The Story of Country Music’s Great Songwriting Duo

Before they released “Wichita Lineman,” the greatest unfinished song of all time, Glen Campbell and Jimmy Webb lived surprisingly parallel lives.

Dylan Jones | Wichita Lineman | Faber & Faber | September 2019 | 26 minutes (5,155 words)

 

In 1961, like most fourteen-year-old boys Jimmy Webb was obsessed with three things: music, cars, and girls. In an effort to curb these distractions, his Baptist minister father got his son a part-time job ploughing wheat fields near Laverne, Oklahoma. One day, while listening to music on the green plastic transistor radio that hung from the tractor’s wing mirror, the young Jimmy Webb heard a song called “Turn Around, Look at Me,” sung by a new artist called Glen Campbell.

Webb loved that record, not just because of the tune, but mainly for the voice, which he thought was sweet and true.

“I had just heard the most beautiful record I ever heard in my young life: song, singer and arrangement in perfect balance,” Webb said. So moved was he that he lost control of the tractor, crashing it into the flower beds planted by the farmer’s wife. That night, he kneeled by his bedside at home in Elk City, Oklahoma, and prayed that one day he would write a song half as good as the one he’d heard earlier. Cheekily, he added an extra prayer, asking to have Glen Campbell record one of his songs. “The chances of that happening were astronomical, or rather the chances against that happening were astronomical,” said Webb. “But somehow or another, that prayer was heard.” That day would come in 1967, when Campbell released his version of Webb’s song “By the Time I Get to Phoenix.”

“I’d say there was a profound connection between us very early on that he was not aware of, but I was,” said Webb. “Because I had heard his first record, that beautiful song, and I’d deliberately set out to create things like that. So perhaps it’s not all that strange that, years later, he should run across my songs and sense that they were perfect for him.”

‘I’d say there was a profound connection between us very early on that he was not aware of, but I was,’ said Webb.

Webb was born in 1946 in Oklahoma, and raised in Wichita Falls, Texas, where his father was enrolled in J. Frank Norris’s Bible Baptist Seminary. Like Glen Campbell, Webb’s family business was sharecropping. Oklahoma was Big Country, as was Texas, and Webb suited it well. “I’m almost claustrophobic,” he said once. “I start feeling hemmed in very quickly. To me, the ocean strikes the same chord in my mind as the high plains of Oklahoma, which are basically flat. The old timers up there say, ‘You stand up on this little hill right here. You can see for fifty miles over into New Mexico.’ Well, it’s probably true. You can see a hell of a long way out there.” Coincidentally, Campbell would often complain about suffering from claustrophobia, too, hating being contained within small places and increasingly thinking about home. Logically, this made no sense, as he needed to go west in order to make his fortune, which was kick-started by hundreds of hours cooped up in tiny recording studios; but towards the end of his career Campbell longed for the Big Country, and his interviews would be full of references to being trapped.

The Webb clan lived in a trailer the size of a rowboat, situated at the end of the runway at Sheppard Air Force Base. His mother sweated out the hot, humid nights, with little Jimmy and his younger sister Janice “wondering where we were going, what we were doing. But Dad’s answer was that God always knew where we were going even if we didn’t, and she was enough in love with him to go along.”

Again, like Glen Campbell, Webb was a prodigy. He started playing piano when he was 6, and for the first few years played exclusively by ear. “I guess you could say that it was a form of show business, as I’d go on the road with my dad and play piano for him, so that aspect of it, getting out in front of the public, that all came from church,” he said.

In Elk City, he began playing in rudimentary rock ‘n’ roll bands, getting together with school friends to dress up, invent doo-wop songs, and grease their quaffs. In 1958, when he was twelve, he wrote his first real song, “Someone Else,” which would eventually be recorded, many decades later, by Art Garfunkel. As a budding songwriter he was influenced by his exposure to hymns in the church, but also by classical music, and of course by the pop on the radio. He tried to emulate the Brill Building songs of Gerry Goffin and Carole King, and Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.

Webb was already enrolled at the San Bernardino Valley College, but on weekends he started driving regularly to LA to pitch his songs to publishers and agents.

