Title: “Goodbye, Good Buddy”
I hope you’re all well.
This will be a short one… I’m busy on the book.
But I did want to send you something just to stay in touch and was all ready with a very different newsletter, when I got word of Glen Campbell’s passing.
As has been happening to me a LOT lately, I found myself overwhelmed by so many potent memories of an old friend of so many years.
Glen’s rare musical gifts, his vibrant presence in the studio, his easy camaraderie, gentle humor and enduring humility are what I remember the most.
When he first hits L.A. from Billstown, Arkansas, he quickly becomes the talk of the recording world.
You are in the studio with him for ten minutes and you know this guy is going to be somebody.
He had started playing guitar at age 4 when his father bought one for him through a mail order catalog and the fluency of his technique is remarkable.
It soon gets to the point where the Preps won’t record if Glen isn’t available.
Remember, this is when Glen Travis Campbell has first hit L.A., tied in with the legendary “Wrecking Crew” and had become the number one studio guitarist in town… long before he takes off for Phoenix and a solo trip to stardom.
He’s just one of the fun, gifted studio musicians we admire and count on to make magic behind us… on time, in tune and with peerless artistry.
The Preps are set to record an LP of folk and country songs that are Glen’s forte’.
We re-schedule the session TWICE because Glen isn’t available.
After the second cancellation, Glen calls me to apologize and insists he has a superbly talented substitute who he is confident can give us the spirit and energy we always count on from Glen.
Far from convinced, I press Glen about this guy.
And his response is pure Glen Campbell… a brilliant melding of the disciplined artist and a “natural,” spontaneous musician.
“Can this guy read?” I ask him a little forcefully.
I can sense Glen silently forming his answer, and when it comes it’s a Campbell classic I’ve quoted for years.
“Well… yeah. He can read…but not enough to hurt him!”
We hold out until Glen can join us, and he covers all the bases from a low down, dirty blues solo on “Abilene” to a delicate, pristine rendering on “The Days of Wine and Roses.”
Somewhere in my archives (that’s a fancy word for the boxes of memorabilia I have stacked out in my studio) are a half dozen 78 rpm demo records of country songs I had binge written in a few weeks back in the early 60’s.
Once they’re completed, I call Glen and he meets me at Gold Star studios at Santa Monica and Vine one morning and the two of us instantly become the L.A. version of the Everly’s.
Of course, he’s a “natural” to work with one on one.
We run down each song once or twice and he instinctively slides up and sings a third above me as smooth as silk and there we are instantly harmonizing in a perfectly respectable country groove.
I've put together some real hokey wing-dinger country lyrics which really tickle Glen:
“Call the doctor
Call the nurse..,
Things are goin’ from bad to worse
And I may not recover from my last attack of love”
“Has anyone here seen the sunshine
Has anyone here seen the stars?
I haven’t seen either in quite a long time
All I’ve seen is the inside of bars”
“When you walked out on me
I went out of my mind
Gonna buy me some ten penny wine”
“She’s wholesome, winsome and then some”
That day, I pay him $25.00 a song and afterwards, we grab a bite up Vine Street before Glen races off to another of his countless sessions.
It’s just a matter of time before the world discovers this gifted guy from Arkansas.
The first time I hear Glen’s version of Jimmy Webb’s brilliant, ”By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” I just smile to myself and think, “See, some times good guys do get the breaks.”
Hooray for our side.
Hooray for a talent that could soar and take us with him for the ride.
Hooray for a personality that embraced everyone with a warm “howdy” …which makes his gradual decline into the darkness of Alzheimer’s all the more heart breaking and poignant.
As usual, he meets the scourge head on with a keen and edgy sense of humor… and an irascible temper that flares with frustration as his memory falters and slowly slips away.
But I had known for years that there was a real, warm, authentic person behind the “Rhinestone Cowboy.”
He was one of the good guys.
One of the really good guys.
I will miss him.
But he will always be with me… always “Gentle on my Mind.”
Till the next tale, take good care of yourself and each other.