"Wichita Lineman" is a popular song written by Jimmy Webb in 1968, first recorded by Glen Campbell and widely covered by other artists. Campbell's version, which appeared on his 1968 album of the same name, reached #3 on the U.S. pop chart, remaining in the Top 100 for 15 weeks. In addition, the song also topped the American country music chart for two weeks, and the adult contemporary chart for six weeks. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time" ranked "Wichita Lineman" at #192. It has been referred to as 'the first existential country song'.
Webb was inspired to write the lyrics when he saw a solitary lineman in rural northern Oklahoma. The lyric describes the longing that a lonely telephone or electric power lineman feels for an absent lover who he imagines he can hear "singing in the wire" that he is working on. Such a sonic vibration is commonly induced by wind blowing across small conductors. There is uncertainty as to which "Wichita" is intended; Wichita, Kansas, Wichita County, Kansas (which is over 250 road miles away), Wichita Falls, Texas, and Wichita County, Texas have all been suggested as possibilities, and others believe that Webb had entitled the song "Ouachita Lineman", but that Campbell later changed that title to its present form.
"Wichita Lineman" has been recorded by a diverse range of artists: from Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Dwight Yoakam to Kool and the Gang, Bobby Broom, and Urge Overkill.
James Taylor recorded the song on his album, Covers, released in September 2008. Taylor includes the soulful rendition in the first set of his current U.S. tour.
In the first recording, by Glen Campbell, a notable feature of Al Delory's orchestral arrangement is that the violins and a Gulbransen Synthesizer mimic the sounds that a lineman might hear when attaching a telephone earpiece to a long stretch of raw telephone or telegraph line i.e. without typical line equalisation and filtering. One would be aware of high-frequency tones fading in and out, caused by the accidental rectification (the rusty bolt effect) of heterodynes between many radio stations (the violins play this sound); and occasional snatches of Morse Code from radio amateurs or utility stations (this is heard after the line of lyric, "is still on the line"). Heterodynes are also referenced in the lyric "I can hear you through the whine".
The bass solo was played by Campbell himself on a Danelectro six-string bass borrowed from friend and session bassist Carol Kaye; the pulsing effect is tremolo from a Fender amplifier.
The Glen Campbell — Wichita Lineman clip can be downloaded for free and without registration.