G is for Galveston

‘Galveston’ was written by Jimmy Webb, who was on a beach in Galveston, Texas when he wrote this for Glen Campbell.   Webb made up the story about a soldier in the Spanish-American war and the girl he left behind in Galveston and while this soldier is waiting to go into battle he is thinking about the woman and his hometown.  Jimmy Webb also wrote Campbell’s hits ‘By the Time I Get to Phoenix’ and ‘Wichita Lineman’.  Webb also wrote ‘MacArthur Park’, which was a #2 hit for the Irish singer Richard Harris in 1968 and it went to #1 for Donna Summer with her disco version ten years later, and ‘Up-Up and Away’, which was recorded by The 5th Dimension in 1967 and reached #7 on the Billboard 100.

In 1961, 14-year-old aspiring writer Jimmy Webb was inspired by music and girls.  His father, in an effort to curb those distractions, got his son a job plowing wheat fields for a local farmer in Laverne, Oklahoma.  One day, while working and listening to the pop music on his green plastic transistor radio that hung from the tractor’s umbrella, he heard a song called ‘Turn Around, Look at Me’, which was being sung by a young artist named Glen Campbell.  The song had an immediate effect on him, as he felt like he had just heard the most beautiful record ever in his young life.  Unfortunately, in his ecstasy, he had also lost control of the tractor and plow, destroying it and the flower beds planted by the farmer’s wife.  That night, Jimmy Webb kneeled by his bedside and prayed that he would one day be able to write a song half as good as the one he had heard earlier.  He added an extra prayer asking to one day have Glen Campbell record one of his songs.  That day came in 1967, when Campbell released ‘By the Time I Get to Phoenix’.  Webb and Campbell first met during the production of a General Motors commercial.  Webb arrived at the recording session with his Beatle-length hair and approached the conservative singer, who looked up from his guitar and said, “Get a haircut.”

Campbell was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005 and in 2007 he was inducted into the Musicians’ Hall of Fame as a member of Rock’s most notorious studio band, The Wrecking Crew.  Glen Campbell played with Hal Blaine (drums), Joe Osborne (bass), Larry Knechtel (keyboards), and Leon Russell (piano), and the Wrecking Crew played on six consecutive Record of the Year Grammy winners including ‘A Taste of Honey’ by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass (1966), ‘Strangers in the Night’ by Frank Sinatra (1967), ‘Up, Up and Away’ by the Fifth Dimension (1968), ‘Mrs. Robinson’ by Simon and Garfunkel (1969), ‘Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In’ by the Fifth Dimension (1970), and ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ by Simon and Garfunkel (1971).

Glen performed on recording sessions, as many as 500 a year from 1962-1968 and many of there were produced by Phil Spector and in 1968, he outsold The Beatles.  Artists that he played with included Elvis ‘Viva Las Vegas’, Rick Nelson ‘Travellin’ Man’, Frank Sinatra ‘Strangers in the Night’, Jan & Dean ‘Dead Man’s Curve’, The Association ‘Along Comes Mary’, The Byrds ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’, Dean Martin ‘Gentle on My Mind’, Merle Haggard ‘Mama Tried’, Ike and Tina Turner ‘River Deep, Mountain High’, Nancy Sinatra ‘Until It’s Time for You to Go’, Ray Charles ‘Bye Bye Love’, The Monkees ‘I’m a Believer’, The Ronettes ‘Be My Baby’, Shelley Fabares ‘Johnny Angel’, Mammas and the Papas ‘Monday Monday’, the Righteous Brothers ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling’, Roger Miller ‘Dang Me’, Gary Lewis and the Playboys ‘This Diamond Ring’, Bobby Darin ‘Dream Lover’, Frankie Laine ‘They Call The Wind Maria’, Sonny & Cher ‘I Got You, Babe’, and hundreds more.  Everyone wanted him to play on their records as he was one of the most in-demand guitarists of the LA music scene.  He played as a session guitarist on most of the Beach Boys’ biggest hits, and when Brian Wilson fell ill in 1965, they invited Glen to take his place in the group, which he did for about a year.  They offered him a permanent position in the band, but Glen had other career aspirations.

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

15 thoughts on “G is for Galveston

  1. Great artist… and guitar player. I heard of him a lot growing up though not always about music…him and Tanya Tucker had a wild relationship that was in the papers a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This song brings back strong memories for me, I was 8 when it was aired (in Utah anyway, they didn’t keep up with the cutting edge of brand new entertainment here in them days, so they might have aired “Galveston” after its debut). Thanks for the remind/rewind Jim!!

    Liked by 1 person

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