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'Turn Around, Look at Me'
A Glen Campbell Invitation

Feature: June 2002 - July 2002
By Paul L. Antus

The applause was deafening! Heralding over the stone facade of the Andy Williams Theatre, its art galleries, gold-fish ponds, Japanese gardens and onto Branson’s Country Music Boulevard, an opening night’s anticipation is now focused by familiar pre-curtain guitar rifts. Conjuring erstwhile memories while rallying another season’s camaraderie featuring Glen Campbell, Andy Williams and a full Moon River of fans, the curtain begins its ascent above an up-staged silhouette. As back-staged managers count down a Three, Two, One launch of “LIGHTS FULL” and a cue of their magic ‘SPOT’, a captivating, western-'tuxed' Glen Campbell beams from the shadows with: It’s knowing that your door is always open and your path is free to walk.

And with the freshness and perpetuity of Glen’s Gentle On My Mind, the first of his many ‘career’ songs, the moment is peaked in a crescendo of all-out adulation. Even though the next few bars can’t be heard due to a standing ovation that surges like an ‘arena-wave’, no one seems to care! Now, it’s Glen picking his guitar with one hand and waving-back with the other; now, it’s a lady in the audience proclaiming, “Glen’s as cute as ever,” and “hasn’t changed a bit.” With such accolades in the superlative and a Glen Campbell voice as mellow and true to his original recordings, another ‘very alive’ Glen Campbell Good Time Hour, starts his 2002 season.

Exuding a kind of reunion / surprise / farewell party atmosphere for what will be Glen’s final season in Branson, the country and pop ‘crossover king’ and ‘boy next door’ is back doing what he’s always done best, entertain America. While sharing a music’s edge that speaks of life’s revelations choreographed within twists of lyric, feel-good melodies and intricate ‘can’t-stop-my-fingers’ chord progressions, Glen conveys, “Hey! I’m just an apple-pie kinda-guy.” However, most know there’s more.

As a child prodigy, replete with spirit and balanced with a shy demeanor, his parade of forever hits: Southern Nights (1977), Rhinestone Cowboy (1975), Galveston (1969), Dreams of the Everyday Housewife (1968), By the Time I Get To Phoenix (1968), Wichita Lineman (1968), and Gentle On My Mind (1967), were all precursored by an American Bandstand appearance when Glen debuted his Turn Around, Look At Me in 1961. Not to mention, there’s a Glen Campbell library found in every home in America, an immense chronology of studio musician work, circa 1960-70s, in which Glen backed such icons as Elvis Presley (Viva Las Vegas-1964), Ricky Nelson (1964), The Beach Boys (1964-65), Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin (early sixties), Nat King Cole & Ray Charles, the Righteous Brothers’ You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling-1965, Seals and Crofts, Merle Haggard, and others while enjoying his own days of solo celebrity.


But maybe things weren’t so glamorous for Glen as one of twelve Campbell children living back in a 1930-40s South. Back then, since everyone lived an impoverished lifestyle, maybe nobody really noticed The Great Depression and its aftermath. All anybody had was each other, a ‘survivor’s kit’ of tradition and their Lord Jesus. Writes Glen, in his ‘best seller’ autobiography, Rhinestone Cowboy with Thomas Carter (1994), “We raised almost everything we ate. We had some chickens and hogs, but a lot of our meat was wild game because we didn’t have to feed the game before we ate it. We ate turtles, gar and eel...but never snakes.”

Glen was born the seventh son of a seventh son on April 22, 1936, just yonder of an electricity-less two store, one church hamlet called Billstown, Arkansas—and still a town that goes without a mention on any road atlas. Glen’s dad, Wes, short for John Wesley Campbell, and his mom, Carrie, sharecropped cotton,wwhile depending on the land, weather and Arkansas ingenuity to make ends meet. But, despite those beleaguered days of his youth, Glen most readily remembers running behind his dad’s plow picking-out earthworms from the newly carved furrows.

For a baby Glen then, the first colorful threads of melody were first pulled from all that gray poverty must have come when his parents paraded their entire Campbell family into one long pew at the Church of Christ. There, while cradled in his mother’s lap, Glen could listen to hymns sung, not played, as instrumentation in church was strictly forbidden. But maybe later, more curiously and significantly, Glen would become more effected as he stood by that other church just down the road, you know, the one where the black people sang a bit faster; a bit more rhythmically and where a much impassioned singer would begin rolling around in the aisle.

