at UGA

At UGA where I got to meet some famous and wonderful people

 I just read that Glen Campbell has Alzheimer’s disease. I’m sad about that because Glen Campbell is one of my heroes and has been since I was 19 years old.

What heroic thing did he do? It was such a little thing and it seemed such a natural act for him that I’m certain it was not his intention to impress me and he no idea of his impact. But his was the act that defined heroic for me. Since my encounter with Mr. Campbell, I’ve been on the alert for other heroes and I’ve learned some things about them. This is one thing I’ve learned — the transformation from human to hero takes 27 seconds (I made that up but it sounds right) and probably uses up no more than 20-30 calories.

Glen Campbell’s transformation from entertainer to hero happened in Athens, Georgia when he appeared with Bobbie Gentry at a university concert. I got to go backstage and meet such stars as Glen Campbell, Bobbie Gentry,  Johnny Rivers andJerry Butler (The IceMan) because I was dating a disc jockey at the only top-40 radio station in town and number one with university students – the two other stations were easy listening [for old people] and all news which explains it.

That evening Johnny [later to be John Holliman of CNN] and I got there early and spent almost an hour with Bobbie Gentry in her dressing room. She was beautiful and real and open. Actually most all of the performers were down-to-earth.

Bobbie Gentry was hot. She had just hit the top of the charts with Ode to Billie Joe. And for those who remember the question, Bobbie Gentry did tell us the answer — the answer to what she and Billie Joe were, “throwing … off the Tallahatchie Bridge. ”I’ve never told anyone. 

We got out front just in time to see Glen Campbell’s performance. Wow! It still ranks as one of the two or three best performances I’ve ever seen. He had charisma. He had humor. The highlight for me was his imitation of Elvis — when Elvis ws still alive. I was awestruck.

After the concert we all went back to the WDOL studios where Glen Campbell cut promos with the disc jockeys. [I’ve often wondered what happened to the other disc jockeys at WDOL. They were some of the most creative and talented people I’ve ever met: Charlie Jordan, Mr. Jack, and the most talented of all, Bob Boyd]

By this time I’d met a lot of performers, and I knew they were working, tired and wanting to get on with business, so I stayed in the background, which was in this case, behind a glass wall that separated the studios from the offices. No. That’s just part it. The other part is I couldn’t imagine why they would want to meet me. Anyway I hadn’t met Glen Campbell.

They finished the promos and Mr. Campbell went out the door and down the stairs to the street with his crew. I was picking up my things and getting ready to leave when the door opened again. It was Glen Campbell, alone. I sat back on the desk thinking he had forgotten something. But he didn’t go into the studio.

He turned and came through the glass door into the office, and to me. Smiling, his hand out, he said, “I’m Glen Campbell. I don’t believe we met.” We shook hands. That’s all. He just shook my hand. Then he left, transformed into my hero.

Here is my first and only fan letter ever.

Dear Mr. Campbell,

I’m your devoted fan and have been for over 30 years. It started when you did something little [to you], something unexpected, kind – and remembered. I’ve thought about you over the years. Your every success thrilled me as though you were part of my family. Now you’re sick. You will forget many things.  I’m praying your triumphs and your sweet gestures will be the things you remember — that the good times stay with you as your longest lasting memories, and only the sad times disappear.


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