Glen Campbell

21 September 1996

Goodtime Theatre, Branson, MO


A dream come true. I was lucky enough to travel to a conference in (sort of) neighboring Kansas City, MO, 3 days prior to this show. Very lucky for me, since Glen closed his tenure at his Goodtime Theatre a mere week after this performance, at the end of a successful three year run.

This was my first trek to the Ozark country of Southwest Missouri, which I found most pleasant and most scenic. While in Branson, I purchased a very nice-sounding Fender acoustic guitar, at what is effectively a musical instrument warehouse, just East of downtown. Downtown Branson, of course, is a whole other story. Despite the dozens of full-size theatres that have arisen in the past ten years or so, the single thoroughfare dividing this so-called competetor to Nashville has YET to widen beyond two lanes. So, traffic has been, and is, thick, pretty much 18 hours out of every day.

But, Glen's Goodtime theatre is (was) different--it parks itself nicely on the far East part of town, one block away from the U.S. Highway from Springfield, MO. As such, I was able to avoid any major traffic hassles to this event.

I must say that Branson folk are some of the kindest, most polite I've ever met. I enjoyed chatting with several complete strangers, particularly at a Bob's-Country-Bunker dance place just a couple blocks South of the Goodtime Theatre.

I made my way to the Theatre's lobby at about 6 P.M., and thus was able to absorb myself in the various collector's items, memorabilia, etc., as well as the gift shop. This gift shop had just about everything one could imagine, with Glen Campbell's name attached to most every item. Of course, they were having a FIRE sale, given the impending closure of the Theatre. You name it, sweaters, cups, mugs, coasters, jewelry, watches, hats, pants, jackets, shoes, and on and on and on--they had it. Very tempted by the fire sale, I limited my merchandise tally to $100.

On into the Theatre. Now 31 years old, I felt dwarfed by the very calm and quiet audience of 1000 or so, which must have averaged somewhere between 65 to deceased in age. By myself, I landed a seat in front row center, 5 feet from the stage. A couple sitting next to me had seen this show several times, without much setlist variance, with much satisfaction.

Glen, now 60 himself, strolled out, looking 35 or so, trim as ever, at least 3 times as energetic as anyone in the geriatric mass of Theatre people, and opened with a medley of "Country Boy At Heart" and "Rocky Top".

Somehow, Glen doesn't seem to mind the responsibility of, night after night, matinee after matinee, performing his most popular material. This would include, "Wichita Lineman", "Gentle On My Mind", the rare anti-war song "Galveston", "By The Time I Get To Phoenix", "Country Boy (You've Got Your Feet In L.A.)", and a nice medley from 1976, "Don't Pull Your Love/You Can Tell Him Goodbye".

Glen's theatre performance is designed and choreographed for variety. It may as well be a two-hour Glen Campbell prime-time variety show. Besides music, you get very respectable dancing, benign comedy, and interestingly-motifed stage designs. These intermission-like spices of variety primarily allow Glen to change costumes between songs. For instance, a western dance, stage backdrop, and musical introduction led to his 1975 #1 single, "Rhinestone Cowboy". This perhaps suits the 65 + average audience just fine, as this is much like what they probably watched when Glen had his own television variety show in the late '60s and 70's.

Two sisters (of his 11 siblings) joined him on "Try A Little Kindness". His daughter Debbie, currently also a flight attendant on America West Airlines, sang some song, by herself, that asks (someone) why he hasn't called her lately. She joined Glen for a duet of "Let It Be Me", originally duetted by Glen and Bobby Gentry in 1970--very nice. At the intermission, Debbie walked through the audience, begging patrons to spend $5 to purchase copies of an album she and Glen had recorded. "Autographed duet tapes!.....autographed duet tapes!....." Really sad.

Glen took ten minutes of intermission to sign dozens of autographs, with a very patient, reverent smile all the while.

As many know, Glen is a self-professed born-again Christian, and therefore much of his music has recently experienced this influence. The most notable is the melodramatic "No More Night". Though I'm not much of a religious person, I found the song to be the most moving of the evening.

Next came his other #1 single (from 1977) "Southern Nights". His finale made use of his Theatre's waterfall--essentially a sprinkler system that sends beads of water from top to bottom, from all the way to the left to all the way to the right of the stage. Very impressive display, and even more impressive that they built it into the architecture of this relatively new Theatre. Effects can be expensive, but very worthwhile. He chose the Simon and Garfunkel classic "Bridge Over Troubled Water" to make use of the water theme.

One of my favorites, the love song "Houston", didn't make the set list. Of course, it didn't make the top 40 in 1974, and that may be why.

After the show ended for those who need to meet a Good Bedtime, at 9 P.M., I left, one week before Glen did, from a nice fragment of American popular music history.

[****] - Steven T.

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