By the Time Jimmy Webb Got to Nashville

Jimmy Webb
Just Across the River
E1 Music
2010-06-29

“Oklahoma Nights” is a very appropriate song to open a Jimmy Webb album. The quintessential American songwriter of his generation, Jimmy Webb is a native of Elk City in the 46th state of the United States. In fact, it is “Oklahoma Nights” that opens Just Across the River, a new release that could most likely become the singer-songwriter’s career-defining album.

The man whose words and music have been interpreted by four generations of music icons has corralled ten legendary voices in pop and country to join him on revisiting some of his most cherished compositions. Unlike the celebrity-as-brand methodology of other “duets” projects, Just Across the River not only reflects the personal histories that Jimmy Webb actually shares with each artist but also the unique affection that each artist has for Webb’s oeuvre.

Producer Fred Mollin initially endeavored to keep the project a low-budget affair, ensconcing Webb at Sound Emporium in Nashville for a two-day recording session with the city’s finest musicians. Inviting Vince Gill, with whom Webb had written “Oklahoma Rising” for the state’s centennial, to sing on “Oklahoma Nights” created a ripple effect of other artists expressing interest in the project. Journeying solo on three songs, Webb partnered with many of his own peers and admirers on the remaining ten cuts. Billy Joel, Willie Nelson, Mark Knopfler, Lucinda Williams, and noted Jimmy Webb enthusiasts Glen Campbell and Linda Ronstadt were among the special guests who lent their voice to the album.

The album’s homespun quality brings each song back to its essential emotional elements, making Just Across the River a musical craftwork of the highest caliber. Both Jimmy Webb and Fred Mollin exercised considerable care in curating Just Across the River. Of course, the multiple Grammy Award-winning songs Jimmy Webb has penned — “Up, Up and Away” (The 5th Dimension), “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” (Glen Campbell), “MacArthur Park” (Richard Harris), “Highwayman” (Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson) — constitute only a small portion of his deep catalog of songs, some of which had already been recast on his Ten Easy Pieces(1996) album that Fred Mollin also produced.

In addition to classics like “Wichita Lineman” and “All I Know”, Webb also revisits his most recent composition, “Where Words End”. He wrote the song especially for Johnny Rivers on his Shadows of the Moon (2009) album. “I told him the story about what I’d gone through when I lost my mother”, says Rivers, one of the earliest champions of Webb’s songwriting (see For the Love of Jimmy). “I went and sat on this mountain at a place in Big Sur in the middle of the night. I just sat there and waited for the sunrise. He took the story and wrote it in a really beautiful, poetic way. He actually came out to California and played on it. It’s one of those songs that didn’t need any kind of orchestration. I loved the simplicity.”

Jimmy Webb is as fascinating a conversationalist as he is a songwriter. His answers to questions are like colorful threads of life experiences that interlace into one tapestry. Talking about “Where Words End”, in particular, not only leads to a discussion about Johnny Rivers, but also his observations about the gift of silence, the media’s obsession with disaster, and his friendship with both Richard Harris and Harry Nilsson.

There’s such an intimacy in both his singing and his storytelling that Just Across the River could be subtitled Just Across the Table, for that’s how close you feel to Jimmy Webb after speaking with him or listening to him harmonize with Michael McDonald. On a recent spring afternoon, Jimmy Webb reached “across the table” (actually, the telephone) to remember how the boy from Elk City got to Nashville.

+++

It’s been such a joy to spend some time with Just Across the River. The album sounds very much like a family: you and the musicians and the vocalists.

I appreciate you using the word “family” because it really was not as contrived as it might seem on the surface. When you first see it you think, Not another one of these celebrity albums!, but it really didn’t start out that way. It turned into a communal experience.

It seems like every artist is purposeful. There’s an actual history with each singer and the song.

I appreciate you taking note of that. Sometimes there’s an extensive history. There’s a respect for the material. I’m glad that it makes you feel that the artists belong with the material because in a lot cases, these artists are singing songs that are their personal favorite. “Galvaston” is one of Lucinda’s favorite songs. That holds true for almost all the cuts.

What I thought was really interesting was Glen Campbell and you doing “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”…

We had never recorded together on any track. We’d made lots of records together and sometimes made whole albums together but we’d never sung together. We were in Nashville doing a concert with the Nashville Philharmonic at the Schermerhorn Concert Hall down there. At the risk of being immodest, it was really a wonderful concert. Everybody had a wonderful time, including us. My producer Freddy Mollin was driving me back to my hotel and he said, “You realize Glen Campbell is here. We could have him sing ‘By the Time I Get to Phoenix’ with you. It would be a historical moment.” I said, “Let’s do it.” So, everything kind of fell into place that way.

