We celebrate Father’s Day weekend with an interview with Glen Campbell's daughter Debby about her new CD, The Way We Were, which includes some deeper tracks and songs inspired by her relationship with her dad, who passed away last August from Alzheimer’s disease.
By Warren Kurtz
GOLDMINE: Debby, first of all, let me offer my condolences on the loss of your father. He inspired me in so many ways when I was growing up, perhaps best summed up in the message of his final hit single of the ‘60s, “Try a Little Kindness.” I love all the photos of the two of you in the new CD’s booklet. Among my favorites is what I would call the belt loop photo.
DEBBY CAMPBELL: Thank you. With my dad, what you see is what you would get. In that photo, I am multitasking, singing on stage with him, which I had done beginning in 1987 through 2011, and hanging onto his belt loop, so that he wouldn’t fall off when signing autographs. It didn’t matter that we were singing duets. If a fan wanted an autograph in the middle of the show, he would hold the mic in one hand and sign with the other, while not missing a word in the song.
GM:In writing his musical memorial last August, I reached out to Bobby Rydell, who had previously told me about working with your dad. He was so taken by your father that this is also the only time an interviewee has called me back to add more stories to an interview. He shared with me how encouraging your dad was when playing guitar on what they had hoped would become more Bobby Rydell hits.
DC: Dad said that he wanted to be remembered as a guitarist.
GM:Your new CD begins with your rich cover of “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” your father’s first Top 40 hit single, which debuted in November 1967, the same month as The Monkees’ “Daydream Believer,” later covered by Anne Murray.
DC: And Dad played on The Monkees’ records and, of course, sang with Anne Murray. I chose “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” because this is where it all started. Later, in 1985, he moved to Phoenix because he hated the cold weather and could golf there all year round.
GM:Yes, I hear that about Arizona and here in Florida. In her 2009 book All of Me, Anne Murray wrote, “At an outdoor amphitheater in Hinckley, Minnesota in June 2001, I shared the bill with Glen Campbell. Glen’s eldest daughter, Debby, no slouch herself in the music department, did a couple of songs as well.” Your voice sounds to me like 80% Anne Murray and 20% Karen Carpenter.
DC: I hear that a lot and I love both singers. I was on a tour with Dad and Anne. She had a cape and I had to have a cape like hers. Dad and I would do duets on stage and had a duets cassette. One of the duets we did was “United We Stand” which he and Anne had on their album together in 1971.
GM:You do the duet “Shoulder to Shoulder” on the new album with Bobby Wilson.
DC: Bobby is Jackie Wilson’s son. Dad originally did this one with Tanya Tucker in the early ‘80s and she and I have sung it together too. Bobby got me to work with his producer Tony Mantor, which led to this album, produced by Tony. Bobby is a great talent himself. He started off with Bruno Mars in Hawaii. Speaking of children of singers, I just did a “second generation” show which included Vince Gill’s daughter Jenny and others.
GM:Now Vince Gill is with The Eagles. My wife Donna and I saw him when he was with Pure Prairie League at Six Flags Over Texas in the summer of 1980 when “Let Me Love You Tonight” was their big hit. I enjoy that country rock blend.
DC: I went to a Nashville “outlaw” country show this year and it was one of the best I have attended. Bobby Bare, Joe Ely, Shooter Jennings and others were there. I saw Michael Martin Murphy and he told me that he pitched “Wildfire” to my dad, but it didn’t happen. I told him, “It did you well,” as it became his first hit.
GM:Your new album includes some rarities, like “One of the Few.”
DC: Yes. This is one Dad performed but never got around to recording. Jimmy Webb had recorded it.
GM:One of my favorite songs on the new album is your version of Jimmy Webb’s “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” from your dad’s Reunion album with Jimmy Webb.
DC: That is an amazing song. Dad could speak poetry through his singing. The Reunion album is a favorite of mine.
GM:That album also includes another favorite, “I Keep It Hid,” which I also have on Jimmy Webb’s rare ‘60s album.
DC: There are so many great Jimmy Webb songs that Dad sang. There were the city songs, “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Wichita Linemen” and “Galveston” and then later on, “If These Walls Could Speak.”
GM:That one is a big family favorite. Donna and I first heard it on Amy Grant’s 1988 album Lead Me On. I was so happy when your dad recorded it too.
DC: Jimmy Webb had originally intended it for Waylon Jennings. Amy recorded it and then my dad on his Light Years album.
GM:I am so pleased that you included your dad’s composition “Less of Me” on the new album. That was one of four flip sides we featured in last August’s article. It has a wonderful humble message.
DC: We had posted a “Friends of Glen Campbell” forum and this one was voted the fan favorite to include.
Bobbie Gentry & Glen Campbell
Flip side: Less of Me
A side: All I Have to Do is Dream
Top 100 debut: February 14, 1970
Peak position: 27
GM:I think the most touching song on the new album is “It Looks Like Rain,” a song about sitting, gazing out the window with Alzheimer’s.
DC: It is a cruel disease. I lived that song every time I visited Dad. You lose them twice with Alzheimer’s. I kicked off the Walk for Alzheimer’s in Arizona. Then another in Manchester, England which led to another one in Dublin, Ireland, on my travels. I have been an international flight attendant for many years and go to places like Athens, Rome, Barcelona and Madrid. I love it and find no reason to retire from it. I am now based out of the Philadelphia airport.
GM:Have you heard the rare soul songs they play over the speakers in that airport? I have written down songs that I have learned there.
DC: I have also heard my dad’s music there. I grew up on soul, The Chi-Lites, The Stylistics, Barry White and others. Maybe the next album will be a soul album.
GM:In your CD booklet, I love the 1974 photo of you and your dad at an airport with big smiles, just like the more recent one of the two of you in a golf cart.
DC: I loved golfing with Dad. I learned the game just to spend time with him. He would play “speed golf,” just hit the ball and go. I had invited one of our business people to play golf with us and Dad wasn’t happy. I told him I thought it would be good for business and he said, “Business is business and golf is golf.” One of my favorite games was when we were in Branson, Missouri and golfed with Andy Williams.
GM:He is another of my all-time favorites. What a voice. He did a version of “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” on his Honey album, which also has a great vocal version of “Love is Blue.”
DC: The two of them performed together at Andy’s Moon River Theater. They were magic together and so close.
GM:You certainly have spent time with some of my favorites. Please tell me about Eddie Rabbitt. Donna and I saw him in Texas when he was on tour with Crystal Gayle.
DC: Eddie had sung at Dad’s Glen Campbell Goodtime Theatre in Branson. Eddie asked if I would sing the Crystal Gayle part in “You and I” from his Radio Romance album at a wedding, down your way in Titusville, Florida. I did and it was a wonderful time. I will be back in Branson, performing on August 1.
GM:For Father’s Day weekend, what were some of the best times you spent with your dad?
DC: The simple times, just hanging out with Dad, shopping at Wal-Mart and steering him clear of As Seen on TV products. Being on tour with him, sitting in a hotel room with him and our manager, watching Wheel of Fortune and Dad betting quarters on the puzzles. When we were performing outside of Reno in Sparks, Nevada at John Ascauga’s Nugget, we were at a laundromat, while our clothes were washing. It was just Dad and me sitting there playing cards. That is a happy father daughter memory.
CD booklet photo courtesy of MaryAnne Beaman and Debby Campbell
The Way We Were by Debby Campbell is available through Plateau Music.