Anyone who has heard a Jimmy Webb song – and if you’ve listened to any popular music in the past four decades or so, it’s hard to imagine you haven’t caught at least a few of his iconic hits – knows that the Oklahoma native has an immense gift for storytelling. But until you’ve seen the legendary songwriter in concert, you can’t know just how adroit he is at weaving a hilariously engaging tale.
On the second of a two-stand at the Blue Door, the multiple Grammy winner held the sold-out audience in his thrall Sunday night as he shared memories, played piano and belted hits like “Galveston” and “Wichita Lineman.” The intimacy of the listening room suited Webb’s down-home, free-wheeling show; in fact, he said he considered the venue, which he has played regularly for the past nine years, his performing home in his home state.
Webb, 67, opened the show performing “Oklahoma Nights” in honor of singer-songwriter Sarah Lee Guthrie, who attended the show with her husband and musical partner Johnny Irion. Guthrie is the granddaughter of Okemah-born songwriting icon Woody Guthrie and the daughter of singer-songwriter Arlo Guthrie, who was the first person to record the song back in 1981.
The songsmith cracked up the crowd with his tales of growing up in Elk City, including his uproarious imitation of his Baptist minister father, his youthful prayers that he would one day get to work with country star Glen Campbell and his experiences outraging the little old ladies in his father’s congregation with his lively variations on “Amazing Grace,” which naturally led to a rather impressive reenactment on the keys. Of course, Campbell recorded several Webb songs, including “Galveston” and “Wichita Lineman,” and the Songwriters Hall of Famer expressed his admiration for Campbell’s grace in handling his Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis, including playing a full farewell tour with the debilitating illness.