August 10, 2017
Dear Newsletter friends,
Well, it can happen in the best of families.
The Glen Campbell tribute you were just sent is NOT the final version of the piece.
My web master and I mis-communicated and I didn’t make it clear to him that I had recalled a few more stories about Glen and wanted to add them before sending it to all of you.
So, here’s the new, unabridged version… you may find it interesting to see what re-writing is all about.
I have a TV writer friend who’s specialized in re-writing and beefing up scripts that need a re-do.
The license plate on his magnificent Rolls Royce reads: “Rewrite.”
Well, that’s what good writing is all about and I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read this new version for an even fuller profile of my long time friend.
Thanks for your patience.
All the best,
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 say “hi” and send you something from the book just to stay in touch. I 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 sixty years.
Glen’s rare musical gifts, his vibrant presence in the studio, his easy camaraderie, gentle humor and enduring humility are what I most remember about him.
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 somebody very special.
He’s the seventh son of a seventh son who started playing guitar at age 4 when his father bought one for him through a mail order catalogue.
And now, the fluency of his technique is remarkable.
It soon gets to the point where the Preps and a great many other artists won’t record if Glen isn’t available.
Remember, this is the early sixties when Glen Travis Campbell first hits L.A., ties in with the legendary “Wrecking Crew” and becomes 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 handful of studio musicians like Hal Blaine, Carol Kaye and Tommy Tedesco who are fun, gifted players that 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 he 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 new guy.
And his response is pure Glen Campbell… a unique 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 comes through with his usual, easy brilliance on everything from a low down, dirty blues solo on “Abilene” to a delicate, pristine 12 string rendering on “The Days of Wine and Roses.”
(Cheap plug: All are available on Amazon and iTunes under “Four Preps”).
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 some country songs I had binge written in a few weeks back then.
I’d gone on a creative tear for days getting just a few hour’s sleep each night
For the first time in my career, I’m writing both lyrics and music on my tenor guitar and I turn out a handful of faux country songs that I think just might have a market… “urban country?”
Once I’ve completed my creative orgy, I call Glen and he meets me one morning at Gold Star studios at Santa Monica and Vine.
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 soon, there we are harmonizing in a perfectly respectable country groove.
We step in front of the mic and the two of us become the L.A. version of the Everly brothers.
I’d 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 tiAme
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”
We’re having great, collaborative fun and finish all 8 tunes in an hour. I pay him $25.00 a song and we head up Vine Street to a coffee shop and flop down at an outside table.
It’s the first time Glen and I have really had a chance to talk outside a recording studio.
It’s a beautiful, smog free day as we sit and ogle the parade of lovelies walking by.
After all, this is the heart of Hollywood.
I look over at Glen in the sunlight and see the dimpled chin, the sunny mop of hair the boy next door handsomeness and the “aw shucks” smile and think, “this sonofabitch is gonna be huge.”
We have a quick bite, all the while trading crude, totally tasteless, high school quips about each girl that passes by. We’re like a couple of randy teen agers laughing like hell at how totally crude we’re being.
It’s just silly, stupid fun, and we share a few raucous laughs… two musical buddies who’ve just spent an hour making music together.
Glen projects a down to earth vibe and a healthy sense of fun, and I become an avid admirer of his from that day on.
We finish lunch and he races off to another of his countless sessions.
After hanging out with this guy, I realize it’s just a matter of time before the world discovers Glen Campbell and makes him a super star.
It takes another couple of years, but the inevitable finally happens.
First comes “Gentle on My Mind” and then his classic rendition of Jimmy Webb’s brilliant “By the Time I Get to Phoenix.”
The first time I hear it on the radio, I just smile and think to myself, “See, sometimes good guys do get the breaks.”
Hooray for our side.
Hooray for a talent that soared and took us with him for the ride.
Hooray for a personality that embraced everyone with a warm greeting...which made his gradual decline into the darkness of Alzheimer’s all the more heart breaking.
As usual, he met 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.
After all the demons he’s conquered, this is a fight he can not win.
And now he’s gone.
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 then again, he’ll always be with me and “gentle on my mind.”
Till the next tale, take good care of yourself and each other.