I’d like to share my arrangement of the Jimmy Webb song “Witchita Lineman” with you, which was a massive hit for Glen Campbell.
Jimmy Webb and Glen Campbell formed one of the most successful musical collaborations in recorded music history, Jimmy Webb wrote the songs and Glen Campbell performed them.
Campbell was a record label’s dream come true.
A great voice, huge stage presence, charisma, good looks but also a great guitarist and musician.
He just needed great songs to give his talent a vehicle to achieve his full potential and Webb provided the great songs.
Glen Campbell’s story is truly a “rags to riches” story.
Born in Arkansas he was one of 12 children and they were extremely poor, so poor that they didn’t even have electricity.
Music was the centre of the family’s life in every way.
Young Glen was taught guitar at the age of 4 and by the time he was 6 he was performing live on the radio.
The family was very active in the “Church Of Christ”, in fact, one of his brothers became a minister, they were also very involved in the church’s music making.
At the age of 14 Glen left school and followed one of his brothers to Texas for work but while there he learnt that his uncle had a band in Albuquerque New Mexico.
He moved to Albuquerque to join his uncle’s band.
He thrived as a professional musician quickly becoming a very big fish in the small Albuquerque “pond”.
Once he’d achieved all he could achieve in Albuquerque Campbell was on the move again, this time to Los Angeles.
He wasn’t in L.A. long before he established himself as a studio musician becoming part of the “Wrecking Crew”.
The Wrecking Crew
The Wrecking Crew were a prestigious collective of elite session musicians that played on 1000’s of hits and behind many of the superstars of the day.
There’s a great documentary called the “Wrecking Crew” the link on YouTube for it is here which I recommend, it’s mind boggling when you see the list of major league stars that they recorded with and Glen Campbell was right there with them.
Campbell played behind superstars like Elvis, Sinatra and The Beach Boys, the Beach Boys asked him to join the band!
Brian Wilson wanted to stay in L.A. writing and recording new material while the band went on tour, a really productive approach, so Glen Campbell was asked to take Brian Wilson’s role in the live shows, playing bass and singing Brian’s parts.
With all this success playing with others Glen wanted to put his extensive talents to work and achieve at the next level.
He wanted to become a solo act just like the stars he’d been playing behind.
The singer Johnny Rivers introduced the song “By The Time I Get To Pheonix” to Campbell so he recorded it and promptly notched up a number 1 hit with it.
The next year he released another Jimmy Webb composition “Witchita Lineman” and from there both Campbell and Webb were established stars in their own rights.
I really liked the song “Witchita Lineman” so I wanted to play it but I also wanted to do something different with my arrangement.
I decided to take 2 chords that are used in the song and create a vehicle to improvise.
I came up with the idea of improvising over a 2 chord progression from Chopin’s “Berceuse”.
It’s a real masterpiece you must hear it…
After Chopin presents the 2 chords, D Flat Major to A Flat Dominant 7, he sets the main theme then with sweeping runs.
It’s an astonishing display of how to use scales and arpeggios, Chopin fully explores the melody and chord progression to the max and that’s what I wanted to do with my arrangement and improvisation of Witchita Lineman.
Of course I’ll always have Blues Rock slant on things so my improvised runs are quite “Rocky”.
I start with improvising over the 2 chords, play the arrangement then go back to improvising to finish out, a lot of fun!
I hope you enjoy.