Glen Campbell’s penultimate albums, “Ghost on a Canvas” and “See You There,” were recorded during the same sessions in 2010 and released on Surfdog Records, the 24-year-old California-based label founded by Dave Kaplan. The albums were promoted by Campbell’s final tour, entitled “Goodbye,” which wrapped in Napa, California on Nov. 30, 2012. (A final album, “Adios,” was recorded in 2012 and 2013 and released on Big Machine Records in June.) Here, Kaplan shares his memories of working with the legendary singer and guitarist, who died Tuesday at 81 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
When did you first meet Glen?
Well, the first time I saw him was in 1969, watching his variety show with my family every single week — and to imagine that someday I’d actually be working with him and putting out his records out would have been unbelievable. But I first met him toward the end of recording “Ghost on the Canvas” at Village Recorder [in Los Angeles], probably in 2010. When I heard what they’d done I just flipped out — it was modern but timeless, and beyond everything else, that voice. It’s just otherworldly — I don’t really know why or how but it’s one of those voices that just touches you in your deepest DNA. He just had a way to speak to your emotions.
Did you see any signs of Alzheimer’s?
I did not at the first meeting. He and the family were incredibly cooperative when it became time to promote [“Ghost on the Canvas”], so the first thing I did was ask to make a video press kit to tell his story. So I set up multiple cameras at his place in Malibu, we had a writer there — and when we started to do that interview I could tell within the first 15 minutes that we were dealing with something pretty serious.
So I sat with Kim, his wife, and his team and said “We have two choices, either we don’t do this promotion, or we come out so you can tell the story and tell what’s happening in your words, in a dignified respectful way, rather than some sensationalistic way.” And they thankfully agreed, so we worked closely with our publicist, Ken Weinstein [of Big Hassle Media], on how to do it, because otherwise people would think something was wrong with Glen and speculate. So we just wanted to make sure it was as dignified as possible.
What was he like as a person?
Awesome. Southern charm, a bigger-than-life, physically fit, good-looking, older man with a great, weathered, handsome face. He was always putting you at ease with a joke, doing his Donald Duck impression. I asked him what it was like to be a Beach Boy and he sang one of their songs in a high falsetto. Just an incredibly charming man — I introduced him to my wife Susie, “Pleasure to meet you, darlin’,” he kissed her on the cheek and start singing “Wake Up Little Susie” to her. Just a lovely, lovely man.
Do you remember him telling any stories or jokes?
He always used to talk about using his pinkie as a guitarist — lots of guitarists don’t use their pinkies much — and he said when he was really young back in Arkansas, his Uncle Boo would take out a pair of pliers and say “If you don’t use that pinkie I’m takin’ it off!” He said, “I learned to use that pinkie real quick!”
But [his humor] it was more quips — you’d ask him how he was doing, “If I was doin’ any better, I’d be twins!”
When’s the last time you saw him?
About a year ago. I was in Nashville and Kim took me to the facility where he was, and obviously he was in the very advanced stages of Alzheimer’s. He didn’t recognize me but I gave him a hug. Even to the very end I would send him a birthday card so Kim could read it to him and deep down I’d hope he’d hear it.
I’m just so grateful to him and so grateful that I had any part in bringing him back [to popularity], especially with the Goodbye tour, where he was so adored and respected as the icon and legend that he is. I think before “Ghost on the Canvas,” I don’t feel like he was getting his just respect from the music universe. I’m just glad he’s finally getting that respect and recognition.