Tuesday, March 30, 2010

From a Fender VI

Though technically not a country artist, Glen Campbell was quickly adopted by country music fans and had unparalleled crossover success: "Wichita Lineman" was a hit on the pop, country, and adult contemporary charts simultaneously in 1968. Glen was just as comfortable on stage with The Smothers Brothers as he was on "Hee Haw", and although he must have seemed impossibly square back in the day, he was something of a Silent Majority sex symbol, in addition to being one of the best session guitarists ever (and an occasional fill-in for Brian Wilson in The Beach Boys). His 8-tracks were a constant presence in my household, but this isn't kids' stuff: you really have to be a grown-up to appreciate "Wichita Lineman".

I think Dylan Jones is on to something when he describes it as "the first existential country song" (although Hank Williams might disagree). If you love this song, like me, you feel the longing and the emotional depth, but you probably can't quite describe it. Maybe it's the Gulbransen synthesizer.

Nerd alert: the studio recording featured a Danelectro 6-string bass (baritone guitar) hastily borrowed from Carol Kaye, not the Fender VI shown in this clip. You knew that, of course.

From "The Smothers Brothers", 1968, live vocals and Fender VI solo!

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