It’s such a joyful experience. It really put the fun back in making records for me. To be honest with you, for awhile that’s kind of been missing. I was beginning to feel “over-technologied.” If you can tune everything and if you don’t have a real drummer, and you’re doing everything in segments, it’s not in real time. It’s all sort of disconnected and spread out all over the place. The idea of cutting 13 tracks in two days sounded great. The big surprise for me was that it sounded so great. Fred had really done what he promised to do, which was to hand pick the best musicians in Nashville. It proved kind of difficult because most of them have road gigs with mega-country artists and they have day jobs. It was hard to get them all in the same room. Freddy managed to do that. They were two absolutely wonderful days.

It’s like musical nourishment, listening to the album. This is what, to me, the epitome of songwriting and the expression of a song can be with the right musicians. When everything works, the result is something like Just Across the River. It’s the perfect synthesis of the right elements.

Thank you so much.

I was really happy to see “Do What You Gotta Do” on there. I almost didn’t listen to it because whenever I hear that song — I knew Roberta Flack’s version of it first — it just brings me to tears. I’d love to know what that song means to you now versus when you first wrote it.

It’s interesting that you should ask because I do that song in my show quite a bit. It’s really a singer’s song. It’s just a great song to sing. Linda Ronstadt loves that song. She recorded it. Once a singer does that song, they’re going to be doing that song for the rest of their career because it’s got the right moves for a performer. It’s got the verses that really break down into some heartfelt, almost embarrassingly intimate conversations between this man and this woman. It was written when I was very young. That’s one of the oldest songs in my repertoire. Sometimes I start thinking, Did I write it before I got out of high school or did I write it just after? Was it one of those Jobete songs? My first job was at Motown and Jobete was their publishing arm. That was my first real job.

Your first recorded song was by The Supremes, right?

The first recorded song was a Supremes cut (“My Christmas Tree”) on their Christmas album. Just an aside, Motown was family to me. They pretty much took me in off the street. My mother had just died. I was pretty much a waif. I was a little kid walking around Hollywood with a whole bunch of songs and not much else. People would ask me what I did for a living and I would say, “I’m a songwriter.” It’s pretty funny because I never had anything recorded by any person! Then a couple of nice things happened. Dick Glasser over at Warner Bros. actually got me a cut with the Everly Brothers (“She Never Smiles Anymore”). I was on cloud nine. I thought I had made it. I still love it that I have an Everly Brothers cut. I think I may have written “Do What You Gotta Do” at Motown. I would have been about 17 years-old. All these years later to sit down at the piano and start playing the opening chords and to bite into that song and then have a tremendous reaction from the audience … the audience always gets deep into that song. I always do the Linda Ronstadt ending, which is, [singing] “Come on back and see me, come on back and see me …” — I don’t know whether or not I can do this — [continues singing], “Why don’t you come on back and see …” I got the wrong key, but that’s what I call the Linda Ronstadt ending. The audience just loves it. It’s really interesting to know that that’s really one of the oldest pieces of material that I have and yet it’s still one of the best.

It truly is. One thing that has always struck me about your songs is the geographical reference points, whether it’s Wichita, Oklahoma, Phoenix, or Galvaston. What draws you to that kind of specificity?

I don’t think that I’m particularly drawn to it. I wrote “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” first and I definitely wrote it when I was under contract to Jobete. The circumstances were really almost bizarre but the song was written for a kid who used to be on The Donna Reed Show named Paul Petersen. He had a song that was almost a novelty record called “She Can’t Find Her Keys”. He had a hit with it so it was some years later. The bloom was off the rose, so to speak. He was still interested in being a recording artist. At Motown, the door was always wide open to anybody. Berry Gordy did not see color. My first great lessons in life about relations between the races I learned at Motown. They were all very positive, reinforcing notions. There was no racism there. He wanted a song for Paul Petersen so I wrote “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”.

One of the great stories of my life is that Motown told me that they liked the song fine but it needed a big chorus because “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” is just three verses. They knew what hits were then and they knew how to put them together. It was sort of like going to post-graduate hit-making school for free. I wasn’t getting paid much, maybe $40 or $50 every once in awhile. Here is this song that they’re not now particularly interested in because I would not put a chorus in it. I was really very stubborn, even as a neophyte, about what I was going to do.

