I recently wrote a review of the 1988 Christmas episode of The Wonder Years which includes a small clip from the 1969 Christmas episode of The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour. That really put me in the mood to watch the 1969 episode again--and so I thought I'd share my thoughts. I'm a big fan of those old fashioned Christmas TV variety specials and maybe you are too! You should get a big kick out of remembering this program. The '69 and '70 Christmas episodes from The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour were both released on DVD last year. Have you seen this one recently?
|"Gentle On My Mind" was one of Campbell's first big hits as a solo performer and was used as his TV show's theme tune.|
Taped in front of a live studio audience, Glen Campbell opens his TV variety series' first Christmas show singing his hit song “Gentle On My Mind.” After an introduction and announcement about his guests Andy Griffith, Cher, and Paul Lynde, Campbell sings “Gotta Travel On.”
|Do you remember what an adding machine is?|
Next, Andy Griffith and Glen Campbell perform a comedy sketch about calculating the costs of the gifts described in the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” As Griffith leads the singers through each chorus of the familiar song's lyrics, they estimate the lavish expense of buying a partridge, a pear tree, a pot for the tree, two turtle doves, a bird cage, three french hens, a coop, etc. It's heart-warming seeing Andy Griffith in this 1969 TV variety show. Remember the 1960 Christmas episode of The Andy Griffith Show?
|Cher performs the song made popular by the late Otis Redding.|
Cher takes the stage and sings a stripped down, simple version of “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay.” Together Campbell and Cher perform a soulful up-tempo version of “Jingle Bells.” This is followed by a comedy sketch with Andy Griffith and Paul Lynde. Griffith plays a bartender listening to Lynde as Santa Claus share his holiday woes.
|Set design on these 60s TV variety shows was always impressive.|
|Easing his pain with shots of milk, Santa stresses about his job.|
Next, Glen Campbell plays “Classical Gas” on the acoustic guitar. Visual interest is created behind him with dancers taking the stage as well. Campbell is on fire performing this popular but complex Mason Williams instrumental. If you only know Campbell as a chart topping vocalist, this performance will inform you that he started his career as a sessions guitar player--and was a prominent member of The Wrecking Crew. You've seen the 2008 documentary film on The Wrecking Crew, right? (Yes--he previously worked with Cher as a member of the Wrecking Crew).
|Campbell's fingers are flying on "Classical Gas."|
Another sketch follows--this one is a filmed short with stop motion animation about a heroic cowboy named Blaze Glory--a tribute to kiddie western serials. Blaze Glory defends a stagecoach from an outlaw named Black Bart. Does that name sound familiar? Black Bart was an actual nineteenth-century outlaw and his name has since become synonymous with villains in western tales. It was used as the bad guy's name in the 1983 movie A Christmas Story in the scene in which Ralphie fantasizes about using a Red Ryder gun to defend his family from robbers.
|"Here Comes Santa Claus."|
Glen Campbell sits with his band and performs the chart toppers “Witchita Lineman” and “Galveston.” Both of those songs, written by Jimmy Webb, were gold-selling hits for Campbell the previous year. It's fantastic to hear Glen perform his biggest hits alongside Christmas favorites. Next, Campbell is joined by a member of his band playing a five string banjo for a bluegrass-inspired version of “Here Comes Santa Claus.” This is followed by another comedy sketch. Griffith, Lynde, and Campbell humorously attempt to assemble a child's toy manufactured in Japan.
|A sketch that pokes fun at everyone's frustrations during Christmas having to assemble complex toys.|
|The live audience actually coos when the baby begins to drift off to sleep during Glen's song.|
Campbell sings the gentle holiday song “Little Toy Trains” while holding his baby son Kane. Then, Campbell joins the guests, singers, and dancers on a Christmas-decorated, living room set to sing a medley of holiday favorites.
|The living room set is festively decorated and everyone is wearing red and green during the medley sing along.|
Accompanied by a toy piano, Griffith takes the lead in “Christmas Chopsticks (Twas the Night Before Christmas).” Campbell solos on “Do You Hear What I Hear?” and the whole group sings “Joy to the World.” Cher sings the lead during “Silent Night”--the song and video clip that is found in the 1988 episode of The Wonder Years. Everyone together sings “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “Deck the Halls.”
Next, Campbell is joined onstage by his wife Billie, daughter Kelli, and son Travis while he sings “There’s No Place Like Home.” When young Travis experiences a coughing fit, the show continues its live performance! I love Billie's 1960s hairstyle--singer Amy Winehouse would find inspiration in that same style some forty years later. Finally, Glen Campbell closes the show singing “Try a Little Kindness.”
|Campbell features his family in the Christmas shows.|
Have you seen the other Christmas TV variety shows I've written about on this website before? I wrote about 1967's Christmas with the King Family, the 1963 Christmas episode of the Judy Garland Show, the 1957 Christmas episode of the Frank Sinatra Show, an essay with highlights from several Andy Williams Christmas TV specials, and more. Of course, there is much more written in the encyclopedia Tis the Season TV about TV variety specials. Do you have a favorite Christmas TV variety special?
|Campbell's "Try A Little Kindness" is a wonderful reminder during the holiday season.|