Jan 29, 1969: Glen Campbell Variety Show Debuts

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Campbell with Cher on his 1969 Goodtime Hour Christmas special

Campbell with Cher on his 1969 Goodtime Hour Christmas special

In the 1960s, the CBS Television Network dominated the TV ratings with plenty of sitcoms that were based in rural America. If you’re of a certain age, then you’ll remember such shows as Green AcresPetticoat Junction, The Beverly HillbilliesThe Andy Griffith Show and its Mayberry R.F.D. spinoff. But beginning in 1969, many of these series were abruptly cancelled. The so-called “rural purge” included many programs that were still highly popular with audiences in the U.S. heartland but less so in urban and coastal markets.

Defying its own logic, CBS launched The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour on this day, despite the folksy singer’s “aww shucks,” wholesome appeal.

The series was a spinoff of sorts from The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour for which the handsome, likable Campbell had served as a summer 1968 host. The singer was well known to TV and radio audiences, having earned a string of hits. In the prior two years, he had enjoyed huge country to pop crossover success with the hits “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Gentle On My Mind,” “Wichita Lineman” and “Galveston.” The latter two were both #1 country hits and reached #3 and #4, respectively, on the Hot 100.

Of note, “Phoenix,” “Lineman” and “Galveston” were all written by the great Jimmy Webb. Check out our two-part interview with him here (on his songwriting) and here (on some of his hits and misses).

In the three-network TV environment, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour was a #15 hit in its first season with such guests as Neil Diamond, John Wayne, The Monkees and Three Dog Night. There was plenty of competition for variety series in that era; Campbell was competing for guests with The Ed Sullivan Show, This Is Tom Jones, The Johnny Cash Show, and so on. The show lasted four seasons.

Here’s a clip of a young Linda Ronstadt performing on the series in 1971…

Before his solo success, Campbell was a member of the Los Angeles-based recording session musicians known as the Wrecking Crew that provided the music of literally hundreds of recordings including hits by Sonny and Cher, the Beach Boys, the Righteous Brothers, Nancy Sinatra, and the Association. (For more on the Wrecking Crew, read our review of the outstanding 2015 documentary here and interview with its producer-director here.)

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