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Wichita Lineman

by

Glen Campbell



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

This was written by Jimmy Webb, who also wrote Campbell's "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" and "Galveston." He was driving along the Kansas-Oklahoma border when he saw a lonesome telephone lineman working atop a telephone pole. This gave him the idea for the song.
In our interview with Jimmy Webb, he explained how he puts himself into the shoes of the subjects of this songs. Said Webb: "I've never worked with high-tension wires or anything like that. My characters were all ordinary guys. They were all blue-collar guys who did ordinary jobs. As Billy Joel likes to say, which is pretty accurate, he said, 'They're ordinary people thinking extraordinary thoughts.' I always appreciated that comment, because I thought it was very close to what I was doing or what I was trying to do. And they came from ordinary towns. They came from places like Galveston and Wichita and places like that.

No, I never worked for the phone company. But then, I'm not a journalist. I'm not Woody Guthrie. I'm a songwriter and I can write about anything I want to. I feel that you should know something about what you're doing and you should have an image, and I have a very specific image of a guy I saw working up on the wires out in the Oklahoma panhandle one time with a telephone in his hand talking to somebody. And this exquisite aesthetic balance of all these telephone poles just decreasing in size as they got further and further away from the viewer - that being me - and as I passed him, he began to diminish in size. The country is so flat, it was like this one quick snapshot of this guy rigged up on a pole with this telephone in his hand. And this song came about, really, from wondering what that was like, what it would be like to be working up on a telephone pole and what would you be talking about? Was he talking to his girlfriend? Probably just doing one of those checks where they called up and said, 'Mile marker 46,' you know. 'Everything's working so far.'"
While recording the song in the studio, Campbell felt something was out of place. He couldn't capture the same feel of the song he'd felt when Webb sang the demo as he accompanied himself on his Hammond organ. Campbell decided that the only way to get the right vibe was to add Webb's Hammond organ to the song's instrumentation.
The chiming at the fade that is meant to signify telephone signals was done on a massive church organ. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
Glen Campbell told the Daily Mail about his excitement on first hearing this song. He recalled that Webb used to write in the studio as Campbell did his recording. When the songwriter sang to him the parts of this song that he'd initially written, Campbell knew it was a hit. He continued: "I implored him to finish it, and even offered to help. But he told me to go and play my guitar and leave the writing to him." Webb added in our interview: "On certain songs, the magic is undeniable: 'Wichita Lineman' and 'By the Time I Get to Phoenix.' And it's almost as though the song was waiting for the singer and the singer was waiting for the song."
Before he became a solo star, Campbell was a prominent session musician, and on this track, he employed many of the people he used to play alongside on studio dates. Campbell played guitar along with Al Casey and James Burton, Carol Kaye was on bass, Jim Gordon on drums, and Al DeLory played piano. According to Carol Kaye, these session players would add a lot of notes to make more out of the parts that were written, and she created most of the intro on this track. "Wichita Lineman" is one of her favorites of the hundreds of songs she played on.
The Country group Restless Heart recorded an updated version for their 2013 album Encores. Their pianist Dave Innis told us that having played with Glen Campbell on several occasions including his last two concerts in Branson, Missouri the thought came to him when this song came on the radio that Restless Heart vocalist Larry Stewart, "would be the perfect singer for a recut." He added: "And the original 'Wichita Lineman' didn't have any background vocals on it, really, that I can recall. So it was fun to do a vocal treatment."
Glen Campbell
Glen Campbell Artistfacts
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Comments (74):

I had read that Jimmy Webb wrote this song after seeing a Telephone Lineman up on a pole with a "TeleTalker" in rural Oklahoma talking with someone. Of course back then, you had no cellular, and 2 way VHF radio probably didn't cover all corners of the service area the Lineman had to cover. I had read thought, after seeing this lonely figure in miles upon miles nothing but telephone poles, "Wow, what a lonely job. I wonder if he's talking to his girlfriend?"
The song can be for both the telephone lineman and the power lineman as "Searching in the sun for another overload" would definitely mean a power overload, not a telephone overload. Regardless, it's a haunting song to anyone who has worked the lines.

