There is a story that goes: Man to Psychiatrist, “Every time I hear the name Tom Jones, my head fills with music. Is that normal?” To which the Psychiatrist answers, “It’s not unusual…”
Earlier this week I posted a teaser on my blog that referenced the “late” Glen Campbell. Research for today’s post very quickly corrected me. The news a week ago or so was that Glen Campbell announced himself, that he was diagnosed about six months ago with Alzheimer’s, a not uncommon diagnosis for someone 85 years old. He also said in the announcement that he intended to make one final tour while he was still able.
Mary and I often listen to music at suppertime, often show tunes. I find myself finishing the score over the next several days, in the shower, while driving, or other times when I’m alone. Recently that has included “The Music Man”, “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” (we have tickets in November to see Daniel Radcliffe in NYC), and for some unknown reason “West Side Story”.
I also can’t get “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” out of my mind.
Not too surprising in that, although he is older than I am, Glen Campbell's career really began in the mid 1950’s; about the time I became aware of music (Buddy Holly died in 1959 about 25 miles from my home). By the time of Holly’s death, Campbell had staked out a career in LA as a studio musician and had filled in on Beach Boy Tours for Brian Wilson.
He also had established himself as a cross-over artist, taking his country hit, “Gentle on My Mind” to the pop charts. He would repeat this in both directions with other Jimmy Webb hits: “Wichita Lineman” and “Galveston”. About that same time he would have, what many in the business call, his “prolonged trip to instant fame”. He was given a chance to be the summer replacement for “The Smothers Brothers Show”. He was such a success that he was given his own show, “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour”.
That show was an instant success, largely due to the fact that Campbell was so well connected with stars of the time: Willie Nelson, Linda Ronstadt, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Roger Miller, Merle Haggard and even one of his friends from studio days, Leon Russell. But it was his genuine warmth and likability that carried the show. He seemed humble and almost anxious to share the spotlight. He introduced us to such future stars as Anne Murray, Mel Tillis and Jerry Reed, who were regulars on the show.
When the show ran its course, he stayed prominent in the industry, writing and singing the title song for the first “True Grit”, performing on several other television shows, working movies for Clint Eastwood and others, and generally staying current, or leading current styles. His biggest hit came in the late 1970’s when he recorded a cover of Larry Weiss’s song, “Rhinestone Cowboy”.
Although he has recently chosen to make only sporadic appearances, his influence remains phenomenal, with the greatest of that being the ability to perform music which appeals across genres.
For me, the reason I can’t get “By the Time…” out of my head is because it evokes so many memories over so many years: from college dances to movies that were special. Listening in my head to the music triggers dozens of visual images. What a gift, for a performer to be able to do that!
Am I alone, or is this something that you also notice?
Tuesday I think I am going to share with you how a seven year-old taught me why we are inclined to gamble.