The doctor is in: Legendary Glen Campbell comes to Tahoe
April 24, 2009
No one ever sued this doctor for malpractice.
Glen Campbell calls himself a song doctor and his body of work is stunning. If he were in medicine, it would be as if a patient came in a wheelchair and left as a world-class triathlete.
“If it was a good song, it was a good song,” Campbell told Lake Tahoe Action by telephone from his Malibu home. “I’m a song doctor. If it has a good line started, I can do any kind of melody I want to with it. I never have any complaints from people saying ‘You changed my melody.’ “
Before he became a solo artist who recorded 70 albums, selling 45 million of them, Campbell was perhaps the most coveted studio guitarist ever.
Here’s some of the songs he’s played on:
– “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” Righteous Brothers
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– “Viva Las Vegas,” Elvis Presley
– “Traveling Man,” Ricky Nelson
– “Be My Baby,” the Ronettes
– “Danke Schoen,” Wayne Newton
– “Tequila,” the Champs
– “I’m a Believer,” the Monkees
– “Surf City” and “Little Old Lady from Pasadena,” Jan and Dean
He also made numerous recordings with Merle Haggard, Nat King Cole, Nancy Sinatra and Jimmy Rogers.
Although he’s regarded as a country artist, Campbell disdains labeling any kind of music.
“I never did like the segregation of music,” he said. “You’ve got to please yourself. Just play the song from your heart the way you like it and the way you hear them, and people put a label on them.”
Campbell has the ability to sing in a higher key than most male vocalists. He filled in for falsetto-singing Brian Wilson for 18 months playing bass with the Beach Boys.
He explained how he improves songs.
“It has to please my ear,” he said. “If something was a little bit off, it’s like a half-rotten egg, you know? I just change it or smooth it out.
“When you can get in the middle of the high and low of what a song is, it makes it so much easier. You can sing it in tune real good that way.”
After recording “Gentle on My Mind” with John Hartford in 1965, Campbell’s musical surgeon’s mask was unveiled. He became a nationwide sensation and in 1969 he was given his own television variety show, “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.” The program replaced “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” which was deemed too controversial by CBS.
Tommy Smothers, however, remained with the network to produce Campbell’s show, and he kept his writers Steve Martin and Rob Reiner. So somewhat edgy comedy was paired with some of the top music artists of the time. For four years, Campbell’s show opened doors for many country acts, which Campbell said was previously called “hillbilly music.”
A DVD released in 2007 features duets Campbell performed on the show with, among others, Willie Nelson, Linda Ronstadt, Ray Charles and Cher. While Campbell’s voice carries most of the tunes, that was not the case with Johnny Cash.
“He sure had some presence,” Campbell said. “When Johnny Cash walked into a room, everybody looked.”
He said another artist with a huge presence was Frank Sinatra.
“He’d come into that studio and a big hush would come over the room,” Campbell said. “He had a couple of guys who walked around with him in the background. They said it was because of his ties with the Mafia.”
Campbell said the highlight of his studio work was playing rhythm guitar on Sinatra’s “Strangers in the Night.”
Sinatra, of course, often invited Campbell to come to his casino on the north shore of Lake Tahoe.
“To play in Tahoe was just great,” Campbell said. “But it’s cold up there in the winter. It was so cold I saw a chicken with a capon.”
Campbell, 72, said American music’s most seminal time, the 1960s, was the advent of television. His program certainly played a big role.
“It was the coming together of country, rock, pop, crock, or whatever you want to call it,” he said. “And I think it was because of the television. Radio is different from the TV. It brought a lot of different musics together during that period.”