To make a long story short, I went to Johnny Rivers Music. Johnny Rivers had a big hit called “Poor Side of Town”. “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” ended up as an album cut on Changes (1966). Glen Campbell was literally driving along the street somewhere listening to the radio and heard this album cut and said, “I gotta cut this song”, and ended up cutting “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”. He had a big hit with it. Then, I started getting calls from Glen saying [imitates voice], “Can you write me a song about a town?” I’d say, “I don’t know. I’ll think about that.” I ended up writing “Wichita Lineman”, which I wrote in one afternoon and sent it over to them and really forgot all about it because it wasn’t finished. I was talking to Glen a few weeks later and I said, “I guess you guys didn’t go for ‘Wichita Lineman'”, and he said, “Oh, we cut that!” I said, “Well Glen that song wasn’t finished”, and he said, “It is now!” In other words, it was kind of a gravity that pulled me into the notion of writing “geographical songs”, as we say in the trade. It wasn’t so much what I wanted to do and if you look at the body of my work, you’d see that there’s only a small percentage of songs about places in my catalog but almost all of them are hits.

“They’re the record company, we’re the guys that go into the studio. They think differently from us.”

That’s the thing. The high-profile ones have this link.

I just went back to MacArthur Park for Levitt Pavilion. They’ve rejuvenated and reinvented MacArthur Park and really made it quite a lovely place to go to and the whole neighborhood around there has blossomed as a result of the Levitt Pavilion and the 50 free concerts a year that they do there. I walked through the park for the first time in 40 years. I saw the place on the grass where I used to go and have lunch with Susan and I looked up at the building where she used to work. It was very strange.

There are hit songs that have these place names and I suppose it was a vehicle for me. The tendency in the record business is once you had a hit with something, they’d put out the same record if they could! They want something that’s as similar as it can be because they want to touch that nerve again with something that made them money. I don’t mean to talk about “them” even though we’ve always talked about “them”. Ever since I was a kid and first came into the business, it’s always been “them” and “us”. They’re the record company, we’re the guys that go into the studio. They think differently from us. Sometimes record men have been absolutely some of the best guys in the world. I’m not antagonistic towards them but we had different agendas and sometimes, happily, those agendas coincided and resulted in successful records that make a record company happy and make us happy as well. Just Across the River is going to be one of those happy coincidences.

I’m going to turn to another place for a moment, Big Sur, in the song “Where Words End”. There’s a line that goes, “I gave some thanks to silence and all the good it’s done”. That line struck me because the way I interpreted it was that sometimes words can’t express the enormity of love.

Exactly. In a larger sense, I just think that we over-talk. What’s the Billy Joel song that I love so much? “Leave a Tender Moment Alone” — I just think that we talk too much. We talk ourselves into wars, we talk ourselves into divorces, we talk ourselves into so much trouble.

One of the things that I think about a lot is a book I read probably five or six years ago that I’ll never forget. It’s called A Thousand Years Ago. It starts out with the author saying that the first thing that one would notice a thousand years ago would be the silence. There was no farm machinery. There were no airplanes, television sets or radios, sirens. I don’t know how we would react to that as modern animals, if we were suddenly plunked down in the middle of medieval England … I think we might go stark-raving mad within two or three days because we are just so indoctrinated with this constant barrage of noise of all kinds. If, God forbid, things get quiet, we put earphones on. We don’t ever think about it much but without being particularly conscious of it I think we’re all addicted in a way to some form of aural input. Our ears have to be tracking something, if it’s not a conversation or a cell phone, it’s a record. God forbid you should ride along in a car where no one is saying anything. People have difficulty with this. If you’ve ever seen people standing on an elevator, the silence is palpable. You could cut it with a knife. The silence is louder than a conversation would be. I say this in my book, it’s juxtaposition and opposites that create so much of art, as in the line, “The silence was deafening”. In an elevator, the silence is deafening! I think we really have a psychological barrier against silence and silence is our friend. It’s a good thing to take a solo walk on the beach or sit on top of a rock and sit in relative silence for a period of time and let one’s mind and one’s alter ego speak and let our subconscious breathe a little bit and not constantly be stimulated by some horrific story about some disaster that’s going on somewhere.

There’s an interesting book from not long ago by Michael Crichton called The State of Fear (2004) about that exact thing, about the thing that, seemingly, the media thrives on: the crises of the moment. It’s almost a palpable disappointment in the media when they do not have a crisis because they know their numbers are down and they feel threatened by that. In a way, the media is crisis-friendly. You can almost hear the joy in their voices when they say, “An airplane has crashed in Stockholm!” It’s bizarre.