But for sure, music in Glen’s life was to be set-in-stone when his dad bought the family a five dollar Sears Roebuck guitar. As Glen tells the Branson’s Review, “I took it over immediately even though the strings were kind of high on it. The guitar didn’t have an adjustable neck to lower the strings, so Dad made me a capo out of a piece of old inner tube and I could now play higher-up on the guitar’s neck without hurting my fingers.” Because of that accommodation, and unbeknownst to Glen at that time, using a capo would become one of Glen’s most singular assets during his first California days of studio work later on.

Indeed, the most fun Glen would have in his early musical beginnings was going to Grandpa Campbell’s house. Once a month, the Campbells would gather together and hold a musical with people from miles around coming to hear the Campbells let loose with song; playing hymns and country. Glen recalls, “I remember singing Eddie Arnold songs when I was just ten years old.” Fortunately for us and the rest of the world, Uncle Eugene ‘Boo’ was there too. As Papa Campbell’s brother and the best guitar player in the family, he was to set a fourteen year old Glen ta-thinkin’ about goin’ on the road.


Was to take Glen to Wyoming where they would make it BIG playing music together in a Casper nightclub. Recalls Glen, “There, Uncle Boo and I played one night before a rival club owner called the police” telling ‘um that there was this little under-aged kid playing over yonder (...while taking all the town’s available customers with them). So regardless of whether ‘Boo’ was Glen’s legal guardian, without the custody papers to prove it, that was that for then and the rest of their stay in Wyoming. The word was out! No where and ‘No how’ were nightclub owners about to hire a minor while the police were trailing right behind. Now it was a matter of getting back to Billstown, Arkansas by digging ditches in Wyoming's frozen earth and pawning their guitars for bus fare. Fortunately though, there was another uncle, Uncle Dick Bills, married to Papa Campbell’s sister, Aunt Judy, who heard Glen play just before hocking his guitar in retreat through Albuquerque, New Mexico.


So because when one door closes, another must open, Uncle Dick was now writing to Wes and Carrie Campbell asking them if Glen could join his Dick Bills’ Sandia Mountain Boys at Albuquerque’s Club Chesterfield. There, Dick Bills even had his own radio show broadcasting five days a week on which Glen would not only play everything from Glen Miller, to Jazz, to Country, to Gospel and to a ‘Sons of the Pioneers’ kind of Western, full of rich harmonies, but, now at 16, Glen was to learn the ways of BMI and ASCAP. “When you did songs back then,” says Glen, “once a year you had to write down every song you played on the air for a week. That’s how they accounted for how many air-plays you got paid for by BMI.” Meanwhile, within this professional whirlwind, Glen had also formed his own Western Wranglers Band. Says Glen, “It was a lot of fun for the six to seven years I was there.” Now however, Glen was filled with a hankerin’ to go West and move his career along.


“Horrace Greeley once said, `Go west young man’ and two hundred people in Seattle drowned!” jokes Glen. “But seriously folks, the whole idea behind moving to Hollywood as opposed to Nashville, I would have just been one of the many if I had gone to Nashville and besides, they knew I used a capo when I played.”

So with Glen now sporting a Zephyr Deluxe Epiphone guitar, he again was ready to hit the big time! Once in Los Angeles, and after having played in a few of its seedier dives, Glen finally began his days of relative financial security. Playing in a Van Nuys club called the Crossbow with players from the old Champs group; Jimmy Seals and Dash Crofts of today’s Seals & Crofts and responsible for the 1958 smash, Tequila, Glen could now go on the road and return to the security of the Crossbow knowing he was sharing the same stage and limelight previously played by Elvis and other stars before their notoriety hit.

For Glen however, there was still a ‘day job’ to be maintained. Taking on an avocation in music publishing, Glen was now writing songs for a company called, American Music, where he would meet his now famous friend, James Bowen, producer ‘extraordinaire’, for country, rock n’ roll, and popular music and who would later produce for Frank Sinatra, Reba McEntire, George Strait and of course, Glen Campbell. In 1961, however, Glen and Jim were just two unknown songwriters, demo-tape producers, who would always try to get their songs sung by celebrities by impersonating an artist for whom their particular song had been written.

And so it was, from all those disciplines of writing songs, inspired or not, would come, Turn Around, Look at Me (1961). As Glen’s first real hit at American Music, he was not only recording a song that he had written, but was now on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand singing it! “It was really exciting and yet terrifying,” remembers Glen. “It was just me and my guitar singing, Turn Around, Look At Me.” But now having captured the notice of Capitol Records and signing for his first album, Big Bluegrass Special, Glen remembers Turn Around and Jim Bowen as being the ‘saving grace’ that came from his days at American Music. Not only was Jim now using Glen in master sessions backing such stars as Frank Sinatra and his Strangers in the Night, but was also helping Glen gather momentum as a successful studio musician. With his instrumentals and vocals now showing-up on over five hundred eighty-six recordings in 1963, he was also working for a jingle company recording radio and television commercials. In fact, Glen’s most famous lyric was for a Lady Clairol advertisement remembered as Is it true blondes have more fun? In these commercial building sessions, Glen is meeting fellow jingle writers; Leon Russell and the King of the Road himself; Roger Miller, as they too were finding their way to fame.


In 1964, Glen was called to play bass and sing high harmony for the now touring Beachboys whose Brian Wilson had taken ill. Little does Glen know at the time, and especially with such short notice, that he’ll be traveling with the Beachboys for close to eighteen months! As Glen tells Branson’s Review, “First, as a job, they didn’t want to pay me that much money and secondly, after Dennis Wilson past on, God love his soul, they finally hired studio musicians to play for them as they should have originally, letting the Beach Boys just do the singing.” On the studio musician-side, Glen had played on their hits, Help Me Rhonda and Good Vibrations, but now, while playing in the front of arenas and amphitheaters, even as a substitute, Glen was being mauled by teenage girls. Glen writes in his Rhinestone autobiography, “Suddenly, I was being attacked by a pose of crazed women. My shirt was torn from my body which was now being severely scratched, and my hair was being pulled out by its roots. This wasn’t adoration. This was pain...and it was frightening!”


Glen was to continue his studio work all through the 60’s. Simultaneous to his solo work beginning in ‘67 and even into doing his network television show, Glen recalls for Branson’s Review, “During the 60s, people were continually asking each other, ‘Who played this on that record and who played that on Nat King Cole’s record?’” Answer: Why—Glen Campbell of course! And so the word was out on Glen. Having achieved a certain rhythmic styling that seemed perpetual because of Glen’s capo (or capotasto); a succession of sounds could be sustained for long periods. Glen was now that one person in the studio who could do those most sought after ‘open ringing chords’. Says Glen, “There were certain sounds you couldn’t physically play on the guitar for more than a minute without utilizing a capo.”


By the time John Hartford’s Gentle On My Mind came out, Glen, who was now with Capitol Records, had gone through five record producers, or as Glen calls them; ‘nice guys’ who couldn’t come up with the properties needed to advance his career. With Gentle, Glen’s first producing effort on his own, it made recording history. Says Glen, “The song changed my life in more ways than anything would until I became a summer replacement for the Smothers Brothers’ TV show in 1968.” Glen was now touring the country as an opening act for Ricky Nelson, Sonny James, the Righteous Brothers and capturing a platinum duet album with Bobbie Gentry.

Glen would then find By the Time I Get to Phoenix; a title from an old Johnny Rivers’ album, and as its own benchmark, would be the first in an on-going collaboration between Mr. Webb and Glen. Says Glen, “My ultimate dream to become a successful recording artist had been confirmed with Phoenix.” Then lightning hit again. With two more Jimmy Webb songs; Witchita Lineman and Galveston, “I had four major hit songs in little more than a year. At the end of 1968, I had four albums listed in the country and pop’s top ten and the previous year, I had won four Grammy Awards. In 1969, I had sold more records than the Beatles!

Making history at the Grammy Awards, Glen was bestowed Grammies for both his Gentle On My Mind, in the Country Category while receiving a Grammy for By The Time I Get To Phoenix in its Pop Category. As a Male Vocalist of the Year, awarded by both the CMA and ACM, Glen was as well to be honored by the CMA as its Entertainer of the Year. Indeed, having sold forty million records, twelve gold albums and having seventy-five chart hits, Glen was now going on to release a series of gospel albums that would result in his first ever Dove Award, for Where Shadows Never Fall, followed in 1999 by the ACM’s prestigious Pioneer Award.


