Uncensored Elvis and blown chances with Glen Campbell’s MVP Carl Jackson
Twelve years in the saddle as Glen Campbell’s banjoist, rhythm acoustic guitarist, dobroist, and violinist, Carl Jackson was a shaggy-haired, multi-faceted Mississippian on the cusp of his 19th birthday in September 1972 when Campbell hired him for a debut trek down under. Talk about plunging into the flames head first — Jackson’s prior claim to fame had been a five-year stint in innovative bluegrass duo Jim & Jesse’s touring outfit — and now he was performing with an artist who commanded 20 million viewers on CBS’s recently cancelled Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour variety series.
Roughly a year after Campbell succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease as unflinchingly chronicled in the I’ll Be Me documentary, a serendipitous reading of a Billboard recap about the 2018 Capitol Congress, Capitol Records’ annual gathering for its staff and other music biz insiders built around special guest Paul McCartney, turned up a cliffhanger fragment. A “‘lost’ Glen Campbell album featuring a duet with Elvis Presley” was on the label’s impending release schedule.
Coincidentally prepping an interview with Bobbie Gentry: The Girl from Chickasaw County compiler Andrew Batt — charisma-oozing siren Gentry collaborated on vinyl with Campbell in the wake of the multiple Grammy-winning “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” — the Capitol-Universal freelancer obligingly put the wheels in motion for a nearly two-hour phone conversation with the producer of the buoyant Glen Sings for the King. Jackson was guilty as charged for sequencing the Wrecking Crew-backed archival set consisting of 17 Presley soundtrack demos composed by Ben Weisman plus one reimagined duet of the Tupelo Mississippi Flash’s deep gospel cut “We Call on Him.” Campbell was obviously pals with Presley, also contributing guitar to a frenetic, albeit slightly watered down R&B rendering of Ray Charles’s “What’d I Say” for Viva Las Vegas and on hand for the Vegas wedding of Presley’s eighth grade classmate, Memphis disc jockey George Klein.
Jackson, an unvarnished Southern Gentleman in the truest sense, attended two “phenomenal spectacle” shows by the King of Rock ’n’ Roll at the Las Vegas Hilton and Del Webb’s Sahara Tahoe. On another occasion Presley desired to come backstage after a Campbell gig, but his security team requested that the area be cleared. Get cozy as Jackson divulges one of his biggest regrets and a naughty incident between Presley and an oblivious female admirer incapable of containing herself.
The Carl Jackson Interview, Part One
Once you joined the Rhinestone Cowboy’s band, did you ever encounter Elvis?
This is a great story, man. When you’re younger, you take a lot of things for granted. We were in Las Vegas near the beginning of my 12-year tenure with Glen. We usually followed Elvis at the Hilton. Elvis had stayed over a night or two past his residency and came to our show. After the gig one night there was a call from some of Elvis’s security who said, “Elvis would like to visit with Glen. Can you clear the backstage area?”
Glen answered, “Look, Elvis and I are good friends. Of course he is more than welcome to come see me, but my guys go wherever they want to.” Glen was not going to put us out or keep us from coming in the dressing room. Glen was one of the guys — he never separated himself from the band — and didn’t hesitate to stand up for us. I’m sure Elvis would have done the same thing, but the edict was from his people [Author’s Note: Following the interview’s publication, Campbell’s drummer Bob Felt commented on Facebook, “I remember that night as if it were last year. Elvis’s bodyguard told Glen that Elvis might not come if the backstage area wasn’t cleared. Glen just said, ‘That’s too bad. It would have been nice to see him.’ I was so proud of Glen”].
Elvis came down and silly Carl here — I could have easily walked in the dressing room, shook the man’s hand, sat down, talked with him for awhile, had a picture made — and it never even crossed my mind. It’s so frustrating that I blew my chance. I’ve regretted it ever since. Not long after, Elvis would be gone [August 16, 1977]. I did get to see him twice onstage — once in Las Vegas and once in Lake Tahoe — and I cherish those memories.