I spent Summers and Winter breaks in College working for a Cable Company working as a Lineman on new build and repairing existing. Thankless, lonely job. I worked hand in hand with Electric and Telephone. Exhausting work. 98 degrees, high humidity, bugs biting you, sun baking you, traffic trying to kill you if the high and dangerous work didn't. Sometimes we were allowed to run on Electric Company Equipment (Poles), sometimes we had to set our own poles.
Four young guys, brace and bit (no power tools), shovels, ladders, gaffs (pole climbing spikes to strap on your shoes) and safety belt. Dig the hole, set the pole, fill it in with dirt around pole, tamp like crazy, gaff the pole, drill the pole, mount the hardware, go to the net pole location. 30 poles a day quota. Better if you did more.
Then you ran the high tension wire dragging it by hand from p0le to pole. Then you put up pulleys and ran the cable dragging it by hand pole to pole.
Then for a real treat you got to use a "Lasher" to lash the cable to the high tension wire. When all that was done, you had to put in line extenders, power supplies, taps and any other equipment that made the run live. Finally you got to set anchors 5' deep to make sure the equipment didn't strain the pole too much.
In electrical storms or when there were automobile strikes, the equipment would go down. You had to go out in the worst weather and fix it.
I'd be side by side with Electric and Telephone, dispatched to do the same thing.
In the Winter, the cable would contract in very cold weather, and fittings would pop and you'd lose service. You had to go out and fix that.
If it showed/iced heavily, there could be too much strain on the lines (telephone, cable or electric) and it could bring down lines.
All this had to be serviced day or night, rain show or shine, -20 or 120 degrees. As a Lineman, you went out. Sometimes alone, sometimes with a crew. Alone was the worst.

