Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

By Steve Hansen

Campbell's voice made him a star


August 16, 2017 | View PDF

I was never as much a Glen Campbell fan as I was a devotee of some of the people he was associated with.

Glen Campbell’s death on Aug. 8 was significant to me, though. I followed his hits during my young adulthood and eventually recognized what a consummate musician he was.

Early on, I was impressed with the songs he performed, and their writers.

Mostly for me that was Jimmy Webb. Aside from Campbell’s megahits, “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Wichita Lineman,” and “Galveston,” Webb also wrote “Up, Up and Away,” and “MacArthur Park,” as well as several other hits for other artists.

Webb made heavy, and effective, use of the 11th chord, which has an air of comfortable suspense, dark like a minor chord but expectant.

I was a budding musician back then, not that I ever really flowered, and learned through Webb how versatile that chord can be.

Dolly Parton, among those who commented on Campbell’s passing, also mentioned that Campbell was a virtuoso guitarist.

I saw that about 10 years ago when, as an accidental recipient of tickets, I heard him play at the Hollywood Bowl. He played several solos on guitar that evening, and I heard in his playing a gift for extremely melodic improvisation.

If he had not discovered his singing voice, however, I’m not sure how well known he would have been outside the world of guitarists and studio musicians.

His playing reminds me of Django Reinhardt, a legendary improviser of the 1930s who composed intricate melodies on the spot and played them flawlessly on guitar. I don’t think Reinhardt was ever a household name, though.

How many people know who Joe Satriani or Joe Bonamassa are? They are nearly worshipped by other guitarists, but they’re not household names, either.

Campbell became one.

None of the obituaries of Campbell that I read mentioned that he was part of the Wrecking Crew, the studio musicians behind most of the hits of the 1960s and 1970s.

They were the Tijuana Brass behind Herb Alpert, the band behind the Monkees, the instruments behind the Beach Boys. Even Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin used them on a few numbers.

Campbell joined luminaries like Leon Russell, who wrote “Masquerade” and organized Joe Cocker’s “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” tour of the 1970s, and Dr. John, the New Orleans blues master, on the Wrecking Crew.

Like jazz pianist Nat King Cole (“Unforgettable” and a classic version of “Get Your Kicks on Route 66”), however, Campbell learned he had a voice and used it to stake a claim on immortality.

Steve Hansen writes about our life and times from his perspective of a retired Tucumcari journalist. Contact him at:




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