Today’s music video is Southern Nights and this song is performed in the first clip by the writer of the song Allen Toussaint and in the second clip by Glen Campbell.
This video was posted to You Tube by Fernando Vieira
This video was posted to You Tube by Just Great Music
I have lost count of the number of times I’ve mentioned here how I have picked up so many things about music while listening to late night radio, and this is another of those cases. Behind every song, there’s a story, and all you have to do is go and look for it.
The other night, just prior to going off to bed, I switched the sound system back from TV to Radio, and a song was playing. I had no idea how long it had been playing, but I liked the song, and the way it had some special effects. At the finish of the song, I realised that I got it close to the start. The song was one I had never heard before, and while I listened, I noticed that it was familiar, both the music and also some of the lyrics. After listening to it all the way through, I knew it was Southern Nights, but this was a different version, one I had never heard before. Luckily, the announcer came on and said that it was Allen Toussaint. I knew that the song was a monster hit for Glen Campbell, but this version was done so differently, even though it sounded so familiar.
Here’s where the Internet comes in handy, so just prior to closing down the computer for the night, I used the search engine facility to trace the name of the artist. I copied down the name of the song, and the artist, and the following morning I did some research on the song.
The most recognised version of the song is that Glen Campbell version, and he made it into a huge Number One Smash Hit in 1977, both on the Country Charts and also crossing over to be Number One on the mainstream music charts, virtually all over the World. How often do you hear a song and after you hear it so many times throughout the years, you always associate it with just the one artist, or you even buy the record for yourself. You never look at the credits for the song to find out who wrote it, or follow it back to the original writer, as you just know it as a Glen Campbell song, and that’s it.
Allen Toussaint was a prolific songwriter for many years, and had many big hits, and virtually all his songs were performed by other artists and bands, in a manner a little similar to Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Alan Toussaint wrote the song in 1975, and recorded it as the version shown above in the first video clip. There are clips of him performing the song live, but as he did all his work at the piano, those live versions are all just him doing the song on the piano, and I wanted this clip for the original special effect, something not all that common back in 1975. So that’s why this clip is just the studio version of the song with just the one image of his album that the song was lifted from.
Allen was an American and did most of his early music based around the New Orleans Rhythm and Blues scene. The idea for this particular song came from memories of his childhood and visits with relatives in the Louisiana backwoods, and of telling stories under the stars at night.
Allen released the song on an album with the same title, and that’s the album image in that first clip of him performing the song. The album was released as a Rhythm and Blues concept album. While this song became his signature song over the years, mainly due to the Glen Campbell version becoming so popular, the album and the Single did not chart on any of the major music charts at the time it was released.
Two years later, in 1977, Glen Campbell heard the song, brought to him by his friend and composer of most of his songs Jimmy Webb, and Glen immediately identified with the song, as he remembered his youth and similar things growing up on the family farm in Arkansas. Glen did his cover version of the song in a Country style, changing some of the lyrics, and introducing that now well known guitar riff, so much associated with just this one song, a guitar riff he picked up from his close friend and fellow Country artist Jerry Reed. This version was the one that rocketed to Number One on the charts from those different genres.
I mentioned that there are many versions of this song from both artists, Allen, and Glen. It’s one of Glen Campbell’s best known hits, and he played it at all his concerts, so there are a number of video clips of him playing this song. I wanted this specific one, because it’s the earliest I could find of him performing this song, and also to highlight the guitar he is playing in this clip.
Before Glen Campbell’s huge solo career began, he was a session guitarist with that famed group of session musicians in Los Angeles, often referred to as The Wrecking Crew. That group was so famous, artists and bands came from all over America and the World just have them do backing music for some of the most famous music albums of that time. Glen was one of the expert guitarists with this group, and he was so good, he was eventually contracted to Ovation Guitars, and he played them exclusively.
There are many big names in the guitar manufacturing business. The big ones in electric guitars are Fender and Gibson, while for Acoustic guitars, the big two are Martin and Gibson. Other companies make electric guitars and others also make acoustic guitars, and some of them are also verging on huge as well, and there are just so many of them. Different guitarists swear by one guitar manufacturer of another, and some play and own a number of guitars from the different manufacturers.
Ovation guitars made some of the best sounding acoustic guitars, and they had quite a large niche market for up market guitars, beautifully crafted, and unlike most acoustic guitars, Ovation made their acoustic guitars with curved backs, and some guitarists say that this is what gives them their special tone.
Glen already had a range of guitars, but he leaned towards those Ovation acoustics because of the tone. Ovation also made electric guitars, but their core market was for acoustic guitars, as when it came to electrics, they could not compete on the same huge scale with Fender and Gibson, and, at that time, and to a slightly less extent, Rickenbacker who also made wonderful electric guitars, those three main names being the ones who worked on, then perfected and then started manufacturing those electric guitars.
Because Glen was now contracted to Ovation, and as he became so big a name, Ovation did make electric guitars, but again, very few of them, as those biggies had virtually cornered the whole market for excellent electric guitars.
The Guitar you see Glen playing in the clip above for this song is one of those Ovation electric guitars, and this is one of the rarer ones, because it is a 12 string electric guitar. This is an Ovation Deacon 12 string electric guitar, the one shown in the image at the near right here. The second image at the far right is of an even rarer Ovation, and this one is an Ovation Bluebird 12 string Electric Guitar.
I saw an article about someone trying to chase one of those lovely blue guitars down. The article mentioned that the guy saw an old clip of Glen playing this beautiful Sunburst Blue guitar (as he referred to it) and from that one clip, he then set off on some research. What he found was that there might only have been five of them made by Ovation Guitars, and trying to actually track one of them down proved all but impossible, other than some images of Glen and that specific guitar.
Glen Campbell is now 80 years old, but we have access to all his music from those days when he was such a huge name on the music scene.
Sadly, the writer of this wonderful song, Allen Toussaint is now no longer with us, passing away only six Months ago, while touring Europe. He was 77 years old, and it just goes to show you. Once the music is in you, it’s there forever, and never goes away.
The image below is one of Glen Campbell and his guitars. That beautiful Ovation Bluebird 12 string is at the top of the stairs, just to the left of that display case there. There’s 23 guitars and a banjo shown in this image, and amongst that group of guitars are probably some of the rarest guitars in the World. (If you click on this image, and either of the two images above of those two guitars, they will open in a new and larger window.)
This image is taken from the Glen Campbell website, at this link.