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Published on August 30th, 2012 | by RLn Staff

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FROM GOODTIME TO GOOD-BYE: Glen Campbell’s Last New Mexico Concert

By Lyn Jensen

Back in my Orange County schooldays in the 1960s, I was bullied daily. Not only was I not part of “the” crowd—whatever that was—I wasn’t part of any common outgroup that can typically bond over a hard time in school. I wasn’t hippie or geek or goth or gay or anything like that. I was worse, as far as my fellow tweens and teens were concerned. I loved country music, and not even my parents shared my enthusiasm.

Why did I, as a suburban teenager, adore a musical genre more commonly associated with rednecks and truckers?  The answer:  Glen Campbell. My formative years in Anaheim are forever mingled with memories of his records and TV show.  His hits—staples of many radio playlists at the time–formed a major part of the soundtrack of my adolescence.  I was more than infatuated, I was totally obsessed, I kissed his picture every morning and every night.  Family and school weren’t happy times for me, but being a Glen Campbell fan helped me endure.

Because of him my life has taken the path it did.  Because of him music became my major obsession. I sought out more music of all kinds. I read music magazines and spent many happy hours curled up in my room listening to records of many different genres.  All my musical fandom is rooted in that one crazy teenage crush.

As a result I became a music and entertainment journalist, eventually branching into other writing. Yet in all these years I’d never written anything about the guy that started me in that direction. I saw him once in concert when I was perhaps thirteen, that’s all.

Even after my school days were over, I never became acquainted with a single Campbell fan. I knew they must exist– that millions bought his records.  I only met the many people who couldn’t seem to get past the image of the country boy who’d yelp “Hi, I’m Glen Campbell!” in falsetto  on TV every week.   Folks, his voice isn’t just that falsetto—it covers three octaves, rare for popular singers, and for me it’s still the standard by which I measure all others.

He’s a great guitarist and occasional songwriter, too.  Considering what he’s contributed to American popular music over decades, he belongs in the rarified company of such American musical giants as Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley.  Like them, he transcended genres, taking popular music to another level, and he did it across generations.

Now, though, he’s on his Goodbye Tour, about to retire, and if I want to write about him, it has to be now.  So over the weekend of July 29, I headed for Albuquerque, for what will probably be the last Glen Campbell concert ever in the Southwestern United States.  After this his tour heads to the East Coast and then, overseas.

Albuquerque is a fitting place for such a final good-bye.  Before Campbell was an international superstar, he was a key player in that city’s music scene. I’ve met more than one person who lived in that town at that time who remembers him.  When he, and his then-wife, Billie Jean (the second of four), moved from Albuquerque to Los Angeles, seeking greater success, they traveled west along Route 66, along roughly the same route I followed east to see the Goodbye Tour.

I arrived at the venue, the Route 66 Hotel and Casino, around noon on Sunday, July 31 and spoke to the venue’s entertainment director, Helmut Pursey.  He was sorry but, no watching sound-check, no interview, no presspass or complimentary ticket.  I was welcome to enjoy the show that evening.  That’s what I came for.

A fair measure of Campbell’s career is found in his major hits.  There’s several that could make an average artist’s career all by themselves:  “Wichita Lineman,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Gentle on My Mind,” “Galveston,” and of course “Rhinestone Cowboy.” Campbell performed all those this evening, sounding exactly as great as he sounded back in my bedroom in the sixties.

Dig deeper into the Campbell songbook, as the star did during this show, and you’ll find more obscure material that compares favorably with the career hits.  Campbell fans have a heart for songs like Jimmy Webb’s “Where’s the Playground, Susie” and Cambell’s own “Try a Little Kindness.” (He let us know how proud he was of that one.)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0XBnj80nRpo&version=3&hl=en_US&rel=0]

Although Campbell and his family have announced he’s retiring after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, this was not a star verging on retirement who’s seen better days but still puts on live shows merely because he still sells tickets.  Campbell had a few senior moments this evening but, hey, he’s human.  Even I admit that.

Another major part of this tour appears to be about passing the torch to the next generation.  Glen’s three children by his fourth wife, Kim, are members of his touring band.  According to the tour program, they also have their own group, Instant People.

The sons are Cal on drums and Shannon on guitar, but daughter Ashley appears to have inherited the greatest share of the Campbell talent, charm, and charisma.  Besides being a fine vocalist, she handles keyboards and banjo.  She’s the one who appears most likely to perhaps have a successful solo career in her own right.

There was no opening act.  About half-way through the show, which lasted about an hour plus encores, Glen took a break while Shannon and Ashley did a duet of one of their father’s songs, “Hey, Little One.”  It’s yet another great song that must be dug out of the huge pile of great songs the man has given us.

After the show I joined a group of about two dozen fans around the stage door–there are more of us.  The head of security announced to us, “He’s not signing anything.  He’s tired.  You can maybe wave to him.”

A white van with tinted glass windows was waiting, backed up against the stage door.  Campbell emerged but was barely visible amid the people around him.  In the flash of an old-fashioned camera, they were inside the van and the doors shut.

“This is the tightest I’ve ever seen it,” I heard somebody remark, somebody I assume was a veteran of hanging around backstage at Campbell concerts.

We waved.  We shouted “Goodbye, Glen!” at the tinted windows as the van drove away.  The concert was Campbell’s good-bye to fans like me, and I was happy to return the favor.

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