Webb senior was almost pathologically peripatetic, moving the family from tiny town to tiny town. In 1962, the family moved to San Bernardino, California, imagining a world of green grass, swimming pools, and acres and acres of palms. As it was, the Webbs’ home was somewhat more prosaic, while any ideas of a domestic routine were tragically short-lived. As Webb was graduating from high school, barely two years later, his mother suddenly died, aged only thirty-six, of complications resulting from an inoperable brain tumor. It was, said Webb, “like a nuclear explosion going off in a very close-knit, very religious family.” As the fallout spread, his father started drinking and returned to Oklahoma, and Webb, just seventeen, shy and bespectacled, found himself alone in California, devalued and forlorn, with not much ahead of him except a few scrappy tunes he’d written. According to Webb, his father said, ‘This songwriting thing is going to break your heart.” When he went back to Oklahoma, he gave Webb $40, saying, “It’s not much, but it’s all I have.”

For the budding songwriter, the future was hardly brimming with possibilities but, inspired by the likes of the Shirelles’ “Baby It’s You,” “Baby I Need Your Loving” by the Four Tops, and the Righteous Brothers in particular, he continued writing songs, intent on trying to make a living as a writer. The move to California had focused his mind, not least because he was now in an environment where the shift from nobody to somebody no longer seemed so abstract and fanciful. Plus, the radio was full of artists singing songs that seemed to be stretching the art form, as the likes of Phil Spector and Brian Wilson — the very same people with whom Glen Campbell was currently playing — appeared to be reinventing the art of songwriting every day on AM radio.

Webb was already enrolled at the San Bernardino Valley College, but on weekends he started driving regularly to LA to pitch his songs to publishers and agents. He had enough rejection letters to paper a wall in his bedroom, but he refused to get the message. He was a professional songwriter by the age of seventeen largely because his songs were the only commodity he had.

* * *

Rather than by accident, Glen Campbell arrived in Los Angeles in 1960, keen to make his way in the music industry. During the late sixties and early seventies, Los Angeles became the geographic holy grail of American rock music. It didn’t matter if you were an aspiring singer-songwriter like Joni Mitchell, or an old British blues band like Fleetwood Mac looking for rejuvenation, LA was where you came. Which is why the likes of Glen Campbell, and later Jimmy Webb, were attracted to the state. For both songwriters and musicians in the mid-sixties, New York was still the traditional port of entry, and yet Los Angeles had the gravitational pull of the dustbowl narrative.

The coast was a celebration of fantasy, a Pacific kingdom of sunshine, sand, and surf — a life of abundance, where anything was possible and nothing was real. Even then, hyper-consumerism seemed the métier of Los Angeles, and perhaps Campbell assumed that eventually everything in the city becomes entertainment.

He wanted in.

Even though Campbell had a voice with an unusually wide range, initially it was his fingers he was hired for, and once in LA he started making his way as a session man, as a guitarist – an especially versatile one, as it turned out – appearing with the session musicians known as the Wrecking Crew on records by everyone from Elvis Presley to Johnny Cash to Dean Martin. That’s his riff on the Monkees’ “I’m a Believer,” his fills on Elvis Presley’s “Viva Las Vegas,” his chord work on the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.”


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Born in 1936, at a time of high poverty and low optimism, even from a young age Glen Travis Campbell had a sunny, upbeat disposition. The seventh son in a family of eight boys and four girls, he grew up on an electricity-free 120-acre sharecropper farm ninety miles southwest of Little Rock, Arkansas. His family didn’t just endure poverty, they wore it. “It was the land of opportunity,” said Campbell, “if you had a car. We were just one step above the animals.” While the world would eventually see his name glowing in electric letters taller than some of the houses he was raised in, life in Arkansas in the forties was tough. The Campbell family slept four to a bed, and Glen used to say that he never knew what it was like to sleep alone until he was married. Being a tenant farmer, his father worked every hour of daylight, in his bib overalls, felt hat, and long-sleeved shirt buttoned firmly at the neck.

For the young Glen Campbell, country music was a blessed release, listening to it first on a battery-operated console and then a proper electric radio, on which he would devour Hank Williams, Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb and the other stars beaming out from Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry. He didn’t much like getting his hands dirty, and listening to music was much more fun than being out in the fields all day long, “looking a mule in the butt,” as Campbell put it in a 1968 New York Times interview. While the music played, anything seemed possible.