Perhaps anxiety was a factor.
I didn’t feel scared at all because Glen made all of us feel so included. We could walk in his dressing room without knocking or go in hotels as we pleased. My wife at the time didn’t say, “Hey, I’d like to go in and meet Elvis.” We may have been tired or hungry after doing our show. There was no conscious effort not to go in there.
I’ve met so many people I admire — John Wayne, Ginger Rogers — everybody you can think of would come and see us. I imagine I took it for granted that there would be plenty of opportunities and that Elvis would be around forever.
Any memories about seeing Elvis in Vegas or Tahoe?
I first saw skinny Elvis in Tahoe and then heavy Elvis in Vegas. At the former venue we sat in the first or second row at stage level. Elvis got to the point in the show where he intended to do a nice, slow ballad, possibly “Love Me Tender.”
They brought the spotlight down to illuminate only Elvis’s face and the microphone near his lips. Women of all ages were going crazy. There was one lady sitting close to me who kept screaming, hollering, and carrying on. She wasn’t being mean — she was just beside herself.
You’ve got to picture this — Elvis was literally standing in front of me singing “Love Me Tender” while his left hand was pointing down toward the woman giving her the bird! In a subtle way he was like, ‘Lady, please. Shut up so I can sing my song!’ She never did become quiet. His left hand was basically at my eye level, but the vast majority of the audience had no idea what Elvis was doing because it was so dark. I wish it had been the days of iPhones, and then I’d have concrete proof for you. I’ll never forget what he did [laughs].
The whole Elvis live experience was a phenomenal spectacle. When “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” the theme song to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey started, holy cow! Acoustic guitarist Charlie Hodge would hand scarves to Elvis to pass out to lucky fans.
Elvis was a special guy who brought something to the stage that nobody else did. People rave about how good-looking Elvis was and how much charisma he had, but his voice doesn’t receive as much acknowledgement. I know Glen thought the world of Elvis and always gave him credit for being a fantastic singer. Still, Glen was the greatest singer I ever heard in my life. That guy was like a machine, just immaculate pitch.
As a musician, were you keeping track of Elvis’s TCB Band?
I was watching the guys, too. Being a guitar picker myself, I have always been a huge fan of James Burton. We have known and respected each other for many, many years, but our body of work together is very small.
I produced “Barefootin’” with James, Ronnie Tutt [drums], Glen D. Hardin [piano], and Jerry Scheff [bass] as part of a Gram Parsons tribute album quite a few years back  called The Gram Parsons Notebook — The Last Whippoorwill. I played acoustic on the session, steel guitarist-dobroist Al Perkins was there, and Mike Alan Ward sang lead [he wrote “Whiskey Tears” for Dierks Bentley]. I have several pictures from that day.
Notebook is a great album where myself, Mike, Jim Lauderdale, and others finished songs that Gram had started and left behind in a notebook that fellow International Submarine Band member John Nuese was given upon Gram’s death. “Soldier of the Road” and “Forever Will Never Say Goodbye,” two more songs that we did with the TCB Band at that same session, were eventually unearthed on Mike’s Whiskey, Trains, and Lonesome .
