Jimmy Webb to spin musical tales of Glen Campbell at Schwartz Center

Songwriter, singer and composer Jimmy Webb, left, will debut a show devoted to the musical partnership between himself and Glen Campbell, right, on June 5 at Dover’s Schwartz Center for the Arts. “Jimmy Webb: The Glen Campbell Years” will feature rare photos, recordings, videos and live performances of the songs that put the two on top of the musical map. (Submitted photo/Sandra Gollard)

Songwriter, singer and composer Jimmy Webb, left, will debut a show devoted to the musical partnership between himself and Glen Campbell, right, on June 5 at Dover’s Schwartz Center for the Arts. “Jimmy Webb: The Glen Campbell Years” will feature rare photos, recordings, videos and live performances of the songs that put the two on top of the musical map. (Submitted photo by Sandra Gillard)

Grammy-winning songwriter, composer and singer Jimmy Webb is known for penning such tunes as “Up, Up and Away,” “MacArthur Park,” “The Worst That Can Happen” and the Art Garfunkel hit “All I Know.”

But it’s perhaps for his collaboration with singer and guitarist Glen Campbell that he is best known. With legendary songs such as “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Wichita Lineman” and “Galveston,” Mr. Webb and Mr. Campbell rocketed to the top of the country and pop charts.

On June 5, Mr. Webb will celebrate a musical partnership that resulted in more than 100 recordings and a lasting friendship by premiering his show “Jimmy Webb: The Glen Campbell Years” at Dover’s Schwartz Center for the Arts.

The production, which includes rare recordings, photos, videos, stories and virtual duets between the two men, had a three-day technical tryout in a small venue in Oklahoma City earlier this month but the Dover audience will be the first to see the fine-tuned product.

“We had three tech run-throughs in an out-of-the-way place where it wasn’t really under scrutiny. No critics were allowed to see it. Hopefully, we’ve got the nuts and bolts screwed together and the technical aspects up and running and we’re on fairly solid ground with it,” said the 68-year-old Mr. Webb in a Tuesday afternoon telephone interview from his home on Long Island, New York.

Best Bets logo CLEAR copy“The response we got was very complimentary. The folks who checked it out were pretty enthusiastic about the whole thing.”

Mr. Webb said the genesis of the show came from Mr. Campbell’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. He announced in June 2011 that he received the news from doctors six months prior.

His last public show was in November 2012 and in January 2013, Mr. Campbell recorded his final song, titled “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” which was featured in the documentary “Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me.” The song went on to be nominated for an Academy Award.

In April 2014, reports surfaced that Mr. Campbell, who is now 79, had become a patient at an Alzheimer’s long-term care facility.

“(The show) really came about when Glen went to basically 24-hour care and moved out of the family residence and moved into a hospital environment,” Mr. Webb said.

“Up until that point, Glen was still singing and was remarkably active for an Alzheimer’s patient. It took a long time until it would bring him to a stop as a performer. When I realized that all of the ballyhoo was over in terms of a goodbye tour and there wouldn’t be any more Glen Campbell concerts, it was really sobering. To be quite honest, it was actually devastating.

“I spent the better part of 50 years hanging with Glen — performing, recording and just sitting and playing tunes. He was in every possible way my musical equal, if not superior. There’s no getting around the fact that it was the end of something — a creative part of my life that was pretty precious to me.”

With that in mind, Mr. Webb said he went “proactive.”

“I asked myself what could I do to actually pay tribute and to fill in the voids and cracks,” he said.
Mr. Webb said he thinks not enough is known about Mr. Campbell’s musical legacy and hopes the show will serve to educate fans.

“I don’t think the public is as informed as they could be in terms of the seminal influence that Campbell had on early rock ‘n’ roll and the amazing number of recordings that he played on that went into the DNA of forming rock ‘n’ roll

Glen Campbell, left, and Jimmy Webb have known each other for the better part of 50 years. (Submitted photo by Sandra Gollard)

Glen Campbell, left, and Jimmy Webb have known each other for the better part of 50 years. (Submitted photo by Sandra Gillard)

and pop music in the ’60s,” said Mr. Webb, who is the only artist ever to have received Grammy Awards for music, lyrics and orchestration.

Another purpose of the show, Mr. Webb said, is to separate fact from fiction.

“Of course, people think they know that he played guitar on ‘Tequila’ but he didn’t. He was a member of The Champs, who recorded that song, but he didn’t play guitar on it,” Mr. Webb said.

“So part of my purpose is to sort out the mythology and the facts, doing a proper discography and discovering the mind-boggling cuts that he played on. He wasn’t a braggart. He was very quiet about his accomplishments.”

Mr. Webb said one of the highlights of the show is a recording of a rarely heard guitar solo by Mr. Campbell that he says is one of the greatest guitar solos of all time.