Listening to "Wichita Lineman" reminds me of that job. As hard as it was, I loved it. I sure was in superior shape. Nothing scared me, and not much does now. I am sure most people have no idea of how hard it is, nor, how much danger a Lineman is in on a day to day basis.
- David , St Augustine, FL
On January 29th 1969, Glen Campbell performed "Wichita Lineman" on his own CBS-TV program 'The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour'...
Three months earlier on October 27th, 1968 it entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; and on January 5th, 1969 it peaked at #3 {for 1 week} and spent 15 weeks on the Top 100 {and for 9 of those 15 weeks it was on the Top 10}...
It was two Motown acts that kept it out of the top spot; "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" by Marvin Gaye was at #1, and #2 was "I’m Gonna Make You Love Me" by Diana Ross and the Supremes and the Temptations...
This was the premier episode of 'The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour'; the series ran from 1969 to 1972 with a total of 91 episodes...
May God bless and watch over Mr. Campbell.
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
I've always loved this song, and remember it from the easy listening station my mother tuned in to during the 70s when I was a little kid. That was in New Zealand, where Glen was also very popular. Reading through some of the comments here, I am very surprised at some of the complex interpretations! Based on what I've read about about Jimmy Webb's inspiration for the song, as well as the lyrics, I think the whole thing is pretty simple: The guy works long hours alone, repairing telephone wires. He talks of taking time off, but he knows the weather situation will probably cause some problems on the telephone lines, so a vacation isn't probable. He's missing his girlfriend/wife/lover, and has plenty of time to think about her during his long hours alone. He hears her voice in the whine of the wires--the sound reverberating. "Still on the line" can simply mean that he is still working up along the wires, atop a telephone pole, like the guy Jimmy Webb saw from afar when he got the inspiration for the this song. It could also be a metaphor for "still hanging in there", waiting for the time he can go home and be with his woman again. That's my take, anyway. A beautifully crafted song.
- Louise, Auckland, Netherlands
Nobody does obsessive better than Jimmy Webb. And Glen Campbell is the ideal spokesman for his obsessions. The lineman is eavesdropping on his lover, and just what he hears clearly disturbs him. The song ends with the eerie, ambivalent words, "And the Wichita lineman is still on the line." We don't get the impression that the singer will be able to cope well with heartbreak and/or disappointment, so we warily hope for the best. By the way, the song has a magnificent bridge, a gorgeous instrumental break, one of the best ever.
- Matthew, Toronto, ON
This song is one of the best of all time! I think this song must really touch a chord with men because most of the comments are left by them. Living in the South, I believe the line "...and if it snows that stretch down south won't ever stand the strain" is speaking of the snow and ice that accumulates on the lines and weighs them down. I just love "...and I need you more than want you and I want you for all time" is something every woman in the world would love to hear from the man she cars so much about. The entire song just speaks masculinity to me!
- Cynthia, Little Rock, AR
I've always loved Jimmy Webb songs and after seeing him play this one on YouTube, I see why his music is so hard to play. The guys a lights out player (although the guitar part isnt too hard from seeing the tabs). I play drums, piano and am learning ukelele. This 'll be my 5-6 ukelele song. My comment is mostly about the interpretation though along with some background for those who dont know life in the Midwest.
I'm a mechanical engineer, live 180 miles from Wichita, worked around T&D (transmission and distribution) lines for 25 years and traveled rural America (and central Kansas) my entire adult working life. Its my thought the song is written 1st person (he is the lineman) and the subject may address a woman but more likely is metaphorical regarding his dedication to the job. Its a love letter to the American worker and Webbs' projection of the mans work ethic and dedication to getting things done and done right.
His singular encounter with this lone soul is when driving past him out in the middle of nowhere Kansas, (most of it) up in the air doing some seemingly thankless task in any and all weather. This was 1968 and there was still respect in this country for the people who made this country great; the middle class Americans who got up everyday and went to work, raised families, paid taxes and kept their noses clean -in stark contrast to these Wall St scumbags who only wish they ran things and someone, anyone respected what they do (to us all) and yes, pun intended re Campbell's coke habit).
You also have to know this about his job; he apparently works for a County Rural Electrical Coop (lots of these still in KS). He covers hundreds of miles daily. But his County could be driven end to end, in less than an hour, so no overnight travel so he's home for supper most nights. Still, he would usully rack 150 miles a day, 5 days a week and works non-stop in emergencies. Also please remember Webb's singular encounter with the subject occurred while he was driving past him, seeing a lone man with a tool belt strapped to his waist up on a pole (but likely talked with someone regarding rudimentary technical outlines of what a lineman does as he knows that overload diagnosis is a part of daily life). A little technical background.
Each line pole has a fuse about 2' long that drops out (pops open from holder) to protect the circuit due to a particular line disturbance. You can visually determine this from the ground, but you have to find the right pole and fuse first. That takes alot of driving (of main and other) roads to locate, then fix it. And remember, someones power is already out when you get the call, so time is of the essence. That's the part referenced in the first part of the song.
Here's where I believe the song references the work and not a woman. First like I said, he's home most nights, so he's not missing her for any length of time. Second as others have noted, the word love does not appear in the lyrics and while you love your job (I do), its not the same kind of love as a woman's. The "singing in the wire" and "whine" part references the sound the lines make when you're up in the air close to them. The singing is the hum or buzz of the power being transmitted (preventing that power from short circuiting and killing you is the lineman's biggest hazard. Maintaining that equipment such as sticks, gloves and the truck boom itself requires rigorous, frequent testing.
The "whine" is simply the result of the wind loading (and it blows in KS alot, especially when you're up in the air) producing a harmonic vibration and thus, an audible sound. It cant be the lineman talking to a woman (who's still on the line) as these are electrical, not telephone lines. The "still on the line" references his "availability" and thus dedication to his job no matter what time it is or what weather conditions he's experiencing that day. The later term has has a specific meaning in power gen and T&D business.
Rest of the lyrics reference his intimate knowledge of how the weather in his county might affect distribution, specifically the snow and wind loading the lines experience in a typical KS winter. The guys a dedicated, knowledgeable, solid responsible American who does his job everyday and even forgoes or delays the vacation he's entitled to (thanks to his union) to get the job done. This is nothing less than a love letter to the American worker of yesteryear. And a beautiful letter it is.....
- steve, kansas city, MO
First, it's not at all clear the identity of the lineman (linemen). Is it the singer? Is it someone else? Is it both? Why is the lineman song in the first person and the third person? My interpretation is that the lineman is a metaphor for lonelyness.
Second, this is not a straight forward love song. The word, "love", is never mentioned. Again, my interpretation is that , "want", and "need", refer to a deeper need by the singer. Perhaps the singer is searching for an answer to the alienation from his life.
- paul, hudson, NY
Tom from Dozier: You're absolutely right about 1968. It was the most profound year of that decade. Look at all that happened that year: Tet Offensive, My Lai massacre, MLK's assassination, RFK's assassination. That year alone almost defines the '60s. "Wichita Lineman" was (and remains) hauntingly beautiful in its own right, but also reminds of that year.
- Harry III, Honolulu, HI
I always thought it was a railroad lineman -- driving a switcher and looking for an overloaded frieght. The references to hearing her voice in the line, and the whine of the loansome train whistle. I absolutely love this song -- even though I just learned from this website that it is about an electrical lineman. No matter. It is one of the best ever!!
- Frank, Decatur, GA
Beautiful song. Loved it from when I first heard it.

It is a modern poetic love song of a working man longing to be be with his lover while on the job - hearing her in the noises around him. He is a modest man who only asks for a "small" vacation, but knows that responsibility and the the weather will thwart him.