All of that is sort of contained in a sense in the line, “I gave some thanks to silence and all the good it’s done”. We would all be much better off if we indulged ourselves in periodic doses of silence, particularly on a diplomatic level and political level in this country. The incessant wining on both sides, the left and the right, leaves the poor, confused voter in the middle, trying to come up with some semblance of a life and trying to make the right decision about government and never has a moment’s peace to even think about what the issues are. In a way, the line was a bit of a quip. If you look through my lyrics, I think I’m guilty of that occasionally. I’m capable of making a little sidestep into a political matter or political context without really spelling it out. It’s just something that I do because I think that’s a political statement but it’s encapsulated in a song that’s really about the fact that true love actually transcends death. Love is more powerful than death. Love only really gets into high gear when someone dies. That’s when you, in many ways, have your most intimate contact with a person who’s passed over because you think about every tiny detail about that individual, everything they ever said, everything they ever wore. There was love there. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about Richard Harris. Some people would say, “Well you’re out of your mind. Normal people don’t think about Richard Harris everyday.” Well, but I loved Richard Harris. It’s very hard for me to go through a day without thinking about Richard Harris or without thinking about Harry Nilsson, who was another one of my close, close friends. I think about them more in their absence, I love them more in their absence than I did when they were here. When Harry lived on the East coast, we hardly ever saw each other and he lived here for about five or six years. We were close friends. Sometimes there’s something about proximity that breeds a kind of nonchalance; Oh well that person will be there if I need to talk to them.

“Where Words End” was written for Johnny Rivers specifically because he asked for the song. His mother, who was 93 years old, had just died. She had just gone back to Italy and visited the village where she was born and all the villagers came out and hugged her. She had come back home and I guess she had made her peace with the world and gently moved on to the next level. He went up to Big Sur and sat down on a rock and had this kind of epiphany about her and, in a way, said goodbye to her but felt closer to her than he had ever felt in his whole life. He’s describing this to me on the phone and I’m soaking it up because it’s so powerful. He actually gave me the song title, “Where Words End”, and said, “Could you write a song for me?” It’s on his album Shadows on the Moon, which is a new release from him. I actually went in and played the piano. That’s as close as I’ve gotten to a new song.

What keeps you writing still? What’s the motivation to write?

I think I can still do it better. I never take it for granted that I’ve mastered songwriting. I don’t think one ever does. Usually what I do is end up hearing a song that I’ve written before on the radio and thinking I wish I could write that line again. Unfortunately, you can’t do that. Once you’ve recorded a song, it has a tendency to stay that way! I can almost always think of ways to improve songs, even songs that were big hits. I’m always working on them. I never stop working on them, which sometimes people find out when they come to my live shows. Sometimes people are very irritated by that. They come to the dressing room and say, “Why did you change …?” People like to hear things the way they heard them the first time. You learn that you can’t really do that. You just sort of have to leave them alone, leave the mistakes in place.

What keeps me writing is the notion that I can still do a better one, that I could do a Broadway show, that I got the chops for that, that I would like to, for my own satisfaction, demonstrate that I can do that, that life goes on after 30 and 40 and 50 and that it’s okay. You can keep working and continue to contribute to the community and be creative. You can still exercise those talents that God gave you in your golden youth and maybe you can even do it a little bit better than you did then. It seems harder to get people’s attention as you get older but I think that most people do continue to mature and improve in their craft, even airplane pilots. There are guys in their 60s and 70s flying better than they’ve ever flown in their lives. I do it because I can and because I’m still pretty good at it and even now I think I can be better at it.

I have to say that one of the absolute treats of this album was to hear you and Billy Joel sing together on “Wichita Lineman”, because you both have such an individual history. To forge those histories together on this one song is such a rare treat to behold.

It was a weepy moment for me. Billy’s a good friend. “Wichita Lineman” was a song that he personally admires and he will tell you so. His back story is that, before the magic happened for him, he was following my career from a distance in California and thinking I’ve got to get out to California and be like that guy Jimmy Webb. Therefore you have Billy Joel’s trip to California to be a songwriter. It did not work out very well and developed in the song “Say Goodbye to Hollywood”. He came back here and of course, because basically he’s made out of talent, he’s one of the guys that I place most highly on the list of people I’d like to be when I grow up. I just admire him so much. I love to listen to all of his records, the obscure cuts that other people don’t seem to take much notice of are treasures to me. For me, when he came into the studio, and I happened to be there that night after I’d finished the first verse, I completely lost it. To hear him sing this song was an ending to a story, in a way, a powerful story and a huge story about a guy who dreamed of being a songwriter and in many ways completely eclipsed my modest success and made time in a very busy life to come into the studio. He sang “Wichita Lineman” with such love and affection. He just worked so hard for us: “Do you need this? Should I do it again?” He was just one of the guys.

