On August 8, we lost Glen Campbell at the age of 81. We remember him with four flip sides and an exclusive interview highlight from Bobby Rydell who discusses his time in the studio with the legendary guitarist and singer.
By Warren Kurtz
Throughout the ‘60s, Glen Campbell was an accomplished studio guitarist, continuing in that role even after his 1967 Top 40 break through hit “By the Time I Get to Phoenix.” Some of his last studio sessions were with by Bobby Rydell, in 1968, leading to a few rare collectors’ items. Goldmine spoke with Bobby Rydell about his time with Glen Campbell in Los Angeles. “We recorded ‘The Lovin’ Things’ and ‘The River is Wide’ for Reprise. Mr. Sinatra wanted me on his Reprise label, so, of course I said yes, but there was no promotion. Glen was a super dynamite guitarist on these songs and on my version of ‘It’s Getting Better.’ Glen said, ‘These will get you back on the charts.’ We certainly thought they had hit potential, which they did for the Grass Roots and for Mama Cass Elliot with ‘It’s Getting Better,’ all in 1969. Glen was really nice and in addition to his guitar playing, he was a great singer. Speaking of Glen and Sinatra, I have watched online versions of Glen Campbell covering ‘Soliloquy’ from the musical ‘Carousel,’ in London, which Frank Sinatra had recorded. Wow! Glen kills it!”
Fate of Man (Capitol 2302) 1968
In November of 1968, “Wichita Lineman” entered the Top 40 and became Glen Campbell’s his first Top 10 gold single. It was the second in an annual string of “three city songs,” as its composer Jimmy Webb refers to them in concert, beginning with “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and concluding with Glen Campbell’s second Top 10 gold single of the ‘60s, “Galveston.” The flip side, “Fate of Man,” from the “Wichita Lineman” album was primarily a spoken word narrative, written by the singer, going through stages in life, up to age 80.
Less of Me (Capitol 2745) 1970
Glen Campbell, as a duet singer with fellow Capitol recording artist Bobbie Gentry, who also had her break through single in 1967 with “Ode to Billie Joe,” charted in the Top 100 three times annually, beginning in 1968, with Bobbie Gentry’s composition “Morning Glory.” A pair of Everly Brothers covers brought them to the Top 40, first with “Let It Be Me” in 1969 and “All I Have to Do is Dream” in 1970. Its flip side, “Less of Me,” written by Glen Campbell, had received flip side treatment twice before, first in 1965 by Glen Campbell alone and then as the flip side of “Morning Glory” with both singers on the recording, as was repeated in 1970. The mid-tempo gospel influenced record served as a proclamation for humility and humanity.
Pave Your Way Into Tomorrow (Capitol 2905) 1970
Glen Campbell was given his own television show, “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour,” which was originally a summer of 1968 replacement for the “Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.” Glen Campbell’s show returned in January of 1969 and ran through 1972. In 1970, a companion album, “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Album,” was released and it began with a cover of Conway Twitty’s ‘50s classic “It’s Only Make Believe.” Where Conway Twitty’s vocals were strikingly similar to the style of Elvis Presley, Glen Campbell’s vocal performance stayed true to his own range, achieving impressive high notes at the end of the record. This became Glen Campbell’s first Top 10 single of the ‘70s. Its flip side was the final song from side one on the “Goodtime” album, “Pave Your Way Into Tomorrow.” This was a bouncy, banjo driven, closing theme of the television show, written by the one of the television group musicians, Billy Graham, and had all the optimism of “Try a Little Kindness” from the prior year. The song proclaimed, “Let your love of living cast its spell.”
William Tell Overture (Capitol 4376) 1977
In the middle of the ‘70s Glen Campbell reached number one twice. The first gold single was “Rhinestone Cowboy” and the second was “Southern Nights.” The latter included an exciting electric guitar version of Rossini’s “William Tell Overture” which Glen Campbell performed in concert for years. Fans recall seeing him on a PBS special playing parts of this instrumental with his guitar behind his head. The galloping guitar notes were reminiscent of Al Caiola’s Top 40 version of “Bonanza.” The orchestral arrangement was rich and full. A live version of this instrumental was included later that year as part of Glen Campbell’s double album, “Live at the Royal Festival Hall” with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Jimmy Webb, immediately after his cover of “Classical Gas.”
Warren Kurtz is a Contributing Editor at Goldmine, known for “Fabulous Flip Sides” along with interviews, CD, DVD and book reviews. “Warren’s Fabulous Flip Sides” can be heard most Saturday mornings, in the 9 a.m. hour, Eastern time, on WVCR.com as part of “Moments to Remember.”