Glen Campbell put a beautiful beach town in Texas on the national map back in 1969. And Galveston became a career signature song for this beloved country star.
And to think, it took a suggestion by a guy from Hawaii to get a performer from Arkansas to record a song written by an Okie about one of Texas’ most beautiful cities. Got all that? The Glen Campbell song was a delightful dose of soothing waves and warm sunshine.
Here’s Glen Campbell performing the song. Give it a listen then check back with us on the other side to see who suggested Galveston to Campbell and what the song really was about.
Glen Campbell Said Don Ho Gave Him Galveston
Back in 1969, Glen Campbell hosted his own variety show called the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour. The summer before, he’d been the host of a show that replaced the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. One of Campbell’s guests was Don Ho, the singer from Hawaii who gave us Tiny Bubbles. Ho was the first to record Galveston. He released it on the B side of Has Anybody Lost a Love. But the song didn’t quite work for Ho. So he suggested it for Campbell.
And Glen Campbell singing Galveston made all kinds of sense. Jimmy Webb wrote the song. He and Campbell enjoyed a terrific relationship. Webb also wrote other top hits for Campbell, including By the Time I Get to Phoenix and Wichita Lineman. The master songwriter had a talent for turning otherwise non-descript cities and professions into musical works of art. Webb also wrote other top pop songs from that era, including Up, Up and Away and MacArthur Park.
Webb also wrote Highwayman. He won a Grammy for it in 1986 after the country supergroup Highwaymen released it. The group featured Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson. Glen Campbell sat in on some of the group’s earliest sessions.
Jimmy Webb, in an interview with Glen Campbell before Campbell died, said he had one nit about the Galveston recording.
“It was a little faster than I intended it to be,” Webb said. “But I wasn’t complaining because it was top 10.”
Webb was on a Galveston beach when he first thought about the song. Galveston, a city on the Gulf of Mexico, is about an hour’s drive from Houston. But rather than write a conventional love song, Webb made it about romance in the time of war. He intended it to be an anti-war song. Campbell tweaked the words so that they were more patriotic.
Webb said: the song was “about a guy who’s caught up in something he doesn’t understand and would rather be somewhere else.”
Galveston became the unofficial song of the city and one that Texans everywhere loved to sing. It also became a No. 1 hit for Glen Campbell and one that was played on the radio rotation when the singer died in 2017.