Setting the record straight on Elvis Presley and Glen Campbell’s recording summit
In an alternate world, had Glen Campbell not connected so forcefully with the record buying public with the back to…
The complete songwriting list of ‘Wichita Lineman’ Glen Campbell
Glen Campbell’s virtuoso skills as a Wrecking Crew guitarist and vocal stylist are assured, but did you know he also…
Glen Campbell’s daughter to bring good times to the Alapaha Station Celebration
Statuesque chanteuse Ashley Campbell, part of the Rhinestone Cowboy’s acclaimed Goodbye Tour, is playing her first…
Six-string brothers: Louisiana guitar slinger James Burton champions the timeless allure of Rick…
“Run over me, Ricky! Please, please, I love you, I love you!” During the height of Rick Nelson hysteria in the late…
The deep heritage of Jacksonville’s Florida Theatre…and that time Elvis Presley could only move…
Get the dish on why police filmed Elvis Presley’s August 1956 concerts in Jacksonville, Florida, and a judge threatened…
More thunder on the piano — Ronnie Milsap relives Memphis days with Elvis Presley
Ronnie Milsap auspiciously bridged the gap between country and pop in the early ’80s, and his influence still permeates…
What Johnny Carson really said about Elvis Presley on ‘The Tonight Show’
A less publicized facet of Elvis Presley’s fascinating character is that he admired comedy with an intense passion…
Bass maestro Ray Walker evokes sizzling Nashville nights with Elvis and Jerry Reed
The only original Jordanaire still standing, genial bass extraordinaire Ray Walker has experienced an astronomical…
When Robert Mitchum considered Elvis Presley for ‘Thunder Road’
Robert Mitchum’s son Chris vividly illuminates the family Christmas party where Elvis jammed on piano and considered…
On the brink of becoming an artistic phenomenon: The incendiary deejay who broke Elvis Presley…
On July 5, 1954, Elvis Presley, chock full of nerves and not exactly sure of what would transpire, ventured inside Sun…
Dickey Lee, Mike Stoller, and Mark James wow during Elvis Songwriters Showcase
During the annual Elvis Week festivities in Memphis, Tennessee, Graceland hosts a smorgasbord of opportunities for fans…
Talkin’ about Elvis, Merle Haggard, imaginary girls, and ‘Like the Rain’
Neo-traditionalist country artist Clint Black’s songwriting partner and lead guitarist Hayden Nicholas talks about…
Elvis confidant Donnie Sumner salutes Voice compadre Sherrill Nielsen
Excruciating hair plugs, capped teeth, Elvis Presley sessions gone awry, and more dominate an interview with gospel…
When Led Zeppelin and Elvis Presley collided on Letterman’s ‘Late Show’
Robert Plant has reinvented himself as an authentic roots rock singer, having released two soon-to-be-classic solo…
Gauging Elvis Presley’s Shakespearean destiny from an outsider’s perspective
Definitive Steve McQueen biographer Marshall Terrill has also chronicled Elvis Presley insiders Sonny West, Barbara…
Elvis Presley, charismatic icon
The King is poised for a decade of fame and fortune at Memphis’s Rainbow Skating Rink after bidding adieu to the 3rd…
That kid is destined for pictures — The fantastic voyage of John Scheinfeld
No stranger to retro pop culture, filmmaker John Scheinfeld has written, produced, or directed — sometimes all three — …
A primer '60s soul playlist for Chips Moman and the Memphis Boys
Seven years of research, writing, and editing generated Roben Jones's 409-page paperback debut, Memphis Boys: The Story…
Memphis Mafioso Richard Davis was struck by love at Elvis Week
Part of Elvis Presley’s tight-knit group starting with It Happened at the World’s Fair in 1962, Davis’ widow Kim Ward…
‘Wearin’ That Loved on Look’ — Terry Mike Jeffrey salutes Chips Moman and the Memphis Boys
Elvis Presley-inspired singer Terry Mike Jeffrey divulges his deep-rooted admiration for hit-making team Chips Moman…
Jerry Carrigan’s drum discography with Elvis Presley
Compiled for the first time is the ultimate Jerry Carrigan discography reinforcing RCA Victor’s artist of the century…
Caught in a ‘Bewitched’ trap with Dick York
The Bewitched star delivered unconditional love for supernatural housewife Elizabeth Montgomery, rubber-faced comedic…
Country wisdom from Alapaha dads Carl Dixon and Paul Luke
The legacy of two rural farmers continues to impact South Georgia folks, illustrated by a humorous, at times miraculous…
© Jeremy Roberts, 2019. All rights reserved. To touch base, email firstname.lastname@example.org and mention which story led you my way. I appreciate it sincerely.