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"
ReleasedOctober 23, 1967
RecordedAugust 29, 1967
Capitol Studios, Hollywood, California
GenrePop, country
Songwriter(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"
Official Audio
"By The Time I Get To Phoenix" (Remastered 2001) on YouTube

"By the Time I Get to Phoenix" is a song written by Jimmy Webb. Originally recorded by Johnny Rivers in 1965, it was covered by American country music singer Glen Campbell 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 in Jimmy Webb's breakup with Susan Horton. They remained friends after her marriage to Bobby Ronstadt, a cousin of singer Linda Ronstadt. Their relationship, which peaked in mid-1965, was also the primary influence for "MacArthur Park", another Webb composition.[5]

Webb did not intend the song to be geographically literal. "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."[6]

Webb called the song a "succinct tale" with an "O. Henry-esque twist at the end, which consists merely of the guy saying, 'She didn't really think that I would go,' but he did." Although the protagonist in the song plans to leave his lover, Webb did not leave Horton.[6]


"By the Time I Get to Phoenix" was named the third-most performed song from the period between 1970 and 1990, by Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) on September 14, 1990.[2] Many cover versions have been recorded. Charted versions include:

  • 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] The track was edited down to under seven minutes for single release, hitting #37 on both the US pop and R&B charts in 1969, and #48 in Canada.[8]
  • The Mad Lads also covered the song in 1969 for Stax Records; their version reached #28 on the R&B singles chart and #56 in Canada.[9]
  • The Peddlers recorded a studio version of the song for their 1969 album Birthday.
  • Anne Murray and Glen Campbell recorded a medley of "I Say a Little Prayer" and "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" in 1971. The track hit #1 on the Canadian country charts, and also charted on the US country charts and the US and Canadian pop charts (#19[10]).
  • Isaac 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.
  • Carol Burnett did a partial cover on The Carol Burnett Show. In the skit, she is singing the song, while in the garage, but the car won't start. As she sings she opens the hood of the car, and as she adjusts the wiring the horn goes off, covering the sound of her voice as she continues to sing. The skit ends with Burnett removing her suitcase from the backseat and riding off on a tricylce.

Hundreds of other cover versions exist. It was the title song of Marty Robbins' 1968 album By the Time I Get to Phoenix. Andy Williams also covered the song in 1968 for his album Honey. Harry James released a version in 1981 on his album For Listening and Dancing (Reader's Digest RD4A 213). Brídín Brennan, sister of singer Enya, sampled the song for her second single on her Eyes of Innocence album.

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1967–1968) Peak
US Hot Country Singles (Billboard)[11] 2
US Billboard Hot 100[12] 26
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[13] 12
Canada Country Tracks (RPM)[14] 1
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[15] 9


  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.
  6. ^ a b 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. ^ "RPM Top 100 Singles - October 4, 1969 (actual chart not avail.)" (PDF).
  9. ^ "RPM Top 100 Singles - August 30, 1969" (PDF).
  10. ^ "RPM Top 100 Singles - December 4, 1971" (PDF).
  11. ^ "Hot Country Singles". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. 80 (2): 37. January 13, 1968. ISSN 0006-2510.
  12. ^ "Glen Campbell Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
  13. ^ "Glen Campbell Chart History (Adult Contemporary)". Billboard.
  14. ^ "Top RPM Country Tracks: Issue 100164." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. January 27, 1968.
  15. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 100145." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. December 30, 1967.

External links[edit]