It’s definitely communicated in the final result.

It was a special moment. You know these moments when they’re happening because they seem to be happening in 3-D. It’s almost like you’re outside your body watching yourself listening to Billy Joel singing “Wichita Lineman”. It’s out-of-body and you know that this isn’t going to happen again. This is the only time that this is going to happen. It’s just extraordinary and I was so happy that I could be there.

Another special moment is to hear you and Linda Ronstadt sing “All I Know”. The way that you described her performance as “translucent” and “papery” is so on the mark. That’s exactly what it is.

Linda had officially retired. When Freddy first brought up the notion that I would approach her about singing on the album I said, “You know that’s a no-starter. That’s just not going to happen. I can’t ask her to do it because I know what she’s going through emotionally. She’ll say ‘No’ and I’ll be embarrassed that I asked.” It’s always very touchy, the asking bit. It’s nice when someone volunteers or someone hears about the album and you get some indication from management or from the go-between who says, “So-and-so would be interested.”

In the case of Mark Knopfler, we’d been talking about doing something together for well over ten years so it was an old subject. It was not excruciatingly embarrassing or painful to contact Mark because I knew that he was always at least willing and possibly even [less] enthusiastic about doing a track on previous albums and it just hadn’t worked out from a timing point of view. Let’s face it, these people are busy. Every person on that record has a full-time job. I didn’t want to do it so we kicked it around for awhile. We got the track back. It was beautifully done by Bryan Sutton. He put the whole arrangement together. He overdubbed the various guitars. It was so freaking beautiful!

We’re sitting around talking and I finally said to Freddy, “I think I could send this track out to Linda without comment just to see what happens. I’d be more comfortable, frankly, if you did it because that means that she’s not under any pressure at all to say yes to me because we’re close. She’s like my sister.” He said, “Okay.” With a minimum of commentary, she received this track of “All I Know” in the mail. Within a couple of hours, she contacted Freddy and said, “I don’t know whether you can help me do this but if you think I can do this, I’d love to.” This was after she had held a press conference and said that she was retiring. He flew out to San Francisco and worked with her for a couple of days. When I heard it, I started crying. I wrote her an e-mail. I said, “Dear Linda, I’m listening to your duet with me and crying like a baby,” and she wrote me back and she said, “I too am crying for different reasons.” What came out of it was such a vulnerable performance from her that I think it’s unique. Of all the recording that she’s done that I’ve ever heard, it’s the most vulnerable Linda Ronstadt. It’s unmistakable who it is. It’s perfect and it’s beautiful but there’s a delicacy to it and a vulnerability to it that I don’t think I’ve ever heard from her.

Shifting towards the visual side of the album, where was the cover photographed?

It’s the bridge that goes from Arkansas into Tennessee. It was done by a wonderful lady named Jessie Dascher and she’s this brilliant young photographer. The whole package is one of the nicest jobs that’s ever been done on any of my records. There was something contagious about the whole manufacture of this record as it left our hands and it passed over into the record company’s hands. The record company put together one of the most beautiful looking CDs and it’s hard to make a beautiful looking CD because they’re small. The limitations are obvious but I can’t wait until you see the actual product. It’s really stunning!

Yes! It’s the perfect gateway to the music.

For the Love of Jimmy

Thousands of artists have either worked with Jimmy Webb or recorded his songs. PopMatters asked a few of them to share why they love Jimmy.

+++

Roberta Flack: Jimmy Webb is one of the all-time great artists in the world whose musicianship is only surpassed by his humility and whose performances always render an air of confidence and gratitude.

