By the Time I Get to Phoenix

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"By the Time I Get to Phoenix"
Single by Glen Campbell
from the album By the Time I Get to Phoenix
B-side "You've Still Got a Place in My Heart"
Released October 23, 1967
Recorded 1967
Genre Country
Length 2:42
Label Capitol
Writer(s) Jimmy Webb
Producer(s) Al De Lory
Glen Campbell singles chronology
"Gentle on My Mind"
"By the Time I Get to Phoenix"
"Hey Little One"

"By the Time I Get to Phoenix" is a song written by Jimmy Webb. Originally recorded by Johnny Rivers in 1965, it was made famous by American country music singer Glen Campbell, appearing as the opening track on the latter's 1967 album of the same name. Campbell's version reached No. 2 on the U.S. Country charts in 1968[1] and won two Grammy Awards—for Best Vocal Performance, Male; and Best Contemporary Male Solo Vocal Performance.[2] Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) named it the third most performed song from 1940 to 1990.[3] The song was ranked number 20 on BMI's Top 100 Songs of the Century.[4] Frank Sinatra called it "the greatest torch song ever written."[5]

Background and writing[edit]

The inspiration for "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" was Webb's breakup from Susan Ronstadt, a cousin of singer Linda Ronstadt. Both remained friends, even after her marriage to another man. The relationship itself, which peaked in mid-1965, was the primary influence for "MacArthur Park", another Webb composition.[6]

Webb, a Los Angeles resident when he wrote the song, was raised in Elk City, Oklahoma. As far as the geography implied, "[a fan] told me, 'This song is impossible.' And so it is. It's a kind of fantasy about something I wish I would have done, and it sort of takes place in a twilight zone of reality." He states that he should have left but didn't; "it's more of a song about something I wish I had done than something I really did, in that I did not get in my car and drive back to Oklahoma to punish this young woman for not reciprocating my love and affection."[7]


The song consists of a man describing his decision to leave his partner, by writing her a note telling her, and his descriptions of what he expects she will be experiencing as he arrives at certain locations.

By the time I get to Phoenix, she'll be rising...
By the time I make Albuquerque she'll be working...


By the time I make Oklahoma she'll be sleepin'...

Mathematical deductions lead one to the conclusion that the singer probably left LA around midnight.

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1967) Peak
U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles 2
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 26
U.S. Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks 12
Canadian RPM Country Tracks 1


"By the Time I Get to Phoenix" was named the third most performed song from 1940 to 1990 by Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) on September 14, 1990.[3] Cover versions include those by Roger Whittaker, Ray Price, Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, Reba McEntire, Thelma Houston, Dorothy Ashby, Frankie Laine, Chet Atkins, The Lettermen, Herbie Mann, Lorrie Morgan, Dean Martin, Wanda Jackson, Jack Jones, Stevie Wonder, John Walker, Engelbert Humperdinck, William Bell, Georgie Fame, Isaac Hayes, The Ventures, Marty Wilde, Solomon Burke, Santo & Johnny, Tony Mottola, Burl Ives, Ray Conniff, Gary McFarland, Ralna English, 101 Strings Orchestra, Johnny Mathis, Chris Westfall, Frank Sinatra, Frankie Valli, Gladys Knight, Denny McLain, Dave Dudley, Bobby Goldsboro, Vic Damone, Erma Franklin, Billy Stewart, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Andy Williams, and Andy Kim. Isaac Hayes' version of the song runs for 18 minutes and 40 seconds, consisting in large part of a detailed backstory about the events that transpired,[8] before the actual roadtrip took place. Brídín Brennan, sister of singer Enya, sampled the song for her second single on her Eyes of Innocence album. Hayes and Dionne Warwick released the song as a live medley with "I Say a Little Prayer" in 1977. The single reached number #65 on the R&B singles chart.

Preceded by
"Tell Me Not to Go"
by Myrna Lorrie
RPM Country Tracks
number-one single
(Glen Campbell version)

January 27 – February 10, 1968
Succeeded by
"Here Comes Heaven"
by Eddy Arnold
Preceded by
"Where Do We Go from Here"
by Hank Smith
RPM Country Tracks
number-one single
(Anne Murray and Glen Campbell version)

December 4, 1971[9]
Succeeded by
"Lead Me On"
by Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty

Inspiration for[edit]

"By the Time I Get to Arizona" Public Enemy


External links[edit]