“All I ever did since I can remember was eat, live and breathe singing and playing guitar. I worked at a service station for a week, almost took my hand off, changing a flat tire. Well, I quit that, because I wanted to play my guitar, and I couldn’t do that with smashed fingers.”

When he was four, his uncle Boo sent Campbell a $5 three-quarter-size Sears, Roebuck and Co. guitar, and his hands immediately took to the strings. He was also blessed with a sweet tenor voice, which he used to sing gospel hymns at church every Sunday, but it was his guitar dexterity that was really impressive. By age six, Campbell was performing on local radio, and by his teens he was playing in dive bars, showing off his guitar skills, as well as the small tough-guy cartoon dagger on his upper left arm (proudly scratched with a needle and filled with ink at the age of nine). In 1954, aged seventeen, he suddenly quit school and moved to Albuquerque, where he started playing guitar in his uncle’s band, Dick Bills and the Sandia Mountain Boys, regularly being kicked off the stage of cowpoke bars by the local police, who could see that he was underage. Finally, in 1958, desperate to branch out on his own, he formed his own band, the Western Wranglers, sometimes playing fourteen sets a week.

“When I started playing, I listened to Django Reinhardt,” said Campbell in 2011. “Django Reinhardt was the best guitar player that ever lived on this earth. He would play stuff that was just alien, man. I sat there and just laughed as I listened to his record. And they did all those songs from way back, like ‘Sheik of Araby.’ He’d do the lick and then he’d play his own lick over it. I wish he had lived long enough to have recorded some more of those songs, because they would have been wall burners, you know what I mean?”

‘I’d have to pick cotton for a year to make what I’d make in a week in LA,’ he said.

It was the move to LA that would really prove to be fortuitous, though. “I’d have to pick cotton for a year to make what I’d make in a week in LA,” he said. He charmed his way into recording sessions, auditioned for record company executives outside their offices and gradually hustled his way into a living. He played on demos and records, and even started making them himself, singing, playing guitar — anything that they wanted him to. On and on he did this, day in and day out, week in, month out. Happy to play with other people, his ambition had always been to make it on his own as a professional singer.

“I probably had it in the back of my head to be an artist, but I was making so much money doing studio work, I didn’t want to go through that routine of going out doing gigs for $100 a night. You could make more than that doing a session. I was hanging around the greatest musicians in the world and that’s how you learn how to play. I got to work with so many great people — Nat King Cole, for me that was a thrill, and I’d much rather be doing that than going out and playing some joint.”

Crest Records eventually signed him as a solo artist, and tried to promote him as an instrumentalist, scoring a minor hit in 1961 with an old-fashioned ballad called “Turn Around, Look at Me” that Campbell had actually written himself. He did a lot of jingle work, too, musically espousing the benefits of various household products, including hairsprays and room deodorizers, while earning enough to buy a nicely appointed four-bedroom home on Satsuma Street in North Hollywood and lease a brand-new gold Cadillac. The covers of his early records featured Campbell in various engaging poses, all of which were semaphoring the duality of his down-home appeal and his “Look out, world, here I come” ambitions.

Campbell would start to call his talent a trade, a skill he had learned through hard work, practice and an aptitude that he never took for granted. One of the reasons he became so popular at recording sessions was as much to do with his open personality as it was his virtuosity. “I think I practiced my trade enough, which is singing and playing, being a musician and a singer, to have people recognize that and call me,” he told the journalist Gary James once. “You know, it’s like if they call you to build a house and you don’t know how to build a house, you’re not going to get the job. I was ready when I was called to do something; I could do it musically. I didn’t limit my talent by pursuing one particular kind of music. I didn’t limit it by pursuing jazz or pursuing country or pursuing pop. Music was my world before they started putting a label on it. If somebody heard music that was different from another section of the country, they’d label it. That Detroit Sound, you record it in LA, it sounds the same way to me.”

The small success of “Turn Around, Look at Me” helped Campbell get a record deal with Capitol Records in 1962. His first release for Capitol provided Campbell with another minor pop entry, but when subsequent singles failed to chart, Capitol strongly considered dropping him from the label. He threw himself into the Hollywood music scene, making home life even more challenging.

* * *

Like Campbell, Webb had been drawn to LA because it looked like the future, wanting a taste of what had been filtered through to the rest of the country via surfboards, hot rods, and the Beach Boys. There was a commonality here, one that Campbell and Webb would eventually share.

