Sunday, August 17, 2008

Once a Fan Always a Fan

On the way home Thursday, I did not feel like starting a new audiobook, so I decided to listen to Fresh Air on the public radio station. I was surprised and pleased to find that half the show was devoted to an interview with Glen Campbell, who has just released a new album.

I can remember well when I discovered Glen Campbell. I guess I had heard Gentle On My Mind, but I wasn't yet a real fan. One afternoon we were all sitting on the gym floor waiting for the P.E. class to start when a friend, Melanie, started rhapsodizing about the newcomer to country/pop music charts. She had his album and was so enthused that I decided to check him out for myself. From that point for a period of several years, I was probably in old Glen's top 10 fans. I loved his singing and I loved his guitar playing and I loved his down home good old boy persona. At that time, he wasn't so bad to look at either.

My parents tolerated his presence in my record collection, even though he wasn't country enough to suit them. They watched the Glen Campbell Good Time Hour with me every week. Daddy would always bring home a little something for us when he had been away for a week on a revival visit and one time he brought me a 5x7 print of a drawing of Glen that hung on my bedroom wall for quite some time. I ran across that drawing the other day during one of my closet purges and I still could not let it go, so it's still with me. (True confession time - during my teen period of poster art, my walls were covered with Glen Campbell and Clint Eastwood and a still from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.)

I have a clear memory of one week when Daddy and I were traveling back and forth from Smiley to a revival in Kingsbury. He was commuting nightly for that revival and was hauling me along as his personal pianist. Daddy would skate around the radio dial on the late night trips back home, sometimes listening to country music, sometimes the news, sometimes a Pentecostal preacher (man, I hated those). Even though he was thoroughly sick and tired of Glen's latest, Dreams of the Everyday Housewife, if he should happen to hit a station where it was playing, he would stop and let me listen. I guess he figured it was the least he could do in return for my willingly tagging along all week.

There was one time during my infatuation with Glen that Daddy let me down. We were on holiday in Arkansas and came very close to Delight, where Glen's family lived. Daddy was having one of his grumpy road days and, though he grudgingly asked if I really needed him to go to Delight, I could tell he was not in the mood. I was having a grumpy day myself and was annoyed he didn't realize how much I had been looking forward to that detour and decided to cut off my nose to spite my face. I told him to forget it and then resented the loss of that treat for days. A couple of years ago, when I myself was driving through that area of Arkansas, I came to the approximate same place where a short detour would have taken me to Delight. I balanced that old regret against my desire to get somewhere else and decided that, no, I really did not need to go to Delight. Delight will just have to get along without me.

I stayed a Glen fan even through his dismal attempts at acting in True Grit and Norwood. I may well be the only person alive who remembers Norwood. It wasn't such a bad little movie and I would buy a copy if it came out on DVD, but I'm not holding my breath. I remember choosing to see True Grit over shopping on a Saturday at North Star Mall in San Antonio. David and I went to the cinema while our parents went off on their own for a couple of hours. Norwood I saw at the little theater in Nixon on a Sunday afternoon.

Glen lost favor with me when he started reading his own press, stopped choosing quality over sellability in his song selection, discovered recreational drugs and took up with the wife of Mac Davis. I can forgive a lot, but I adored Mac Davis and it seemed a real betrayal of friendship and of fanship. I began to drift away. The day Glen hooked up with Tanya Tucker, that was it. Our relationship was over.

It's a shame he strayed off his original path. Glen's talent was and still is impressive. As I listened to the interview, they played snatches from his new album and his voice is still pure and clear and his guitar playing just as fine as ever. But I was struck at how old he seemed. He's 72 now and his age is showing. In his defense, the interviewer was somewhat inept in his questioning, but, even so, Glen seemed to miss the point of some of the questions and wander off on his own musings that didn't always pertain to what had been asked. But at the end, when he picked up his guitar, you couldn't spot any degradation of his pickin' ability. He's still one of the best pickers I've ever heard.

And I'm still a fan.


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