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Wichita Lineman

Soul Music, Series 12 Episode 2 of 5

Duration:
30 minutes
First broadcast:
Tuesday 23 August 2011

Wichita Lineman, the ultimate country/pop crossover track, is the subject of this week's Soul Music.

David Crary is a lineman from Oklahoma. He describes his job - storm-chasing to mend fallen power-lines; travelling on 'dirt roads, gravel roads, paved roads... up in the farmlands of Illinois and Missouri... down south in the Swamplands... it ain't nothing to swerve in the middle of the road in your bucket-truck to miss an alligator '.

He recalls the first time he heard Wichita Lineman, travelling in the back of his family's Station Wagon, listening to the radio... thinking that being a lineman 'must be a cool job' if someone's written a song about it. Also a part-time musician, David has recorded his own version of the song which sums up his working life... on the road, working long hours, away from his wife and six kids.

Wichita Lineman was written by Jimmy Webb for the Country star Glen Campbell. It tells the story of a lonely lineman in the American midwest, travelling vast distances to mend power and telephone lines.

Released in 1968 it's an enduring classic, crossing the boundary between pop and country. It's been covered many times, but it's Glen Campbell's version which remains the best loved and most played.

Johnny Cash also recorded an extraordinary and very raw version. Peter Lewry, a lifelong Cash fan, describes how this recording came about, towards the end of Cash's career.

Meggean Ward's father was a lineman in Rhode Island... her memories of seeing him in green work trousers, a plaid shirt and black boots, wrapping his cracked hands in bandages every morning before setting off to climb telephone poles are interwoven forever with Wichita Lineman... as a child she always felt the song was written for her father, who else?

Glen Campbell also gave an interview for this programme. Shortly after the interview was recorded, Campbell went public about his diagnosis of Alzheimer's. His contribution to the programme is brief, and includes an acoustic performance of the song. It was a real privilege to record this, appropriately enough, down the line.

Producer: Karen Gregor.

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    Soul Music

    The stories behind pieces of music with a powerful emotional impact.

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