When Glen Campbell released “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” in 1967 off his album of the same name, he was not only on the seventh album of his career. Remarkably, Campbell was already on his third album released of the same year in just five months.
Indeed, Campbell ended 1967 being one of the hottest new icons in country music. His version of “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” reached No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot Country Singles chart and topped RPM’s Canada Country Tracks. It also won two awards at the 10th Annual Grammys: Best Vocal Performance and Best Contemporary Vocal Performance. On the other hand, its album took home the Grammy for Album of the Year, making it the first country album to do so.
Over three decades later, Campbell’s “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” was inducted in the Hall of Fame during the 2004 Grammy Awards.
The Story Behind The Heartbreaking Song
Written by Jimmy Webb, “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” tells the tale of a man who finally decided to leave his lover once and for all, after leaving her for so many times before.
“By the time I make Oklahoma, she’ll be sleepin’. She’ll turn softly and call my name out low. And she’ll cry just to think I’d really leave her. Tho’ time and time I’ve tried to tell her so. She just didn’t know I would really go,” the song goes.
It was inspired by Webb’s breakup with Susan Horton, whom he started dating when they were only high school students in Colton, California. Horton caused Webb considerable grief when she beat a hasty retreat to Lake Tahoe and worked as a dancer. Everything turned out for worse when Horton married another man.
The song was originally recorded by singer-songwriter Johnny Rivers in 1965, but Glen Campbell took it to the charts. “I think that Glen’s voice is perfectly suited to early JW [Jimmy Webb] – ‘Wichita Lineman’ and ‘By the Time I Get To Phoenix’ there was some kind of a surreal fit between his voice and those songs,” Webb said. “It’s very hard for me to look back and say, ‘Oh, a-ha, now I see why we were successful.’ Because at the time, it certainly wasn’t anything that I was in control of.”
Between 1970 and 1990, “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” was named the third-most performed song, and today, there were already hundreds of other cover versions that exist. Still, Glen Campbell’s “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” is one of the best versions you’ll ever hear.
You can listen to it in the video below.
glen campbell, Johnny Rivers