Webb was hungry and ambitious beyond his years. The songs he was writing at the time were more intricate than what his contemporaries were attempting. He was inspired by what he heard on the radio, but his own songs owed as much to Broadway as they did to the hit parade. There was an old-school quality to them, almost as though he were writing for Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin. They weren’t your classic pop songs, but they were classic.

He’d follow any lead, return every call. One day in 1965, an ex-Motown acquaintance called him and asked if he wanted an all-expenses-paid trip to Vegas. Apparently, the one-time Motown artist Tony Martin was looking for new material and wanted to hear what “the kid” had. He was appearing at the Riviera Hotel and wanted Webb to come and pitch to him directly.

‘I was homesick at the time, and was going back to Phoenix a lot, tracing back my steps to home, so it really resonated.’

So Webb flew to Vegas and was escorted to Martin’s green room. He sat in this little, badly lit anteroom in his tatty chinos and thick, black-framed glasses, quietly, nervously waiting for Martin to appear. Sometimes Webb took on a gangling aspect, like a bashful young boy not yet comfortable in public, and today he wasn’t comfortable. After a while he noticed a figure sitting even more quietly in a semi-dark corner of the room. The man was Louis Armstrong, sitting playing with the valves on his trumpet. He looked at the young songwriter, noticed the pile of sheet music in his lap and said, “What you got there? Let me have a look at those.”

Armstrong read the lyrics to Webb’s original “Didn’t We,” nodded and said — he had a reputation for being encouraging — “You keep at it, boy. You’re gonna be something.”

It was a very quick encounter, which to Webb still feels like a dream, but it was a huge moment for him. “I stood there with a warm golden glow suffusing my whole body,” Webb would later say.

He continued trying to pitch his songs, exchanging publishing rights for studio time and playing his tunes for anyone in the industry who would listen. He was lucky that he was only a so-so singer. “I used to joke around with other songwriters that they had to be very careful and not sing a demo too well. Great singers loved to have a terrible demo that needed their particular brand of refinement.” Finally, he landed a staff job at Jobete, the publishing division of Motown, even though he was still moonlighting as a cleaner at a studio on Melrose Avenue.

Motown was good for him, as it taught him what he needed to know in terms of studio diplomacy, how to make demos, and how to arrange a song. He was with them for nine months, and in that time wrote songs for the likes of Billy Eckstine, while the first commercial recording of a Jimmy Webb song was “My Christmas Tree,” an unremarkable song which appeared on the Supremes’ 1965 album Merry Christmas, and which earned him $400.

One day at Jobete, he was asked if he could come up with a song for the TV star Paul Peterson, who had become famous through his appearances on the popular white-bread sitcom The Donna Reed Show, and who was now trying to make it as a singer. What Webb came up with was “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” which, as it was an incredibly sad and complicated song, was anathema to Peterson’s clean-cut image. It was considered too odd, and so unsurprisingly his bosses at Motown rejected it. He was told to put a big chorus after each verse, but after half-heartedly toying with the suggestion, Webb gave up. “I don’t believe in writing songs by committee,” he said.

“They didn’t like it for Peterson, they didn’t like it for anybody. They liked verses and choruses there. Verses and big choruses. And ‘By the Time I Get to Phoenix’ is three verses, very simple, a very direct storyline. The Motown guys said, ‘Where is the chorus?’ And I said, ‘There isn’t going to be a chorus,’ and we had a pretty lively discussion over that. They ended up cutting it with a couple of different people and not really being happy with it. And when I left the company they said, ‘You can take this one with you.'”

As a songwriter, Webb was an odd fish from the off, and while he had been inspired by mavericks such as Phil Spector and Burt Bacharach, there was something altogether more conflicted about the way in which he wrote his songs. On the one hand he had the ability to write and arrange grandiose orchestral pop, while on the other he harbored ambitions of writing great show tunes, the kind that could be performed nightly on Broadway; and on the other — hey, three hands! — he also had the ability to write highly personalized torch songs, many of which wouldn’t have sounded out of place on country radio. In a word, Webb was versatile, which is probably one of the reasons he never really clicked at Motown: he wasn’t generic enough. To the casual listener or the seasoned professional, it seemed unlikely — and therefore unusual — that the person who wrote “Up, Up and Away” was also responsible for “By the Time I Get to Phoenix.” Right from the start, Webb was a particularly singular talent, and not someone whom it was easy to either control or condition.

Webb says there was a lot of discussion about “Up, Up and Away” before it was given a chance. The naysayers at Johnny Rivers’ Soul City label said it was a Broadway tune and belonged in a musical, not on a radio station. There were too many strings, too much schmaltz. Well, “Up, Up and Away” reached no. 7 on the Billboard charts, went Top 5 all over the world, and won five Grammys. Suddenly Webb was seen as the salvation of the music industry, and in the space of a few months had gone from being an unknown jobbing songwriter to a highly rated talent. This was extraordinary not just because of how quickly Webb became famous — and if his fame might seem exaggerated from the distance of half a century, the only evidence you need is that on February 29, 1968, at the tenth annual Grammy Awards, eight of the awards were generated by two of his songs — but also because he wasn’t a performer. Webb was a songwriter, plain and simple, smack bang in the middle of a decade – and at the center of an industry — that at the time was increasingly celebrating performers who wrote their own material. He was not yet twenty-four, and life beyond the age of thirty was unimaginable.

Between them, almost accidentally, they had created an entirely novel kind of mature pop: countrypolitan.

Glen Campbell didn’t need to be sold on “Phoenix” either, as he had already heard Johnny Rivers’ version as he was driving to Gold Star Studios one day. Slapping the steering wheel with both hands, with typical confidence he said to himself, “‘I could cut that record and make a hit out of it.’ I was homesick at the time, and was going back to Phoenix a lot, tracing back my steps to home, so it really resonated.” Initially Webb wasn’t sure that Campbell was the right person to record it, although he was certainly more suitable than either Paul Peterson or Johnny Rivers. “There was some kind of a surreal fit between his voice and those songs,” said Webb. “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.”

“By the Time I Get to Phoenix” is where Campbell and his team first used sweeping strings to offset the confessional nature of Webb’s somewhat somber lyrics, adding some sweetness to the melodrama. Campbell worked on the song with Al De Lory, and between them they altered the arrangement and then layered it with the kind of lush, sophisticated, almost cinematic strings that wouldn’t normally have been used on a country song. Between them, almost accidentally, they had created an entirely novel kind of mature pop: countrypolitan.

And it worked. It was maudlin, wistful, and structured rather oddly, and yet “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” was a huge commercial hit for Campbell, reaching no. 2 on Billboard’s Hot Country singles chart. It recounts a road trip to Oklahoma, as the narrator imagines what his lover is up to back home when she finds the note he left telling her he’s leaving — for good this time. Frank Sinatra would call Jimmy Webb’s subtle, almost somnambulant song the best saloon song he’d ever heard, but it wasn’t written in a traditional linear way, as it didn’t appear to have a traditional chorus.

What he delivered was a cross-genre pop-country classic that had both melodic sophistication and lyrical piquancy: a wistful vocal offset by a beautiful melody, and of course a heavily orchestrated arrangement sweetening those bitter-sweet lyrics. “Jimmy Webb is just an exceptional writer,” said Campbell. “He pours his heart out, and the music comes from the heart, the chord progressions running to so many different [directions]. I used to do a lot of hillbilly music when I was a kid, you know you’d get, ‘Oh darlin’ I love you, do you love me no more?’ You know, I thought that was good, but then when I started getting into the Jimmy Webb end of everything I was just ‘wow.’ It really opened my eyes up.”

“One thing you must admit is that [Phoenix] has a beginning, a middle and an end,” said Webb. “It tells a story with a certain clarity and pathos. And that would be my description of a songwriter’s job. And we don’t have much time to do it! We don’t have as much time as Norman Mailer had to write Ancient Evenings. It used to be two and a half minutes, then three, then after The Righteous Brothers’ ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin” they said we could have a bit more. Then of course Richard [Harris] and I came along and busted that all to hell with ‘MacArthur Park.”‘

When Campbell was interviewed by The New York Times later in the year, he said, “A change has come over country music lately. They’re not shuckin’ it right off the cob anymore. Roger Miller opened a lot of people’s eyes to the possibilities of country music, and it’s making more impact now because it’s earthy material, stories, and things that happen to everyday people. I call it People Music.”

