Sydney Opera House at nightExcerpts from "Rhinestone Highway"
Life on the Road with Glen Campbell

By Ken Skaggs
February 29, 2008
Sydney, Australia

Sydney, might be my favorite city in the world. We flew in on a rainy Monday evening and were met by a bus driver, bus and small trailer. All the luggage and gear went in the trailer that tagged along behind the bus. This was not a full size coach like one sees clogging up the streets of Branson, but a smaller coach that carried about 25-30 people. I used to own an old Volkswagen so I can recognize the symptoms when a clutch is going out. Such was the case with this bus which the driver so adeptly nursed and coaxed in and out of traffic through rainy Sydney. We checked into the Shangri-La and re-boarded the bus for the trip to a scheduled dinner party provided by the promoters. The trip to the restaurant was another clutch slipping, engine revving adventure without the trailer this time. Right when we thought we were lost I looked out the window and saw that we were sitting right in front of the Beppi's sign.Russ studies the menu. Image captured with my Blackberry Pearl. Glen, Debby and the show promoters were unable to attend the dinner so the band, Bill, crew and Jerry, our OZ road manager sat down to a wonderful Italian feast.

For a starter I had the Zuppa di Cozze Con Brodo Di Pesce Aglio Vino e Pomodoro along with the best bruschetta I've ever tasted. My entre was Capelli d'Angelo con Gamberi e Carne di Granchio, another dish I won't have the chance to enjoy for a long time.The interior of the room in which we were seated resembled a wine cellar. Each wall was covered with wine in racks, some old, some very old, and some not so old. Australia is one of the top wine producing countries in the world so a trip down under is not complete without a sampling of the local fermented grape juice. We enjoyed a little of the grape that evening but made it an early evening not wanting to inhibit our setup, orchestra rehearsal and show the next day. We slipped and bucked our way back to the hotel that evening as the rain subsided a little. I closed the curtains of my hotel room that night to one of the most famous landmarks in the world.

By Ken Skaggs
March 9, 2008
Sydney, Australia

Possibly one of the most photographed landmarks in the world is the Sydney Opera House. After a decent sleep and a fantastic (free) breakfast I made my way next day to our venue this week, the Sydney Opera House. The venue is showing it's age though they are in the midst of a massive remodel program. We set up in the main concert hall in preparation for our 2 hour rehearsal with the Sydney Symphony. Two hours is not a lot of time to cover Glen's entire book, (Orchestral charts for all instruments) and after doing some sound checking with the orchestra our time for rehearsal became about 90 minutes, with a 20 minute break, making our actual rehearsal time about 70 minutes. Of course we weren't able to cover all of the songs before the rehearsal ended but symphony musicians are excellent readers and TJ didn't seem to be worried. We've done this same thing with orchestras many times before and usually the mistakes are few and far between.

The Opera House provided an excellent dinner so I stayed after rehearsal to dine and avoided a round trip to the hotel aboard the bucking bus. Remember the clutch, well it's been getting worse with each trip. The audience loved Glen that evening and he didn't let them down singing his hits and picking like a virtuoso. Excavation in The RocksFrom my spot in front of the string section things went mostly well, TJ however had some issues mainly over some of the material which we had failed to cover in rehearsal. Some of the players didn't come in at the correct time and he felt that others were goofing off. Things got a little testy afterwards as he had words with the concert mistress. TJ is one of the best musicians I have ever known and expects a high standard from any musicians he works with. He can also be impatient and lacking in people skills which can result in toes stepped on and feelings being hurt. Whatever was said I was not privy to but the next two evenings performances were next to flawless.

I had a great run around the harbor near Circular Quay and the Botanical Garden and although Sydney is more humid than Perth the temperature was in the 70s and very nice. One day I spent 5 or 6 hours walking around The Rocks, a very interesting area.

Three days passed by much too fast and before you know it our day of departure arrived. Our faithful driver was there on time for the trip to the airport in his not so trusty bus with the slipping clutch. I didn't pay much attention to the bus until we entered one of the Cross City tunnels. A third of the way home.This was a two lanes, each way, main thoroughfare by which most airport traffic has to travel. About midpoint in the tunnel I noticed that the engine was revving high but that we weren't moving very fast, almost as if the driver was coasting. No worries until he started up the grade out of the tunnel and the bus, with trailer came to a dead stop. Traffic was flying by and swerving to get around as the driver made several futile attempts to get the clutch to engage. There we sat, still two hours before the flight but no chance of moving. Traffic started backing up as drivers merged into one lane to get around us. Remember, this is the morning rush hour. I could see lips moving as grumpy motorists passed by, late to their morning appointments, driving through the tunnel and the smell of burnt clutch plate.

About an hour later help arrived in the form of a van. They hooked the trailer to the van and off we went to the airport. All went smooth from then on, I had a row to myself in the back of the airplane, watched a couple movies and maybe slept an hour. I did overhear one of the flight attendants telling another that he almost missed the flight because of a backup in the tunnel.