Tail of the Weak is a series of insights and musical memories from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin, singer/songwriter and founder of the Annual Gram Parsons Guitar Pull and Tribute Festival, from Waycross, Georgia.
The Summer of Love, 1967, was in full swing. Filled with the swingin' sounds of avant garde rock groups, bohemian poets, and psychedelic guitar slingers, we steadfastly followed our old heroes and boldly discovered new artists to idolize. The music was all over local and regional radio—WACL, WAYX, and WAPE—and we drank from the well, regularly spending our allowance and paychecks to buy our heroes' albums and 45s.
My older brother, Gary, was always pivotal in guiding my teenage music-listening habits. Way back in '63, we pooled our money together and bought Big Girls Don't Cry and Twelve Others by The Four Seasons. We both shared a love for The Beatles, from the first time that we laid eyes on them, through the black and white TV screen, in our neighbors', the Shores, mobile home living room in Albany, Georgia.
We bought their hit singles religiously, including, by 1967, the spacey John Lennon-written “Strawberry Fields Forever”. From the flutey, descending Mellotron chords that opened the masterpiece to the reverse-recorded noises at the end—scattered drums, haunted Mellotron, and Lennon murmuring “Cran-berr-y sauce”, whom many Beatlemaniacs mistook for “I buried Paul”—Gary and I loved everything they did.
One evening, as we listened to “Strawberry Fields Forever”, for likely the 308th time, on our Telefunken home stereo system, of which our father was very proud, Daddy stormed into the living room shouting, “Boys, are y'all playin' that on the wrong speed?!?!” We assured him it was the way John Lennon had intended it; so, he just walked away shaking his head.
To his credit, Daddy was on the money, his ears very keen to have picked up on the pitch-shifting arrangement of the song. Years later, after reading in Mark Lewisohn's book, The Beatles Recording Sessions, I discovered that The Beatles had recorded two versions of the song—the original in the key of A major and another orchestrated version a step higher in B major. Lennon liked them both and simply tasked producer George Martin with splicing them together—by accelerating the speed of version one and decreasing the speed of the second, giving the lead vocal a slightly other-worldly "swimming" quality.
The Beatles captured the essence of the Summer of Love, releasing Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the greatest rock album of all time, in my humble opinion. Following in their wake were psycho-pop songs by The Rolling Stones, The Doors, The Turtles, Jefferson Airplane, Procol Harum, The Who, Buffalo Springfield, The Hollies, The Grass Roots, The Blues Magoos, Strawberry Alarm Clock, The Spencer Davis Group, and The Electric Prunes— and Glen Campbell.
Right smack dab in the middle of the hippie, acid rock summer of free love, Glen Travis Campbell, from Billstown, Arkansas, hit the charts with “Gentle on My Mind”, written by the master of fiddle and banjo, John Hartford. With well over 5 million plays on radio, the song was a standout hit on his Summer of Love album, Gentle on My Mind—the very same album Gary Griffin bought and brought home for me to fall in love with.
Growing up in a poor, hard-working, musical Arkansas family, the seventh son of twelve children, Glen picked up the guitar at the age of four and was performing on local radio by age six. At 17, he moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico and joined his uncle's band, Dick Bills and the Sandia Mountain Boys.
Six years later, he moved to Los Angeles, finding his musical skills in high demand as a session guitarist in the famed group of studio musicians, the Wrecking Crew. He played on recordings by Nat King Cole, The Monkees, Frank Sinatra, The Byrds, Merle Haggard, and Elvis. Following a short stint with The Champs , of “Tequila” fame, he took Brian Wilson's place in The Beach Boys for 3 months, touring, playing bass guitar, and singing high harmonies.
During his phenomenal solo career, he was, without a doubt, the most-soulful interpreter of songwriter Jimmy Webb's beautiful creations—“By the Time I Get to Phoenix”, “Wichita Lineman”, and “Galveston”—earning him awards and honors along the way.
His popularity propelled him into a prime time CBS television show, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, which played on our lone channel TV set from January 1969 through June 1972, and featured comedy writers, Steve Martin and Rob Reiner. Lucky for me, that lone TV channel was WJXT, Channel 4, a CBS affiliate out of Jacksonville. In '69, he played the role of La Boeuf, a Texas Ranger, starring alongside John Wayne, Robert Duvall, and Kim Darby, in the movie, True Grit.
After reading a week ago that Glen Campbell had passed away, I rummaged through my album collection and found the album that my brother with the impeccable taste in music had the good sense to buy back in 1967. Today, I thank my brother Gary for giving me one more hero to love in the Summer of Love.
Rest in Peace, Glen Campbell.
20th Annual Gram Parsons Guitar Pull and Tribute Festival
Advance Weekend Passes:
YouTube Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin
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