Other standout moments are duets between himself and video recordings of Mr. Campbell.

“We perform ‘By the Time I Get to Phoenix’ and ‘Wichita Lineman’ together. He is visually there on the stage and the fact that I’m right up there with him is very healing for me,” Mr. Webb said. “It feels so good even though it’s all smoke and mirrors.”

Mr. Webb said the technical aspect of the show has been difficult to master and he gives much of the credit to producer Charles Yurick for smoothing out the wrinkles.

“We’ve put a lot of work into this thing on the technical side. There have been thousands of hours burned into the middle of the night. Charles has been completely selfless on this thing. The show is booked way out into 2016 and we’re looking forward to getting it rolling.”

The show is the culmination of a lifelong dream for Mr. Webb when, at the age of 14, he would pray to God that one day Mr. Campbell would record one of his songs.

“I was in the middle of a wheat field in Oklahoma listening on a transistor radio when I first heard his voice. He had such a plaintive quality and an amazing range. He didn’t at all sound like a country singer at the time,” Mr. Webb said.

Mr. Webb finally would see his dream realized in 1967 when Mr. Campbell recorded “By the Time I Get to Phoenix.”

“He had heard the (1965) Johnny Rivers version and within days, had his version on the radio,” Mr. Webb said. “I’ll never forget driving on the Santa Ana Freeway and hearing it on the radio and almost getting into an accident, I was so excited.”

Mr. Campbell’s version reached No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot Country Singles chart and won two Grammy awards. It was the third-most performed song from 1940 to 1990 and ranked No. 20 on BMI’s Top 100 Songs of the Century.

Frank Sinatra called it “the greatest torch song ever written.”

The two would go on to create a musical legacy paralleled by few.

Mr. Webb said the secret of their success was a combination of luck and timing.

“I had all of these songs that stylistically were perfectly suited for his voice,” Mr. Webb said. “It was just serendipity. I guess one can be tempted to say that it was destiny. I was meant to write songs for him and he was meant to sing them.”

Mr. Webb sees his new show as no less than a tribute to a musical pioneer.

“It doesn’t play into the commercial aspect of things. It isn’t about his divorces or family problems and it’s by no means meant to be exploitive,” he said.

“If it comes off that way, it’s entirely by accident and in the eye of the beholder. It’s quite simply a memorial and an honor to this great talent when he was at his best.”

Tickets for the show are $30, $25 for seniors and $20 for children and can be obtained by visiting www.schwartzcenter.com or calling (302) 678-5152. The Schwartz Center is at 226 S. State St.

A racy weekend

This weekend brings NASCAR action to Dover International Speedway. It also brings action around the track as well.

Special activities are highlighted by a free concert on the Victory Plaza stage by country music artist Jerrod Niemann at 10:30 a.m. Sunday.

Country music star Jerrod Niemann will perform a free concert at Dover International Speedway’s Victory Plaza stage at 10:30 a.m. Sunday prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Fedex 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks.

Country music star Jerrod Niemann will perform a free concert at Dover International Speedway’s Victory Plaza stage at 10:30 a.m. Sunday prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Fedex 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks.

Mr. Niemann is best known for his 2013 platinum-certified No. 1 hit “Drink to That All Night” off his most recent album, “High Noon.” He has toured with the likes of Brad Paisley, Miranda Lambert and Keith Urban and also has received nominations from the CMA, CMT and the American Country Awards.

Saturday at 9:30 a.m. sees a free show from Megan Rüger, a 27-year-old pop/rock artist who is originally from Twin Lakes, Wisconsin.

She appeared as a contestant on the popular TV show “The Voice” and is currently recording songs written by Debbie Gibson and Fred Coury of Cinderella.

The FanZone is the site for driver autographs, Q&A sessions and activities all weekend long.

Saturday night at 9, there will be a fireworks show in the RV lots that should be able to be seen throughout the speedway property.

Fans can sign up to participate at the Smithfield display on Friday and Saturday, and eight contestants will be randomly drawn and notified on Saturday evening to compete in Sunday morning’s ribs and bacon eating contest.
Richard Petty and driver Aric Almirola will serve as judges for the contest at the Smithfield display in the Dover FanZone.

The winner of the contest will receive a stock car ride-along courtesy of Richard Petty Driving Experience, and the ultimate winner of the challenge that will take place in Homestead, Florida will receive a Richard Petty-autographed Richard Petty Motorsports firesuit and a trip to see the Daytona 500 in February 2016.

For race tickets and more information, visit www.doverspeedway.com or call 800-441-RACE.

Now showing

Opening today in theaters is the 3D action-adventure “San Andreas” starring Dwayne Johnson and the romantic comedy “Aloha” with Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone.

On DVD and download Tuesday is the animated “The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water,” Will Smith in “Focus” and the sci-fi film “Jupiter Ascending.”

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

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