In 1987, Jeff Dayton was leading one of Phoenix’s hottest bands when the group played on the same bill with country legend Merle Haggard.
Country-pop superstar Glen Campbell was in the crowd and heard the Dayton combo. Within a few days, Campbell hired the Dayton combo for a gig that would last 15 years.
“We really hit it off,” Dayton said. “He came up through the ranks from the clubs and the honky tonks. He knew what it was a like to do what we were doing. He respected us. He treated us super well.”
In Campbell’s later years, his bout with Alzheimer’s disease was well-publicized before he died last August.
Dayton and his band are keeping the legacy of the singer, guitarist and songwriter alive with their show, “Salute to Glen Campbell,” which will showcase Sunday, April 15, from 5-8 p.m. at Morgan Run Club & Resort in Rancho Santa Fe.
The event is sponsored by the San Diego and Imperial County Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association and will raise money for the organization’s activities.
Information on the event is available at act.alz.org/glencampbelltribute. The Alzheimer’s Association can be reached at alz.org. The organization’s hotline for dementia-related questions and issues is 800-272-3900.
Assistant Director of Communications Kristen Cusato said the association was contacted by Morgan Hill members Tami McClenny and Elizabeth Li, who had seen Dayton’s show and were interested in bringing it to Morgan Run.
“We are excited to be able to spread awareness about what we do here in the community,” Cusato said. “We are very pleased to be able to have someone who knew Glen Campbell to share the stories and talk about his amazing career, but also to talk about when he started to develop dementia. I think a lot of people in the room will identify with what Jeff and the bandmates have to say about their experiences.”
Alzheimer’s, she said, is the sixth leading cause of death in the country and the third leading cause in San Diego County.
“This night listening to Glen Campbell songs and stories could really be a nice respite for caregivers here in San Diego,” Cusato said. “It’s very important for caregivers to take care of themselves because what they are going through is stressful.”
Dayton said the show will feature songs associated with Campbell as well as anecdotes of his and the band members’ experiences with the legend.
“People love the stories as much as they like the songs,” Dayton said. “These are real stories from guys who knew Glen, and the cool thing about it is this is the way the band sounded live with Glen.”
After years touring on the road, Campbell became a fixture on the Los Angeles music scene as part of a collection of studio musicians known as the Wrecking Crew, who appeared, often anonymously, on many recordings by marquee acts.
Campbell was thrust into stardom with a series of hits such as “Wichita LIneman,” “Galveston” and “Rhinestone Cowboy,” and numerous television appearances, including his own show.
Dayton, a Minnesota native who now lives in Nashville, is a versatile veteran who has played with luminaries such as Vince Gill, Mac Davis, Willie Nelson, Toby Keith, Tracy Byrd and even jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie.
Yet to work with Campbell was the opportunity of a lifetime.
“He was such a divine human being,” Dayton said. “He didn’t have any act or flakiness onstage. That was part of what he taught me — just be yourself onstage and if people like it, they will take it with them.”
In addition to the music, Dayton said he enjoyed the camaraderie with Campbell.
“It was just insanely cool,” he said. “He was a joker. He was funny all the time. He had a million jokes. He was a just a country boy and I laughed at everything.”
Also, the association afforded him and the band members access to personalities and social settings they otherwise wouldn’t have had.
“From top to bottom, it was great, and it included your offstage time,” he said. “Looking back on it, I can’t believe I was flying at that altitude.”
As the years wore on with show after show after show, Alzheimer’s, the most prevalent form of dementia, began to manifest itself.
“We recognized it,” Dayton said. “It’s what we called the ‘forgets.’ He was slipping. He’d still remember the old stuff. The new stuff was hard to get into his hard drive.”
Yet, alluding to the composer of so many of the songs that became Campbell’s signature numbers — including the aforementioned “Wichita Lineman,” and “Galveston,” as well as “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” — Dayton said: “I’m going to bet that until the day he died, he did not forget one word that Jimmy Webb wrote.”