A Good Variety of Variety


The man playing the banjo stood up first. He began to play the opening riff to “Gentle On My Mind.”

Glen then stood up with his guitar.

“It’s knowin’ that your door is always open and your path is free to walk…” “Good evening, everyone. I’m Glen Campbell!”

“The people we have with us tonight are Miss Bobbie Gentry, Liberace, and our own Pat Paulson. And our special guest stars, the very hip, The Smothers Brothers are here tonight.”

“From CBS Television City in Hollywood, it’s the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour,” said the announcer.

I had forgotten about this TV show, but thanks to YouTube, I found a number of episodes of this brief, TV gem, that represented the career pinnacle of of one of America’s most talented performers, and a native son of Arkansas.

Glen Campbell was also the soundtrack of my youth, and variety shows like his were my exposure to everything that American entertainment had to offer.

Unfortunately, entertainers now can’t separate their politics from their talent. That, I believe, limits their audience, and their profits, all because they put their politics first.

But, it wasn’t always this way. Sonny and Cher, Dean Martin, Andy Williams, Perry Como, and many other entertainers managed to host lots of artists on their TV programs, even though their politics were very far apart.

They put the audience first. Imagine that now.

Between 1969 and 1972, Glen hosted a variety show on CBS. There were 91 episodes that aired, and the who’s who of the day appeared on the program.

Coming off the success of making his first movie, True Grit, one of Glen’s first guests was his movie costar, John Wayne. In the online replay I watched, John Wayne came onstage and congratulated Glen on his new program.

The Duke was at the end of his career and certainly didn’t need any publicity, but made time to be on Glen’s new show. This was back in the day when celebrities left their politics at home and did their best to make sure that everyone succeeded in their careers.

That’s gone out the window, hasn’t it?

It’s difficult to comprehend now, but 50 years ago, Glen Campbell was about the biggest thing going in the entertainment business. His earliest success came when he teamed up with Oklahoma native Jimmy Webb, who wrote some of Glen’s biggest hits.

In addition to Gentle On My Mind, which was written by John Hartford, the Webb-penned hits, Galveston, Wichita Lineman, and By The Time I Get To Phoenix, launched Glen into the musical stratosphere. As was typical in the day, Glen’s musical prowess caused the execs at the movie and TV studios to take notice.

I tried to think of a modern comparison for someone who had conquered all facets of media during some point in their career, and the only one I could think of was Tim Allen. That’s been several years ago, but Tim had the number one movie, with The Santa Clause, the number one TV show with, Home Improvement, and the number one book with, I’m Not Really Here.

Very few other celebrities have enjoyed that level of success, but Glen did. His name was on record albums in music stores, movie marquees, and once a week, on CBS Television.

I’ve always loved Glen’s music. I was a disc jockey for over 20 years and I played it a lot on the radio. That says a lot, because when you play the same music on the radio over and over and still like it, it must be pretty good.

My wife is from Jimmy Webb’s home state, Oklahoma, so she also liked the songwriter and singer combo of Webb and Campbell.

We had vinyl records of their music and never tired of hearing it.

What made all of Glen’s life story come to the forefront was a documentary we watched about him developing Alzheimer’s and his last concert tour to say goodbye to his fans.

I have to say, on a couple of levels, it was difficult for me to watch. One, seeing Glen slip away was like watching that part of my life slip away. Through his music and performances, he had represented one of the pivotal pieces of my youth. Seeing him wane was akin to acknowledging that that part of my life was also ebbing.

I credit his wife and children for making what had to be an amazingly difficult decision to put him on the road, when they didn’t know how or when he might falter with his music.

They put the fans first and took the chance.

I think that the courageous step they took with Glen is the same approach that he took half a century ago. It was the fans who mattered. We loved Glen and wanted to hear him perform one more time before he retired from performing, and that’s what they chose to do.

Today, everyone and everything has become political. That makes me so angry.

Even the news, which is the one thing that is never supposed to be political, has become political.

When Glen hosted a weekly variety show, it was truly a variety of entertainment.

We knew then that Liberace and Glen, likely, didn’t share the same politics. Neither did The Smothers Brothers and John Wayne.

But, we didn’t have to care, because no one was trying to ram their politics down our throats.

I encourage you to go online to YouTube and watch some of the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour programs, the Sonny and Cher Show, Andy Williams, and Red Skelton.

Even though 50 years have passed, it’s easy to see that entertainers could still entertain, while leaving their politics at home. 

And I wish that they would today. It would leave them ever gentle on my mind.

©2018 John Moore

John’s book, https://www.amazon.com/Write-Passage-Southerners-View-Then/dp/1548144983?SubscriptionId=AKIAILSHYYTFIVPWUY6Q&tag=duckduckgo-ipad-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=2025&creative=165953&creativeASIN=154814493 is available online.

Email John at John@TheCountryWriter.com

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