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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

In Market: Losing a voice

Top Glen Campbell songs:

Gentle on My Mind

Wichita Lineman


By the Time I Get to Phoenix

Still Within the Sound of My Voice

Southern Nights

“Hi I’m Glen Campbell,” he’d say each week on CBS during the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, from 1969 to 1972.

He didn’t really need to introduce himself.

The show had a viewership that reached 50 million. The boy from Delight, Arkansas, had a music career that dated back to the early years of rock ‘n roll. He toured with the Champs of Tequila fame. He was part of the house band for the ABC TV show Shindig! and a member of Phil Spector’s “Wrecking Crew,” an absolutely in-the-groove kickass studio band that played on hits by the Ronettes, the Righteous Brothers and the Crystals. He played guitar on Frank Sinatra’s Strangers In the Night, the Monkees’ I’m a Believer and Elvis Presley’s Viva Las Vegas. He sang and played bass with The Beach Boys as a replacement for Brian Wilson, who in the mid-’60s had retired from touring to concentrate on studio work. In 1966, Campbell played on The Beach Boys’ classic Pet Sound album.

“We’d get the rock ‘n’ roll guys and play all that, then we’d get Sinatra and Dean Martin,” Campbell told The Associated Press in 2011, referring to the Wrecking Crew. “That was a kick. I really enjoyed that. I didn’t want to go nowhere. I was making more money than I ever made just doing studio work.”

Campbell was respected as a musician. Simply put, the man could pick a guitar. Go to YouTube and search Glen Campbell guitar solo. The man knew his stuff.

His voice – and talent – wouldn’t allow him to stand in the shadows. By the late ’60s, he was a performer on his own, an appearance on Joey Bishop’s show leading to his TV breakthrough. Tommy Smothers of the Smothers Brothers saw the program and asked Campbell if he’d like to host a summertime series. Campbell accepted the offer. He was out of the country when the first episode aired.

“The whole lid just blew off,” Campbell told the AP. “I had never had anything like that happen to me. I got more phone calls. It was awesome. For the first couple of days I was like how do they know me? I didn’t realize the power of television.”

His guests included country acts, but also The Monkees, Lucille Ball, Cream, Neil Diamond and Ella Fitzgerald.

“I’m not a country singer per se,” Campbell once said. “I’m a country boy who sings.”

His list of hits reflected that, running the gambit from country to pop to a touch of soul in his hit Southern Nights, written by New Orleans’ funky soulster Allen Toussaint.

I asked some local people about their encounters with Campbell.

Sonny Burgess, local country music artist as well as director of clinical programming at Cook Children’s Hospital was about to play Gentle On My Mind at a gig on Friday, Aug. 4, when he decided to tell his story of meeting Glen Campbell.

“I don’t know why I did that,” he said. “I never do that.”

Burgess said he idolized the Arkansas-born entertainer, but had never met him until he was in Los Angeles for a country music awards show. Burgess was staying in the same hotel as many of the acts receiving awards. In the morning he went to the workout room and there was Glen Campbell.

Burgess didn’t know Campbell, but another singer, Tracy Byrd, came in to work out and he knew both Campbell and Burgess.

Byrd introduced Campbell to Burgess. “He was very gracious,” said Burgess, who was running on a treadmill. “I usually run about 20-25 minutes, but I must have been on that thing an hour.”

Finally Campbell, who was doing various workouts, asked Burgess how long he was going to run on that treadmill.

“I said, ‘as long as you’re here. I don’t want to bother you, but I idolize you,’ I told him. He just laughed. He was nice about it,” Burgess said.

“I mean, he had an impact on me,” Burgess said. “I wanted to play like him, sing like him.”

Rodeo announcer extraordinaire Bob Tallman introduced Glen Campbell many a time, he recalled.

“Take it to the bank that every time Glen Campbell shook somebody’s hand, he looked them in the eye,” Tallman recalled shortly after Campbell died.

Tallman estimates he was either around Campbell or working with him about 50 times in the last 30 years. One thing he noticed was that going on stage was never a chore for him.

“He’d show up with his guitar and go to work, but it was never a labor to him at all. He loved what he did,” he said. “Glen could come out, say ‘hi,’ to the audience and then play for 30 minutes before he would say another word. That’s just who he was. He loved it, just loved it.”

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Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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