Published on Sep 16, 2012
Elio Pace wrote on September 2012:
Glen Campbell was booked to come onto the last show of the first series of Weekend Wogan, May 2nd 2010. He had been booked weeks beforehand and because he was "Glen Campbell" he was asked to do four songs on the show as opposed to the three everyone else had been asked to do previously, what they were going to be was still undecided. So we get to the actual week of the show and myself and the show's producer Alan Boyd are still none the wiser as to what songs he is going to sing. He was touring the UK at the time and his management were proving rather tricky to get a hold of. Numerous emails, phone calls... nothing!
Alan, Adrian Fry (my assistant musical director) and I were starting to worry that we wouldn't have arrangements written for the 11-piece band in time for the broadcast on the Sunday. Then on the Wednesday, three days before the Saturday morning rehearsal, we finally get a message back from his management telling us two of the four songs, 'Wichita Lineman' and 'Southern Nights' and that the keys were as the originals. We went to work on those and by the Thursday night having not heard anything further from them about the other two songs, Alan made the decision that we should write one more arrangement for 'Rhinestone Cowboy' and that would be it. I would normally have had some contact with his musical director to find out things like if there were any new updated live arrangement changes that we should make compared to the originals, what guitar parts needed to be covered by my guitarist, how the songs ended etc etc. Either way, we wrote the last arrangement and would make any changes Glen wanted to make at the rehearsal on Saturday.
On the Friday afternoon, we heard from the management. They told us that Glen wasn't going to be able to make the rehearsal the next day and that he was now only going to do two numbers ('Southern Nights' and 'Gentle On My Mind') and that the band would only be needed for one of those and that he wouldn't need me to play piano (which I was gutted about) as he was going to use his own piano-player. Very tricky situation because had it not been a legend we were dealing with and it not been only a day away from the show, I'm sure the BBC would have told them who was boss. But we also made the assumption that none of this was coming from Glen Campbell himself. As it turned out, we were absolutely correct and I realise now that his entourage were protecting him from what only they knew at the time which was that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's and understandably didn't want to take unnecessary risks 'live' on national radio.
We made the decision that along with the rest of the show, we would go ahead without him on the Saturday morning and rehearse the arrangements we had written in the hope that when he arrived the following morning, the day of the broadcast, he (or more to the point his management!) would hear the band playing and change their minds at the last minute. Unfortunately, that wasn't to be.
On the Sunday morning at 9.30am, just 90 minutes away from the live broadcast, Glen and his entourage arrived at the Radio Theatre. There were loads of them surrounding him but when he broke free of them and walked onto the stage and put his guitar on and his piano-player started giving directions to my band, I took the opportunity to go over and introduce myself to him as the show's musical director. He was as charming as I'd hoped he would be although I could tell that something wasn't quite right. We spoke briefly about Elvis and Albert Lee and then he asked me what he was going to sing. I told him what had been decided by his management but that we had done full arrangements of 'Wichita Lineman' and 'Rhinestone Cowboy' also, to which he replied "let's do those too". He even went over to his piano-player, TJ Kuenster (who was obviously his musical director) and said "they've got charts for Wichita & Cowboy" to which TJ replied "No Glen, we're just going to do Gentle and Southern Nights". Glen shrugged his shoulders and that was that.
I screen captured Glen's performance and I'm glad I did as this, unfortunately, may turn out to be his very last live appearance and interview for the BBC.
At the end of 'Southern Nights' he exclaims "WOW! WHAT A BAND!" and even though I wasn't playing, this is one of the proudest moments of my career as that was MY band he was talking about, hand-picked over many years and that was mine and Adrian's arrangement he'd just enjoyed singing to. You can see him turn round at the end as if he wanted to keep going and do another song... or two! As I say, it wasn't to be.
I knew I was meeting 'music royalty' when I met him that morning and I was in awe of him and despite his illness, he gave an incredible performance. I wish I could go back and have those two hours again but at least I have this precious recording and with it, in some ways, I'll always be able to. Hope you enjoy.