Glen Campbell – Still on the line

With the news of Glen Campbell’s death, I couldn’t help but remember seeing him at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville during his Farewell Tour. He was truly an inspiration to me. I hope you will enjoy this account of the evening. Thanks, Les.

The extended guitar solos in Galveston and Wichita Lineman were worth more than the price of admission for me.  Glen Campbell’s Goodbye Tour came to the Ryman Auditorium November 30, 2011 and the performance was an unadorned look at a man whose music has brought much joy to many people for over  four decades.

There was a lot of love for Campbell flowing from the audience who packed the hard old Ryman pews and from those around him on stage.  The band  included his son Cal playing drums, daughter Ashley playing keyboard, banjo and guitar, and son Shannon playing guitar.  With each song, everyone in the room was pulling for the star whose memory is leaving him.

After a teleprompter glitch caused a false start at the show’s beginning, Campbell launched into Gentle on My Mind, the song that brought him into the consciousness of most of the world in the 1960s.  And then he did them all. The aforementioned Galveston and Wichita Lineman, By the Time I Get to Phoenix, Where’s the Playground Susie, Dreams of the Everyday Housewife, Try a Little Kindness and on and on from his early career.

This is a man with soul, joy and dignity who knows what he’s about.  He laughed about his memory loss and said, “Did you ever go into a room and forget why you went in there?  That happens to me a lot.”  As he moved around the stage with the agility of a much younger performer, Campbell’s eyes looked for and at the teleprompter screens with a determination to offer the showmanship for which he is famous.  While they didn’t catch all the lines at the right time, those eyes still had the twinkle of a singer delighted to be on stage.  He referred to Nashville throughout the evening, sending the message that he was truly happy to be on the Ryman stage singing for us.

A Picker’s Picker

Song lyrics may have been elusive at times but the notes on his guitar came as naturally as the smile on his face.  The intro Campbell played on the electric 12-string as he began Southern Nights and his acoustic guitar part on Dueling Banjos with Ashley playing banjo showed that his fingers remembered every lick.  I was reminded why I wanted the Ovation acoustic guitar I got as a high-school graduation present – that was his trademark ax in the sixties and I still play my mid-1970s Legend model today.  To call Glen Campbell an inspiration for guitar players is a vast understatement.

Ghost on the Canvas

Campbell performed songs from his new CD, Ghost on the Canvas, and the lyrics seemed to be perfect for where he is in his life.  Especially poignant are the title song and A Better Place (view official videos at the links below).  I have never heard a singer perform more personally honest music.

Toward the end of the evening, his hit Country Boy was a standout.  Finally, being ever the entertainer that he’s always been, Campbell led the audience in singing Rhinestone Cowboy as one of many standing ovations again swept the auditorium.

Minnie Pearl once said that Grand Ole Opry master of ceremonies George D. Hay advised her to, “Go out there and love the audience – they’ll love you back.”  Well, Glen Campbell loved those of us in the audience that night and we loved him back.

For a great video including an interview with Glen Campbell about his current Ghost on the Canvas CD and archival footage, visit this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fbr_rCrEPVE&feature=player_embedded#!

Glen Campbell: A Better Place video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4mylwPMPhM

Visit Les Kerr’s web site at www.leskerr.com

Copyright 2011 Les Kerr

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About Les Kerr

Les Kerr is a songwriter, recording artist, journalist and author originally from the Gulf Coast now based in Nashville, Tennessee. Learn More about Les at www.leskerr.com
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