Gary James' Interview With Glen Campbell's Daughter
She is the eldest of eight children and the daughter of Glen Campbell. From an early age she spent many summers with her father on tour and in the television studio with his Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour television show. In 1987 she became part of her father's show on tour as a featured singer along with her full-time job as a flight attendant. She toured and traveled with the Glen Campbell Show for twenty-four years, which included stops in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, Bermuda and so many other countries. In the early 1990s she performed her own show at the Roy Clark Theatre in Branson, Missouri, while continuing on as a featured singer at the Grand Palace with her father and then on to her father's theatre, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Theatre, and ending with a residency at the Andy Williams Moon River Theatre. She's performed at the Grand Ole Opry and opened for Charlie Daniels, Jerry Reed, Eddie Rabbit and Collin Raye. She is also the author of the book, Life With My Father Glen Campbell. And now she's recorded a tribute album/CD to her father titled "The Way We Were". Debby Campbell spoke to us about her life and the recording of this very special CD.
Q - Debby, how did you choose the songs you recorded for this CD?
A - Well, it's all in the little CD jacket. I wrote with each song why I chose those songs.
Q - One song I don't see in the lineup is "Gentle On My Mind". Why is that?
A - You know, I'm not about touching Dad's big hits. I'm not going to try and sing songs that I think I can't pull off, just because I went to sing it. It's more about the songs that I really fell in love with that Dad did, like "I Will Never Pass This Way Again". That was Dad's favorite song. That was my favorite song that he ever did.
Q - I thought maybe you had the idea of putting out Volume Two.
A - Possibly. Maybe. It could happen. I am doing a show June 7th (2018) in Nashville. It's called Second Generation Show. Vince Gill's daughter is part of it. George Jones and Tammy Wynette's daughter is a part of it. Hank Williams is a part of it. Ferlin Husky's kids. There is like ten or twelve different kids of famous parents that are a part of it. You have to do only your parent's songs. You can't do anything off kilter of them. And so I'm going to do "Try A Little Kindness", which I never thought I would end up singing. So, who knows? Maybe that will be on Volume Two.
Q - When did you realize growing up that your father was famous?
A - Well, I always knew that he was famous, but it didn't strike me as something you dwell upon. I knew other people made comments, but I was too busy being a kid. I was just trying to have a relationship with my Dad. You didn't really think about that stuff, Gary. I think it wasn't until I was 17 or 18 that it really hit me and I could really understand it and what it was really all about. I didn't live with Dad. If I had lived with him it might've been different, but I didn't. I lived with my Mom.
Q - Did you attend private schools?
A - I did not. I lived with my Mom and my step-father was military. I lived on air force bases, public schools, the whole public, normal childhood.
Q - Did anyone ever ask, "Are you related to Glen Campbell?" You must've gotten that.
A - Oh yeah, but I didn't really think too much about it, not anything I can think of off hand.
Q - Initially, you didn't enter the music business. You became a flight attendant.
A - I know. Isn't that crazy?
Q - What did you like about being a flight attendant?
A - (laughs) Ironically, I was a school bus driver. (laughs) My ex-husband was in the Air Force and we lived in Italy. So, over there, there weren't a lot of job opportunities for me. The base we were on was Aviano. There wasn't base housing. So, everybody that was stationed there lived out in the communities. So you had to have buses to go get them and bring them to school and so I became a bus driver, a school bus driver. When we moved back to the States in '83 we were there from 1979 to 1983, we moved back to Colorado and I became a school bus driver there. It was a perfect job for a mom that's raising kids. You have almost the whole day off. You work in the morning and you work in the afternoon, then you're off the rest of the time. So, it was the perfect job for me as a parent. Then when my ex-husband got out of the military we lived in Phoenix because my Mom and step-dad were still in Germany and I wanted my kids to be around their grand parents, so we moved to Phoenix 'cause that's where Dad was living. My ex-husband and I went through a divorce in Phoenix. I really didn't have great benefits as a bus driver. So, I went and applied as a flight attendant so that I could get medical benefits for my kids. And that's where I'm at thirty-one years later. (laughs)
Q - In 1987 you joined your father's show as a featured singer.
A - That's right.
Q - At the same time you were working as a flight attendant. How did you balance those two schedules?
A - Well, when I first started in 1987 at America West Airline we were cross utilized. We did a little bit of everything. You could fly one day. You could work at the gates one day. You could sell tickets one day. It was kind of like cross utilization. So, that worked out okay and Dad was just coming back from kind of semi-retirement at that time when I started with him, so he really wasn't touring a lot. Ironically I started with America West in 1987 and that's the first time I ever sang with Dad onstage. Probably a year after that Dad started traveling a lot and that's why I wanted to go on the road with him and I just did my work schedule around him, Gary. I don't know how I did it, but I did it.
Q - You toured all over the world.
A - Absolutely. Eventually the cross utilization didn't work for the company because of lot of the senior people only wanted to fly. They didn't want to get stuck in a ground position where they didn't know what they were doing. They'd have to be re-trained and that didn't sit well with the company, so they decided, "Okay, you either have to be on the ground or you have to only fly." I chose to fly because you made more money as a flight attendant being on the road. That afforded me to be able to travel with Dad because if I had one week vacation I could be off for a whole month. So, if I had five weeks of vacation I had five months of vacation. You didn't have to fly at all that month. Dad knew when his big tours were coming up like Australia, England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales. He would know the dates in advance, so I could bid my vacations for that period. That's how it worked.
Q - What was the reaction to your father's music in places like Australia, Tasmania?
A - Amazing. Oh, my gosh.
Q - Did they know all the songs?
A - They did. I still get messages constantly from those countries, especially Australia. That's where Keith Urban came from. They're just really music starved I think and they just love that kind of music.
Q - In the mid-1990s you put your own show together in Branson. Are you still in Branson?
A - I'm not. I lived there for five years because Dad had his theatre there, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Theatre. So, we would work for three or four weeks, basically three weeks out a month. So, if I went there and did three weeks of shows with Dad and then I came back to Arizona to my forty hours with my airline job, I would have never seen my family. So, we decided to move to Branson. That way the kids would come to the theatre. The bus would drop them off at the theatre after school. We'd have dinner together. They'd go home. They'd go to bed and that worked out really well for us. So, I commuted to Arizona for five years from Branson to do my airline job.
Q - Besides talking to me and doing that June 7th, 2018 show in Nashville, have you been doing any other shows to promote this CD, "The Way We Were"?
A - I just came back from Dublin, Ireland last week. I was asked to come over and do a show for a Dementia/Alzheimers event which I'm participating in any and all that want me to do that for free because it's very close to my heart. I'm doing a show June 4th, (2018) in Arkansas. It's the Arkansas Hall Of Fame Country Music Awards First Annual and they're honoring Dad as well as Johnny Cash and some other artists, so I'm going to be there on hand for that performance and then June 7th (2018), like I said, we're doing the Second Generation show in Nashville with a few of those different artists. Then my manager has a few contacts for cruise lines going on, so I guess I'm going to be out there at least a couple of times a month or every other month, doing a little sing song and I'm excited. I miss singing. I miss performing. It's a lot of fun, so I'm going to get back on the road.
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