+++

Glen Campbell: He’s a genius. When I heard “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”, I got in my car and drove back to Arkansas because it made me so damn homesick and I hadn’t been back home in a year or a year-and-a-half. We essentially became brothers. When I heard “Wichita Lineman”, it blew me away. He wrote the song for me. He’s an incredible storyteller. What he’s got up there in that brain is second to none. The things that he writes down on paper for people to play [laughs]! Boy were they sweating on the session for “MacArthur Park”! To arrange and produce “MacArthur Park” … I don’t know anybody else who could have done it that way and with that much force. No one’s done it before and no one’s done it after. “Galveston” was one of Johnny Depp’s favorite songs and it’s one of my favorite songs that Jimmy did. You know where I got that? Don Ho. We were in Hawaii and he said, “Glen Campbell, here’s a Jimmy Webb song I did.” He’d done “Galveston”.

+++

Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr. (The 5th Dimension): He’s a genius and anybody who loves music and loves the best songwriting is going to appreciate Jimmy Webb. You really need to spend time with Jimmy’s work because so much thought and so much feeling went into the lyrics as well as the music and the flow of it. [Ed. Note: above quote taken from this post]

+++

Carly Simon: Jimmy Webb may not be the only unique composer but he is the first one that comes to mind when I want to describe the word unique.

+++

Giorgio Moroder: Jimmy Webb is a brilliant songwriter and “MacArthur Park” is certainly a brilliant piece. It contains one of the most beautiful melodies I’ve ever heard. Of course, it was a wonderful experience to produce the version with Donna Summer. Her voice took the song to a completely different place.

+++

Freedy Johnston: I am pleased to report I met the great Jimmy Webb a couple months ago. He received us backstage before a gig to chat for a few minutes. The perfect gentleman artist in a grey suit and white shirt and a notebook instead of a PDA. The show moved us deeply, as they say. His chords are like big waves out at sea. What a night.

+++

Thelma Houston: I still identify with anything from the Sunshower (1969) album. It’s still one of my favorite albums. I think Jimmy just writes such wonderful songs!

+++

Nanci Griffith: If I were sent to a desert island and was told I could take one instrument and one person with me, I wouldn’t take my guitar … I’d take a piano and Jimmy Webb.

+++

Liz Callaway: It’s no secret that Jimmy is a superb songwriter, but I equally love and admire his singing. He moves me deeply. He is also one of the kindest, most generous people I know.

+++

Johnny Rivers: I was introduced to Jimmy through a man named Marc Gordon who wound up managing The 5th Dimension. He had worked with Jimmy when Jimmy was just a young writer over at Motown. Marc sent me a tape and said, “I have a young songwriter I want you to hear. I think he has huge potential. He really has a unique style of writing.” He sent me this tape and it had about ten songs on it. I put it on my machine at home and started listening to it. It was interesting but the roots for my band was pretty much blues. Jimmy’s stuff was more pop-jazz but the style was so interesting that I kept listening. A couple of times I started to just get up and turn it off but I just let it keep going. The last song on that tape was “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”. It was like a fancy blues song with a story. It became kind of his signature style for several songs, writing about different towns. I had just come off of “Poor Side of Town” (1966) that I wrote and that was a number one record for me, so I wanted to go in and cut it. I called Lou Adler and said, “Man I got this song and it’s great. It has a lot of the chords that ‘Poor Side of Town’ has and it’s a ballad”. We went in and we cut it and it came out really well. Jimmy came in and played on it. We knew it was a hit. We were certain it was a hit song. It just had the sound and style but we didn’t release it as a single because we thought it sounded a little too close to “Poor Side of Town” and we wanted to wait.

In the mean time, I was getting ready to put my album out. “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” was the first cut on this album called Changes (1966). I got my test pressings in. I had this little office over at Liberty Records. We had started Soul City Records and I heard a song by Glen Campbell who I knew from “Gentle on My Mind”. I thought, Glen Campbell could really do a good job on “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”. I thought, if we’re not going to release it as a single, why don’t I just give it Glen? I called his producer, a guy named Al DeLory, who was with Capitol Records at the time, and he came down to my office. I said. “I got this song and it would be perfect for Glen.” When I played it for him, he said, “Wow that really is a great song.” I gave him my test pressing, the only I copy I had with me at the time, and he took it and put it under his arms. The guy who I was working with, Macy Lippman, said, “Man, why did you give him that song?” About two weeks later, I’m driving down Sunset Boulevard on my way home and I hear Glen Campbell’s version of “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” on the radio and I thought, “Man, he did a great job on that”. That got Jimmy and Glen together, which started a long relationship between the two of them. I’m a big Jimmy Webb fan. There are certain songwriters and artists that have such a signature style. There’s no doubt about when you hear a Jimmy Webb song, you know who it is. I can hear a Jimmy Webb song and tell you it’s a Jimmy Webb song in a second.

PopMatters