson in the Beach Boys on some tour dates. But is it true that you turned down a permanent spot in the band due to the fact they weren’t prepared to offer you an equal cut of the bands royalties? "Yeah, but I had my own thing going pretty good back then and I didn't want to have to give up what I'd already started, you know. I've been with groups all my life so I kinda wanted to get out and be on my own. But what a great offer though. I went out and did a lot of concerts taking Brian's place."
How long after you'd turned them down was it that something happened in your career that made you say to yourself you'd made the right decision? "When Tommy Smothers asked me to host The Summer Brothers Smothers Show.' It was during that same period, but I'd had out about five albums that I'd already recorded. But what a great deal that was when TV come up ... wow ... when you had a product to sell and you get worldwide television exposure. Which is what we got because we were tied up with EMI. They had every pressing plant that Capitol Records could get just pressing Glen Campbell albums."
So what was it like trying to sell your product in other mediums before the birth of TV? "Well, it was radio, basically ... and just going out to do gigs.
But, I was also doing studio work. For about two years there that's all I wanted to do
'cause I was making more money than I'd ever seen."
Tell us more about the boys you used to do this studio work with
"We had a group there called The Wrecking Crew and we did all the sessions.
Whether it be Sinatra, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, The Mamas & the Papas, all the Beach Boys stuff. Whoever it was we were called The Wrecking Crew and we'd play on all the sessions for about three or four years."
Please tell us more about the inspirations behind some of your biggest songs:
‘Wichita Linesman’ - "Jimmy Webb wrote that at the actual session. I helped him with it ... and wouldn't you know that that song was the most played song of all time on the radio. Jimmy got the award for it."
‘By The Time I Get To Phoenix’ - "This was one that made me cry 'cause I was backtracking from L.A. to Arkansas. I heard that first as a Johnny Rivers session. He actually handed me 'By The Time I Get To Phoenix' and said that as he hadn't had any luck with this Jimmy Webb song that maybe I would. And when I heard it I kinda got real homesick. So, I'll have to give him credit for that song, but I'm glad I ran into him," he laughs.
‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ - "I first heard it on an album cut station in L.A. ... I almost wrecked my car," he laughs. "It was a new album by Larry Weiss that had just come out and this song was playing [Glen now starts singing the main chorus line] and I knew that the lyrics couldn't have been any better."
'Galveston’ - "Oh yeah. Don Ho came into the studio when we were doing the Good Time Hour and he said, 'Here, I did a Jimmy Webb song once, but I figured you might like this one also.' And it was 'Galveston,' but he did it as a ballad!"
So, what did you say to him? "I just told him to say all those words as quick as you can and just get outta the way ... 'cause it was a freight train," he laughs. "What a great song," he admits, whilst breaking into the first two sentences of it. "During the war the timing was just perfect. There probably couldn't have been a better time."
What are your memories of acting alongside John Wayne in 1969’s 'True Grit'? "Oh, I didn't like acting. Movie's was standing around and waiting just to say five words. And then sit around and then say four more words when they moved this and fixed that. I got really, really frustrated. That's why I then said that's it. I'm a guitar player, I'm a singer, I'm not an actor."
And now you've got a new DVD out entitled 'Glen Campbell - Goodtimes Again,' so please tell us how this came about for you "Well, I figured that some of the stuff that I wanted to put in it - well basically all of it - was better than anything that there already was out there," he laughs. "You know, everyone's doing things like this so Stan, my business manager helped me do this. And so we put this all out on DVD and I thought it was a very, very, very good thing. Because all of the people that grew up with 'The Goodtime Hour' they'll go out and get it probably."
In early 1969 TV audiences witnessed 'The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.' Who's idea was it for this show back then? "Tommy Smothers saw me on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and asked me to audition for the part to host 'The Summer Brothers Smothers Show.' And he liked it obviously 'cause I got the job."
What would be your stand out moment from those shows? "Oh yeah. I was so blessed to have Ray Charles. 'Cause Ray Charles is about as good a player and singer God let draw breath. He could sing songs that it didn't matter what they were they were just fabulous. He made them his songs. If you hear a Ray Charles song on the radio you know it's Ray Charles."
Was he one of the most influential of musicians to you personally, perhaps? "I think he was the BIGGEST influence on me. I really listened to him sing and he let the song breathe, which is what it really came down to. Ray Charles sang in tune as good as anybody in the world, and he just held the notes out to the perfect length to make it fit the music. That's what I learnt from Ray Charles."
With both Steve Martin and Rob Reiner as writers on 'Goodtime Hour,' did you ever have to tame down anything they ever wrote?! "Yeah," he broadly laughs. "I was like, 'Guys, this might not work," he continues to laugh. "You might be able to say 'cohabitate' but not the other word! They wrote some of the raunchiest stuff in the world just as a joke."
When you reflect back to photos of yourself as that young, suave, well dressed guitar slinger what do you see now about that person? "Gosh, I don't have any here in front of me," he laughs. "But it makes me want to go to the nearest face lifter," he laughs again. "No, I'm kidding. Wow, it was such a great time, you know. I've been so blessed. The Lord has blessed me in so many ways and I know for a fact that he has guided Glen Campbell. Glen Campbell guided himself for a while and had a couple of wrecks, but so long as I now follow the way he wants me to, everything is wonderful."
At the height of your success, when everything was taking a turn for the worse in your life, was there one main contributing factor? "Yeah, the ex-wife. That whole thing ... build the house on the hill ... and then she became the Queen of the Hill, blah, blah. And that's when I was going through all of that. She told me now she had her house I could get the hell out,", he laughs.
So, after then becoming a born-again Christian, 2003 brought that unfortunate incident where your disheveled police mug shot was then broadcast for all to see. Just a slight slip along life's tough terrain, perhaps? "Yeah, I don't really know what was happening. I'd just come back off the road and I got into the wine on the golf course. And, I drank too much."
"I'm the kind of guy that has to have something kind of drastic happen to him or I'm gonna keep on doing it. It was a big wakeup call and I haven't drank anything since. He [God] can run my life a heck of a lot better than I can," he laughs. "'Cause it's all written out what you do in life. If you stray away from that you get in trouble, you know."
Are you working with Jimmy Webb in your new recording studio on a new CD set for release later this year, perhaps? "It's all being done right now.'
Lastly, please sum up Glen Campbell today in just three words "Ready to retire," he laughs one (long) last time.
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
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