This didn’t pass unnoticed. Rolling Stone, which unsurprisingly spent most of its time embroiling itself in the world of alternative culture, immediately saw this for what it was: new. “It is becoming fashionable in the trade to eschew such terms as pop-country, town and country, and contemporary-country, presumably because no two people agree on what they mean,” wrote the magazine’s John Grissim Jr. in June 1969. “A year ago the use of hyphenated hybrids had more validity, if only to distinguish Hollywood’s country sound from that of Nashville, at least until Music City caught up. Now both cities have finally got it together: lyrics are a little more generalized — no ‘clouded blue haze’ but neither are there such lines as ‘I would send you roses but they cost too much so I’m sending daffodils.’ Arrangements are plush, make full use of strings, horn, and vocal backing and seldom rely solely on standard chord progressions. Percussion is pronounced but rhythmic patterns with a 4/4 or 3/4 structure are often more complex than those favored in Nashville. The result is a blend of pop and country which has brought down on Hollywood the wrath of country purists and simultaneously made a great deal of money for Jimmy Webb and Glen Campbell. Though primarily a pop writer, [Webb] has almost single-handedly created a kind of suburban country sound.” (One popular with an increasingly urban population.)

‘A change has come over country music lately. They’re not shuckin’ it right off the cob anymore.’

Webb himself wasn’t just gratified by Campbell’s fidelity to his song, he was impressed that he’d somehow managed to reinvent it.

“There are a million reasons why a song does or doesn’t become a hit,” said Webb. “I’ve given the matter a lot of thought and I think it’s almost supernatural. A hit record is almost a small miracle. There are so many elements. Does the singer sound like he should be singing the song? Is it the right song for him? What about the arrangement? Is it over-done? Is it not big enough? What about the players? Was the drummer too heavy-handed that day? Did he have a hangover? What day of the week was it? What was the temperature in the room? Was it too humid and did it affect the instruments so that it came out sounding flat? Did it have the magic to it that translates to sounding good in a car? What makes a record sound good in a car? It’s not going to be a hit if it doesn’t sound good in a car.”

According to the great lyricist Don Black (who, among hundreds of other songs, wrote the words to “Thunderball,” “Diamonds Are Forever,” and “On Days Like These”), as far as Webb’s “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” is concerned it’s all about the immediacy of the opening line: “You’re there, you get the picture so early on.” Even though its geography was suspect, “Phoenix,” with its carefully delivered slow-release drama, was like a little movie, a travelogue that sat outside every genre of music it was surrounded by. It wasn’t really country, it certainly wasn’t soul, and it wasn’t a real pop song, not having a proper chorus.

Which is just what Jimmy Webb wanted.

“The city I chose, Phoenix, is right on Route 66,” said Webb. “And it sounded right on the space – time continuum of the singer travelling on the highway, even though it’s a little distorted, going from one city to the next.”

When you listen to “Phoenix,” even though the protagonist has walked away from his lover, simply leaving a “Dear John” letter, you end up siding with him rather than her. And that’s as much to do with Campbell as with Webb, because on the record he almost sounds victimized. Campbell credited the fact that he and Webb had grown up within one hundred and fifty miles of each other as one of the reasons why they eventually got along: “That’s what we grew up with — the good songs, the good lyrics, the good big-band stuff. [Webb’s] melodies and chord progressions were as good as anything I’d ever heard.”

These were the ingredients that would help Campbell and Webb collaborate again, although not in the way anyone would expect, on the unfinished demo that became the classic “Wichita Lineman.”

***

A former editor at The Face, The Observer, and The Sunday Times, Dylan Jones is currently the Editor-In-Chief of British GQ. He has won the British Society of Magazine Editors “Editor of the Year” award a record eleven times, and in 2013 was the recipient of the Mark Boxer Award. Under his editorship the magazine has won over 50 awards. He is the author of The Sunday Times bestseller David Bowie: A Life, and The New York Times bestseller Jim Morrison: Dark Star. A trustee of the Hay Festival, in 2013 he was awarded an OBE for services to publishing.

Excerpted from Wichita Lineman: Searching in the Sun for the World’s Greatest Unfinished Song by Dylan Jones. Published with permission of Faber & Faber. Copyright © 2019 by Dylan Jones.

Longreads Editor: Aaron Gilbreath