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, American country music singer Glen Campbell covered the song on his album of the same name. Released on Capitol Records in 1967, Campbell's version topped RPM‍‍ '​‍s Canada Country Tracks, reached number two on Billboard‍‍ '​‍s Hot Country Singles chart, and won two awards at the 10th Annual Grammys.[1] Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) named it the third most performed song from 1940 to 1990.[2] The song was ranked number 20 on BMI's Top 100 Songs of the Century.[3] Frank Sinatra called it "the greatest torch song ever written."[4]

Background and writing[edit]

The inspiration for "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" originated from Webb's breakup from Susan Horton. Both remained friends after her marriage to David Ronstadt, a cousin of singer Linda Ronstadt. The relationship itself, which peaked in mid-1965, was also the primary influence for "MacArthur Park", another Webb composition.[5]

Geographically, Webb stated that the song was not intended to be literal, as he stated that "a guy approached me one night after a concert [...] and he showed me how it was impossible for me to drive from L.A. to Phoenix, and then how far it was to Albuquerque. In short, he 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." Webb called the song a "succinct tale" with an "O. Henry-esque twist at the end", whereby although the protagonist in the song left his lover, Webb did not leave Horton.[6]

Musically, the song is notable for ending in the 'wrong' key, specifically the submediant major.[citation needed]


"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.[2] Many cover versions have been recorded. Isaac Hayes' version of the song, included on the album Hot Buttered Soul, runs for 18 minutes and 40 seconds, and recounts the events that transpired before the actual roadtrip.[7] 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 #65 on the R&B singles chart. The Mad Lads covered the song in 1969 for Stax Records. It reached #28 on the R&B singles chart.

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1967–1968) Peak
US Hot Country Singles (Billboard)[8] 2
US Billboard Hot 100[9] 26
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[10] 12
Canada Country Tracks (RPM)[11] 1


  1. ^ "Past Winners Search". National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Retrieved December 14, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "BMI list of Most Popular Songs from 1940–1990". Broadcast Music, Inc. September 2, 1990. Archived from the original on April 2, 2003. 
  3. ^ "BMI Announces Top 100 Songs of the Century". Broadcast Music, Inc. December 13, 1999. 
  4. ^ Takiff, Jonathan (January 17, 1992). "The Man Behind The Hits". Philadelphia Daily News. 
  5. ^ Boucher, Geoff (June 10, 2007). "'MacArthur Park' Jimmy Webb, 1968". Los Angeles Times (Tribune Publishing). 
  6. ^ Gross, Terry (February 10, 2004). "Jimmy Webb: From 'Phoenix' To 'Just Across The River'". Fresh Air. NPR. 
  7. ^ Birchmeier, Jason. Hot Buttered Soul at AllMusic. Retrieved December 16, 2014.
  8. ^ "Hot Country Singles". Billboard (Nielsen Business Media, Inc) 80 (2): 37. January 13, 1968. ISSN 0006-2510. 
  9. ^ "Glen Campbell – Chart history" Billboard Hot 100 for Glen Campbell.
  10. ^ "Glen Campbell – Chart history" Billboard Adult Contemporary for Glen Campbell.
  11. ^ "Top RPM Country Tracks: Issue 100164." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. January 27, 1968.

External links[edit]

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
Succeeded by
"Lead Me On"
by Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty