After more than 40 years as a songwriter, Bayville's Jimmy Webb is also a solo star - big enough, at least, to fill the Landmark on Main Street theater in Port Washington Saturday, when he and his piano will focus on 2010's superb "Just Across the River."
The album contains versions of his best-known songs, including "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," "The Highwayman" and, of course, "Wichita Lineman," with studio cameos from friends such as Billy Joel, Willie Nelson and Glen Campbell, who turned "Lineman" into a timeless classic in 1968.
We chatted with Webb in advance of his Landmark show, which includes a set by Maureen McGovern.
When did you move to Long Island?
Laura [Savini] and I moved here when we got married about six years ago. We live right next to the beach here. Our house kind of sits on top of a cliff on Oak Neck and we're surrounded by big, old trees. Laura always laughs and says there's no reason to go south of Route 25A. I know that's really snotty, but we love the people. We're really beach folks.
Yeah. I remember one time sitting out in the middle of a cloud field on a tractor, plowing away, listening to my radio, and this song comes on and says, "We're goin' to Surf City, gonna have some fun . . . two girls for every boy." I'm listening to that and I'm saying, "That's for me!" So even when I was an Oklahoma kid, somewhere in the back of my mind was California. I lived there for 21 years.
How did your parents perceive your move to Los Angeles and your entry at a young age into the music business?
My father suspected rightly that rock and roll was about sex. As a minister, it was his job to stamp out sex wherever possible, and that extended to the fact that we weren't allowed to go to dances when we were kids. It was pretty strict. I can remember sliding out the back window of the house a couple of times just to go to Teen Town with my buddies, to play with my band.
For your album, you recorded with Glen Campbell for the first time. How is that possible?
It was kind of a gross oversight on our part since we've known each other for about 30 or 40 years. I've played the piano for him. It was my producer Freddy Mollin - after a show in Nashville, he said, "You guys realize you've never recorded together?" . . . Next morning, 9 o'clock, Glen walked into the studio and sat down in front of the mic. When it came time for the second verse, "By the time I make Albuquerque . . . " in that beautiful voice, almost completely unchanged by 50 years in hard labor.
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WHO: Jimmy Webb and Maureen McGovern
WHEN | WHERE: 8 p.m. Saturday, Landmark on Main Street, 232 Main St., Port Washington
INFO: $35-$40; 516-767-6444, landmarkonmainstreet.org
About Maureen McGovern
Five things you need to know about Maureen McGovern.
1. She owes her early career to fake disasters. "The Morning After" and "We May Never Love Like This Again" were in the films "The Poseidon Adventure" and "The Towering Inferno," respectively.
3. She was the first singer to record two Academy Award-nominated songs in the same year - 1975's "We May Never Love Like This Again" and "Wherever Love Takes Me."
5. Before playing the Marmee role in "Little Women" in 2006, McGovern visited author Louisa May Alcott's home in Concord, Mass., three times.