So with Glen being his own producing success, he tells the Branson’s Review, “I always look for a story, melody and chord progression that has a ‘feel good’ quality to it.” Continues Glen, “The story comes first. If you don’t have a story, then the song isn’t gonna be any good.” Glen would then add that feel good quality to the lyric by acquiring the studio musicians who’d work best together.” In Glen’s own application “I’d hear a tape of a song and then sit down and read its lyric sheet ...‘cause you can’t really understand a lot of tapes.” Glen further recalls, “When I first heard Larry Weiss’ Rhinestone Cowboy on KNX-FM, Los Angeles, “I almost wrecked my car! That song was the big jewel on the album, and the rest of the songs around it were merely its setting, not only was Rhinestone on the pop-charts for eighteen weeks, #1 on the Country charts for three weeks, but it turned-out to be the Record Of The Year in 1975.


Simultaneous to his solo career, Glen was also doing character bits in movies and television shows. Remember his fight scene with Steve McQueen in Baby the Rain Must Fall? In The Cool Ones, Glen has a speaking part as a guitar player. Granted, not much of a stretch, but for Glen, he was now on the silver screen! Then came a galore of television appearances as he did more shows with Dick Clark, appeared on The FBI in another singer role, and then became a regular on a pop-music show called, Shindig, that ran from 1964-66, around which Glen would schedule his studio work. For Glen, Shindig, would be an important ‘anthology’ of his pop-music history, particularly rock n’ roll, recalling, “It was a wonderful showcase for me because I got to play guitar behind artists as diversified as Tina Turner, Marvin Gaye, Jan and Dean, Donovan, James Brown, Sam Cooke and Diana Ross.” Next came Hootenanny, a mostly folk formatted network show...and now the versatile Glen is playing guitar and banjo with the Kingston Trio!
With a television and solo career still building into 1968, Glen was now to be a guest on the Joey Bishop Show. Glen recalls in his bio,“My appearance on that show was to be one of the most crucial points of my career.” After the show, Glen was called by Tommy Smothers in 1968 whose conversation opened with, “I didn’t know you could sing!” to which Glen replies, “You didn’t ask.” As Glen was to be a guest on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, and then to host six very successful summer replacement shows @ $1500 per show, Glen would be on his way to starring on his own Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour debuting in January of 1969 @ $15,000 per show! For three years and viewed by over fifty million viewers each week, “Hi, I’m Glen Campbell” would jump-start each show as he’d sit amongst the audiences and then host with such notables as Pat Paulsen, Anne Murray, Neil Diamond, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Buck Owens, Linda Rondstadt, Lucille Ball, Jerry Reed, Andy Williams, Mel Tillis and of course, Glen’s mom and dad, Carrie and Wes!

Because of the success of Glen’s television show, he’s now chosen to work alongside John Wayne in the movie True Grit and singing its theme song. Says Glen in the Winston-Salem Journal, “When I was doing the movie, it was like I had to pinch myself. I knew Dad was going to wake me up, and I’d have to get the cows out of the pasture and milk them. It’s still like a dream to me.”


In the summer of 1991, Glen chronicles his Branson visit at The Roy Clark Theater singing his The Hand That Rocks the Cradle to his mom, Carrie, who died around Christmas time that same year. Now, in August of 1992, the late Roger Miller, because of his declining health due to cancer, has failed to show-up at what was for Glen a now extended run at The Grand Palace. Says Glen, “I was working a show at The Palace, then owned by Silver Dollar City, where I headlined throughout the summer and fall of 1992.” Then, in October of 1993, Glen signed a deal with a Branson investment group to build a new Glen Campbell Goodtime Theatre. It would be a state of the art, 2,200 seat theater, that would feature Glen, dancers, singers, his family members and guest stars, with an opening act nightly starring the famous comedian, Jim Barber, incorporating a totally new and different format. In those days, Glen was looking forward to spending twenty-six weeks a year working at his own theater and doing ‘his own thing.’ However, Glen tells Branson’s Review, “The Branson scene for me felt like way too much work. It’ll burn you out when you do 2 two-hour shows everyday unless, of course, you have other acts to fill in for you and you don’t have to do the entire show by yourself. That’s what happened to Andy Williams when he developed his laryngitis. He was out there doing two hour shows. And even if you do forty-five minutes, take a break, and then another forty-five minutes, it becomes just so much work. In Andy’s case, his voice gave out and Andy couldn’t talk for about eleven months.”

