Fifty-two years ago today, Glen Campbell’s career struck gold in big ways when he was awarded his first gold single for “Wichita Lineman.”
On Jan. 22, 1969, Campbell earned the first gold single of his country music career after selling 500,000 copies of the record.
The song that garnered Campbell the recognition was the title track of Campbell’s 12th studio album, written by Jimmy Webb.
The Inspiration Behind Glen Campbell’s ‘Wichita Lineman’
While driving through Washita County, Okla.. Webb saw a lone telephone lineman working on the top of a telephone pole, and inspiration struck.
“I’m a songwriter, and I can write about anything I want to,” Webb said when asked about crafting the song.
“I feel that you should know something about what you’re doing, and you should have an image, and I have a very specific image of a guy I saw working up on the wires out in the Oklahoma panhandle one time with a telephone in his hand talking to somebody.”
While Campbell was recording in the studio, Webb was usually nearby writing songs. As soon as the songwriter played a snippet of “Wichita Lineman” for Campbell, the singer immediately knew he wanted to record the track.
“And this exquisite aesthetic balance of all these telephone poles just decreasing in size as they got further and further away from the viewer — that being me — and as I passed him, he began to diminish in size,” Webb added.
Campbell’s Song Resurfaces For 2013 Album
In 1968, “Wichita Lineman” was nominated for an ACM for “Single of the Year.” Since its release, several of Campbell’s compilation albums have included the track, including Glen Campbell’s Greatest Hits in 1971, The Best of Glen Campbell in 1976, 1987’s The Very Best of Glen Campbell, and The Legacy from 2003.
In 2013, Campbell once again incorporated the song into one of his albums: See You There.
“This song came about, really, from wondering what that was like, what it would be like to be working up on a telephone pole, and what would you be talking about?” Webb continues. “Was he talking to his girlfriend? Probably just doing one of those checks where they called up and said, ‘Mile marker 46,’ you know. ‘Everything’s working so far.'”
Sadly, Campbell dropped the album after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. The diagnosis caused him to make an early exit from country music and he passed away in 2017.