Columnists King Harris

Glen Campbell — From A Beach Boy To A Rhinestone Cowboy

Good to be King

By King Harris

I first heard of Glen Campbell when he cut a song called, “Turn Around and Look at Me,” way back in 1962. I didn’t think it was that special, but it was engaging enough to get my attention.

The next time I heard him he was a Beach Boy filling in for Brian Wilson a few years later. Brian returned the favor in 1965, writing and producing a song for Glen called “Guess I’m Dumb,” a collector’s item today. It sounded a lot like “Pet Sounds” to me.

One of the reasons Campbell was asked to be a temporary Beach Boy is because he was such a fantastic L.A. studio musician in the ‘60s. By the end of that decade, he’d become a star in his own right.

After failing with a few minor hits like, “Universal Soldier,” he scored with songwriter Jimmy Webb after breaking through with John Hartford’s, “Gentle On My Mind.”

“It’s knowing that your door is always open And your path is free to walk
That makes me tend to leave my sleeping bag rolled up and stashed behind your couch
And it’s knowing I’m not shackled by forgotten words and bonds and the ink stains that are dried upon some line
That keeps you in the backroads by the rivers of my memory
That keeps you ever gentle on my mind.

It’s not clinging to the rocks and ivy planted on their columns now that bind me
Or something that somebody said because they thought we fit together walking
It’s just knowing that the world will not be cursing
Or forgiving when I walk along some railroad track
And find that you’re moving on the backroads
By the rivers of my memory
And for hours you’re just gentle on my mind…”

This song became his TV show anthem. Jimmy Webb offered different words and melodies:

“By the time I get to Phoenix she’ll be rising
She’ll find the note I left hanging on her door
She’ll laugh, when she reads the part that says I’m leaving
Cause I’ve left that girl, so many times before

By the time I make Albuquerque, she’ll be working
She’ll probably stop at lunch, and give me a call
But she’ll just hear that phone keep on ringing
Off the wall, that’s all.

By the time I make Oklahoma, she’ll be sleeping
She’ll turn softly and call my name out low
And she’ll cry, just to think, I’d really leave her
Though time and time I’ve tried to tell her so
She just didn’t know, that I would really go…”

Webb’s “Galveston” followed “Wichita Lineman.”

“Galveston, oh Galveston, I still hear your sea winds blowin’
I still see her dark eyes glowin’
She was 21, when I left Galveston

Galveston, oh Galveston, I still hear your sea waves crashing
While I watch the cannons flashing
I clean my gun and dream of Galveston

I still see her standing by the water
Standing there lookin’ out to sea
And is she waiting there for me?
On the beach where we used to run.

Galveston, oh Galveston, I am so afraid of dying
Before I dry the tears she’s crying
Before I watch your sea birds flying in the sun
At Galveston, at Galveston…”

In the mid-70s, Campbell came out of a slump.

“I’ve been walkin’ these streets so long
Singin’ the same old song
I know every crack in these dirty sidewalks of Broadway
Where hustle’s the name of the game
And nice guys get washed away like the snow and the rain
There’s been a load of compromisin’
On the road to my horizon
But I’m gonna be where the lights are shinin’ on me

Like a rhinestone cowboy
Riding out on a horse in a star-spangled rodeo
Like a rhinestone cowboy
Getting cards and letters from people I don’t even know
And offers comin’ over the phone

Well, I really don’t mind the rain
And a smile can hide all the pain
But you’re down when you’re ridin’ the train
That’s takin’ the long way
And I dream of the things I’ll do
With a subway token and a dollar tucked inside my shoe
There’ll be a load of compromisin’
On the road to my horizon
But I’m gonna be where the lights are shinin’ on me

Like a rhinestone cowboy
Riding out on a horse in a star-spangled rodeo
Like a rhinestone cowboy
Gettin’ cards and letters from people I don’t even know
And offers comin’ over the phone

Like a rhinestone cowboy
Riding out on a horse in a star-spangled rodeo
Like a rhinestone cowboy
Gettin’ card and letters from people I don’t even know…

But everybody knew you Glen. Thanks for your songs and your courage.