Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Redlands Bowl preview: Jeff Dayton’s 'Salute to Glen Campbell'

photo: Karen Will Rogers
Tribute bands are always performing somewhere, but they rarely have a direct association with the original act.

That’s what makes this Salute to Glen Campbell show a must-see for fans of the legendary Arkansas entertainer who died in 2017 after a long public fight with Alzheimer’s.

The unique concert, coming to the Redlands Bowl on July 9, includes ample hits and anecdotes.

“It’s got credibility. We’re not John Denver last week and Rod Stewart next week like some tribute bands. We have a connection to Glen and his music,” said Jeff Dayton, who spent 15 years (and did nearly 4,000 gigs) with Campbell as guitarist/bandleader.

Dayton often brings along other past Campbell musicians, so there’s “more than one version of the story,” he said. A couple of them will be joining the group onstage in Redlands. “People say they love to hear the songs again and [especially] the stories. We talk about The Wrecking Crew, the TV show, what it was like on the road, time spent on the golf course and the kind of guy he was.”

A Minneapolis native, Dayton studied jazz music at the University of Minnesota (where he backed up Dizzy Gillespie) and briefly played in a band alongside Prince and the Revolution drummer Bobby Z. Dayton earned a music degree at Arizona State University, segued into folk/country music and had a song placement on George Strait’s platinum album, “Does Ft. Worth Ever Cross Your Mind.”

While living and touring around the Grand Canyon State with the Jeff Dayton Band during the late 1980s, he landed an opening slot for Alabama and Merle Haggard in Phoenix. Campbell attended, liked what he saw, jammed with JDB at a private golf event and invited them on tour.

During Dayton’s tenure with Campbell, they performed at local venues including the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, National Orange Show, Dinah Shore Golf Tournament, Marriott Desert Springs, Orange County Fair with Mark & Brian from KLOS-FM, Crazy Horse Saloons and the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts. Dayton can be heard playing on 1990s efforts “Live! His Greatest Hits” and “Christmas with Glen Campbell.”

The genesis for the special live tribute concert came to Dayton around late 2015.

“I’d had several requests to sing a night of Glen’s music,” he said. “I talked to his management. They were all for it and said, ‘If anybody’s going to go out and do his hits, you’re really the guy to do it.’ It’s really been a wonderful, growing thing. People really love Glen’s music and everywhere I go, they have a lot of obvious joy, great memories and questions.”

In addition to well-known tunes, which Dayton called “the big mountains,” he also does a solo midsection “where I talk about his work in the studio” and all the songs he played on that people might not realize. “Glen put out over 60 albums. I used to kid him and say, ‘We could do a whole show of your hits and do another show and not repeat one song of your B hits.’ He’d reply, ‘What do you mean? They’re all A hits!’”

Those in attendance in Redlands can also expect to hear Dayton’s touching original Campbell-inspired composition “Long Slow Train Out of Town,” at the Redlands show.

“That song really hits a nerve in people,” he said. “I’ve had grown men who I don’t even know walk up to me after a show and just sob on my shoulder because it affected them so deeply. I’m really grateful for that connection with people and that they respond. Every songwriter wants somebody to find something [relatable] in their material. This one seems to be doing that all across the board.”

Besides the Campbell connection, Dayton’s career has included touring stints during the 2000s with Kenny Chesney and Lee Greenwood, writing for Doug Stone and Montgomery Gentry and, more recently, as an extra on the TV series “Nashville” and actor on “Hawaii Five-O.” He also developed the interactive songwriting experience Making Music Nashville Style, produces up-and-coming musicians, performs and records with his own band and regularly does benefits for Alzheimer’s and dementia organizations.

On a related note, longtime Campbell enthusiasts have had some worthy new archival releases to choose from over the past year. “Sings for the King” is a collection of rarely heard Campbell-sung tunes (“Spinout,” “Easy Come, Easy Go,” “Clambake,” “Stay Away Joe”) from 1964-68 that were originally made as demo recordings for Elvis Presley to record. It includes a new studio-constructed duet of both artists on the gospel song “We Call on Him.”

Capitol Records just put out “Glen Campbell – The Legacy (1961-2017),” an impressive four-disc, 78-song box set that touches upon nearly every one of the singer/guitarist’s albums. The physical edition sports an embossed cover, 60-page booklet chock full or rare photos, complete session credits and an informative essay by veteran San Francisco music journalist Joel Selvin.

The collection provides a complete picture of the artist beyond the best-known hits. Most notable: several duets with Anne Murray, Bobbie Gentry and Rita Coolidge; the Brian Wilson-penned and produced “Guess I’m Dumb”; “Good Time Hour” variety show renditions of “MacArthur Park” and Conway Twitty’s “It’s Only Make Believe.”; the final career recordings of tunes by Green Day, Foo Fighters and Paul Westerberg of The Replacements.

Jeff Dayton’s “A Salute to Glen Campbell” 
Where: Redlands Bowl, 25 Grant St., Redlands 
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday, July 9 
Admission: free

A version of the article originally appeared in the summer issue of Redlands Magazine, the Redlands Daily Facts and Riverside Press Enterprise.

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