Fifty-six years ago today (Dec. 24, 1964) was an unforgettable day for Glen Campbell: It was on that date that the country crooner made his debut appearance with the Beach Boys, filling in for an ailing Brian Wilson at the Sam Houston Coliseum in Houston, Texas.
Both Campbell and the Beach Boys were in the early days of their success when Campbell hit the road with the band. Campbell had released his third album, The Astounding 12-String Guitar of Glen Campbell, earlier that year, but he was still four years away from chart success (with “Gentle on My Mind,” which peaked at No. 2 in 1967); the Beach Boys, meanwhile, had just achieved their first No. 1 hit, “I Get Around.” As part of the Wrecking Crew, a revered group of studio musicians, the rising country star had played on several of the group’s sessions but had never performed live with them until Wilson unexpectedly canceled a series of dates due to a nervous breakdown.
“I felt I had no choice,” Wilson recalls. “I was run down mentally and emotionally because I was running around, jumping on jets from one city to another on one-night stands, also producing, writing, arranging, singing, planning, teaching — to the point where I had no peace of mind and no chance to actually sit down and think or even rest. I was so mixed up and so overworked.”
After realizing that Wilson was unable to perform, the band called on Campbell to take his place temporarily.
“I filled in for Brian for a few dates in Dallas and Houston,” Campbell recalls in the book The Beach Boys: The Definitive Diary of America’s Greatest Band on Stage and in the Studio. “Mike [Love] and Carl [Wilson] called me on a Wednesday and said, ‘Glen, can you be here tomorrow? You gotta play bass and do Brian’s part.’ I said, ‘Sure.’ I had been doing their sessions, so I could easily fill in.
“The only problem was, I didn’t know all the words to the songs. They’d be singing “Pasadena,” and I’d be singing something else,” Campbell adds. “I didn’t know what I was saying. But the screams were so loud from the girls, you’d walk onstage and you couldn’t hear a thing anyway.”
Campbell toured with the Beach Boys for four months. His last performance was at the Washington Coliseum in Washington, DC, on April 24, 1965. Bruce Johnston then took over, officially replacing Wilson as a member of the Beach Boys for their live shows.
IN PICTURES: Glen Campbell Through the Years