“But let me tell ya,” continues Glen, “it’s so much fun working with Andy and now that he’s back, he’s singin’ better than ever! He’s been an absolute pleasure to work with, plus, he’s a lot of laughs. So we’re here through June 1 and back September 6 to October 26 and that will probably be it...‘cause I’m thinkin’ about slowin’ it down...”


“I want to watch my kids grow up a little more,” says Glen. Now living in Phoenix with his wife, Kimberly, and their three children, Glen tells Branson’s Review, “I have a little fifteen year old daughter, Ashley, whom I just spoke with a little while ago. Ashley said, ‘Hey Daddy, I’m going to miss you.’ And I responded, ‘Well then, you’re just gonna have to come out to Branson!’” As Glen mentions in his Rhinestone Cowboy with Tom Carter, “I had fame, wealth, a wife and children...but I didn’t have a life. One of the reasons I’m so adamant about guarding my family time today is because I was so neglectful of it during my earlier years...It wasn’t because I didn’t love my family, it was because I was physically and mentally gone all the time.”
As both Uncle ‘Boo’ and Uncle Dick had once told Glen of the Do’s & Don’t’s of the entertainment business, so too does Glen tell his daughter Debbie and son, Cal, now making it on their own as entertainers, “just be nice people.” Continues Glen, “Cal’s nineteen and is an excellent drummer. In fact, I already put him on the Moon River stage last year and he nearly pulled the house down.” Daughter Debbie—who presently performs with Glen on stage—sounding very much like Anne Murray, “is a sweet-sweet child,” says Glen. “She takes good care of me and treats me like her dad, which is something I really appreciate. She’ll ask me, ‘Anything I can get for ya, Dad? What-cha need?’ and then runs over to Chef K’s and gets us dinner between shows.”

“My kids have been wonderful.” declares Glen, “I have eight kids altogether, Debby, Kelli, Travis, Kane, Ashley, Cal, Shannon and Dillon, so you know, it’s really a big job!” In all, Glen as ‘Dad’, will teach his children those lessons already taught him by Uncle Dick and Uncle ‘Boo’, to treat people as they’d like to be treated. “As a result,” says Glen, “you’ll get along in life. Don’t try to be a ‘smart aleck’ and don’t lie. That’s number one, because God hates liars.” And for the kids who want to be just like Glen: “PRACTICE,” responds Glen. “You have to learn your craft. Don’t just listen to one type of music or one type of artist. Listen to ‘um all ‘cause you’re going to find a niche somewhere and maybe if you put four or five of them together, then maybe you’ll have something quite unique. But don’t try and copy anybody. Just be yourself.”

Wife Kimberly and Glen were both baptized together on December 22nd, 1981 in Saline Creek, Glen’s boyhood swimming-hole in Billstown, Arkansas by his brother Lindell, a Church of Christ pastor. Says Glen about his wife Kimberly, “She’s such a jewel and a gift from God. I prayed and prayed for a woman like her to come into my life. She teaches at church and writes plays. We just did a Purim Fest this year. She treats me like a husband who’s the head of the family and doesn’t give me any grief. We don’t argue—In fact, we haven’t been in an argument in over fifteen years.” Says Glen, “I respect Kimberly as my equal and we’ll always discuss things with each other.”


Says Glen, “My passions in life are my Lord, family, music and golf!” And with Glen having played golf since he was twenty-four years old while living in Albuquerque, Glen can also tell colorful stories about meeting Gene Autry, Forrest Tucker, Walter Brennan, Jackie Gleason, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. Remembers Glen in his bio, “I joined the Lakeside Country Club with a junior membership that cost me $4,000 just so I could talk to those guys.” Indeed, for twelve years, Glen was bestowed his own Glen Campbell Los Angeles Open before moving to Phoenix. Says Glen, “Golf can possess you, prompting you to play better and better, but never to your satisfaction. I’ve analyzed my game and changed it hundreds of times and I love the way the game forces me to think about it and nothing else. It’s not only a hobby, it’s my therapy; where I come alive...and sometimes feel closer to God!”
Says Glen, “I’m just enjoying my life right now, playing guitar, playing golf and being a father...God has blessed me so very much!”
















































































































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