Jeremy Roberts
Jun 15 · 9 min read
Deemed “the greatest banjo player in the world” by Glen Campbell, veteran Nashville producer Carl Jackson exclusively tells one of his biggest regrets and a naughty onstage incident between Elvis Presley and an oblivious female admirer incapable of containing herself. Meanwhile, back at the ranch…conjuring some sneaky accentuated rhythm licks on his most extensively played guitar, a 1956 J-200 Gibson acoustic, a lithe 34-year-old Presley returns to his roots on July 31, 1969. Shutterbugs were omnipresent for the opening night of his debut residency at the Las Vegas International Hotel after a wrongheaded eight-year absence from live performances to pursue Tinseltown. The Tiger Man is dressed in the black Herringbone jumpsuit only worn during this summer engagement. Image Credit: Elvis Presley Enterprises / appears in the book “Elvis: Vegas ‘69” by Ken Sharp

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.

Banjo-wielding new kid on the block Carl Jackson and “Manhattan Kansas” singer Glen Campbell, clutching an Ovation 1624 acoustic guitar with a Baldwin Prismatone pickup and his initials at the 12th fret, jam during a six-date Australian tour between September 26 and October 9, 1972, sponsored by Crawford Theatre Productions. The six-string compadres would return to the land down under two years later. Bill C. Graham can be seen anchoring the rhythm section on electric bass in the background. As Jackson fondly remembered on his official Facebook, “This was the start of 12 years on the road together and a never-ending friendship. Glen’s guitar playing never ceased to amaze me and as far as I’m concerned, there has never been a better singer…period. I owe him so much more than I have words to express.” Wayne over at the Glen Campbell Forums graciously identified the correct guitar model. Image Credit: The Carl Jackson Collection

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.

My boy, my naughty boy: Dressed in the White Pinwheel jumpsuit with the original Lion Head belt, Elvis Presley sang in front of over 10,000 fans at the Roanoke Civic Center in Roanoke, Virginia, on April 11, 1972. Footage of Roanoke Mayor Roy Webber greeting the showstopping “American Trilogy” balladeer can be seen in the Golden Globe-winning documentary “Elvis on Tour.” Official concert photographer Ed Bonja was on hand to capture this blink and you’ll miss it moment of Presley jocularly giving the finger towards members of J.D. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet and the Sweet Inspirations. According to For Elvis CD Collectors Forum member Philobeddo, Presley “is near the end of a song when he raises his arm up, flips the bird quickly, and moves his arm in the other direction to stop the music.” Image Credit: Photography by Ed Bonja

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.

Pianist Glen D. Hardin, steel guitarist-dobroist Al Perkins, drummer Ronnie Tutt, singer-songwriter Mike Alan Ward, bassist Jerry Scheff, guitarist-banjoist-mandolinist-violinist Carl Jackson, and Telecaster maestro James Burton join together at the finale of the “Barefootin’” song session intended for “The Gram Parsons Notebook — The Last Whippoorwill” tribute album [2000]. Ward’s solo album nearly 20 years later — “Whiskey, Trains, and Lonesome” — exhumed two other songs cut on the same occasion — “Forever Will Never Say Goodbye” and “Soldier of the Road.” Burton, Hardin, Tutt, and Perkins all contributed to Parsons’ two acclaimed solo albums — “GP” and “Grievous Angel” — cut in the early 1970s before his tragically short career was silenced by an alcohol and morphine overdose at age 26. Image Credit: The Carl Jackson Collection

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 [2000] 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 [2019].

Acoustic guitarist Carl Jackson kneels down to strum a little while as Master of Telecaster James Burton chicken picks in this black and white candid from sessions with Elvis’s TCB Band for “The Gram Parsons Notebook — The Last Whippoorwill” tribute album [2000]. Image Credit: The Carl Jackson Collection
Elvis Presley and Glen Campbell attend the first wedding of Memphis Mafia member George Klein to Barbara Little on December 5, 1970. Enthused with law enforcement and a shoe-in for a future “Superfly” cameo, Presley is seen brandishing an elongated black police flashlight, black glove, aviator sunglasses, black velvet fur overcoat, and flashy gold belt recognizing his record-shattering August 1969 season at the Las Vegas International Hotel. The “Kentucky Rain” balladeer graciously loaned his rock ’n’ roll deejay pal since the eighth grade the use of his International suite for the marriage. Image Credit: Photography by Frank Carroll / For Elvis CD Collectors Forum
Consisting of 18 demos cut between 1964 and 1967 by struggling Capitol solo artist-Wrecking Crew guitarist Glen Campbell under the guidance of songwriter Ben Weisman, the LP cover of “Glen Sings for the King,” dropped with minimal fanfare on November 16, 2018 [it did not chart in the USA but reached No. 84 in the UK]. Accidentally discovered 50 years later by Weisman’s nephew-in-law Stephen Auerbach, the songs were cut with the intention of being considered by Elvis Presley for his movie soundtracks. The charismatic “Surrender” singer ultimately finished 12 of these masters including “How Can You Lose What You Never Had” and “I’ll Never Know.” Campbell is strumming a Martin D-18 acoustic guitar used frequently on sessions which remained in his personal collection until his passing. Image Credit: Capitol Photo Archives / Universal Music Enterprises

© Jeremy Roberts, 2019. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed in full without express prior permission of the author. Do not copy or paste the article text — instead share the URL or headlines with links. Thanks!

Jeremy Roberts

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Retro pop culture interviews & lovin’ something fierce sustain this University of Georgia Master of Agricultural Leadership alum. Email: jeremylr@windstream.net

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