The line, "and I need you more than want you, and I want you for all-time" really shows the craft of Jimmy Web in phrasing an infinite need -- I want you for all time and my need is even greater than that. Brilliant.
- Mike, Mountain Lakes, NJ
This song is one of my all time favorites. It reminds me of the innocence of my youth and the late 60's. I believe many peoples interpretation of the lyrics are way off. "still on the line" refers to that the lineman is hopelessly in love with someone who dosen't care for him. He mentions three weather conditions,hot sun rain, and snow, so obviusly his profound love for this women and the prospect of rejection is distorting his thinking. It is obviously a internal dialogue with himself, and it is in this fact that Jim Webb boarders on genious. I don't know of any other song that does this "dialogue concept". It is a conversation that we all have with ourself when serious love affects us and the point of the other person not having the same emotions as you are experiencing. The lyric is an example of true genius. Mr. Webb was to the left of Burt Bacharach in the 1960's. This was a time when great music florished.
- Michael De Patria, Paterson NJ, NJ
I was a telephone lineman for 30 years and this song brings it all back to me. the loneliness, the long days in the hot sun. The bitterly cold days and nights when needed. Selling your vacation back to the company cause they needed you to work. Transfers to places where storms had hit. living in hotels and motels. Working your days off, sometimes involuntarily. Memories good and bad. Would love to go back and do it all over again.
- Jim, Hampton Bays, NY
This was Campbell's tenth charted record and his 1st Top Ten song, peaking at #3, his next record was "Galveston", which reached #4!!!
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
The singing of the wires, I believe, is a reference to the sound a wire makes in the wind. It is a lonely sound and it is haunting. I live near and work in Wichita, KS.
- Randy, Rose Hill, KS
The solo is played on a baritone guitar which is (pitch wise) between a standard 6-string and a Bass. It is a type of guitar in itself and not a retuning of a more standard instrument.

Most popular make is probably the Danelectro and the Danelectro Baritone RI guitar is still available nowadays.

Alan
- Alan, London, United Kingdom
The bass solo is iconic, as I looked at the instrument he's playing on the TV clip I was confused. More research cleared it up - interesting to learn that Glen was using a Fender VI bass. Not sure whether he had re-tuned it as a baritone as many players did. One source states that in the studio he used a Danelectro 6-string bass that he borrowed from guitar and bass great Carol Kaye. Both of them worked with the Wrecking Crew in L.A.
- Brian, Louisville, KY
One of the most beautiful songs ever written. I'm glad that Glen Campbell got the orignal recording. Some of the cover are good, but they will never beat Glen!
- Mandy, El Paso, AR
As a songwriter myself, I am certainly endeared to Jimmy Webb for his contributions. The song Witchita Lineman is one of the greats! However, when you're writing a song, rhythmic cadence is important in word choice. To keep the song flowing with the emotional feeling, choosing a series of words that stay relative to the subject matter is a priority, but if they clash with sylabic cadence then they are not good for the song. So, there is a slight compromise given to obtain the cadence and balance of the song. So maybe JW chose words that really meant nothing more than what the words said, yet our imaginations fill in the gaps because only part of the picture was drawn, not a detailed photograph? All chart breaker songs are not in perfect cadence and are 'half drawn' images. Remember "Ode To Billy Joe"? A detailed non-rhythmic bunching of words, (in places), that told a detailed story, and a good one at that. But as a quality rhymed tune which could compare to JW's work or Lennon/ Macartney's "Yesterday", it is not. But it made a log of money for a lot of folks, and like "Boy Named Sue" was a fun song to hear even today. All four songs mentioned, I heard today on the radio.
- Eddie, Nashville, TN
Jim from Gilbertsville says it all. Desperately beautiful song about the deepest kind of love and longing.

This is the kind of man you want to grow up and be like. Dedicated, strong and devoted to his work and his woman. Alone with his thoughts, but she is always with him.

Nick from Indianapolis, I think this is a guy with true principles who wouldn't even consider cheating on the woman he is so in love with.
- David, Austin , FL
I was serving in the U.S Airforce in 1968 at Wichita Fall's (Sheppard Air Force Base)Texas. The day we graduated from Turboprop school we received our next assignment and later that day I was sitting on my bunk listening to the radio and this song came on. To this day everytime I hear it it take's me back to that day. Great song.
- Jerry, Los Angeles, CA
It is obvious that the lineman is describing himself in the third person. In the video on this site Campbell even adds a falsetto fade where he sings, "I'm a Wichita Lineman", "Always on the line". It sounds hokey, but he apparently felt the simple fade was not good for the stage.
- David, Austin , FL
The guitar solo in this song is simple, yet unforgettable. I recognized it about 35 years later in Wichita Skyline by Shawn Colvin. Obviously she was honoring one of the greatest songs of all times. A song that illicits some of the most basic yet strongest of human emotions!
- David, Austin , FL
THE Song and Glen reach out and touch you at the very heart of your soul.
- David, NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, United Kingdom
Something often overlooked is the fact that Glenn Campbell was, by this point in his career, deeply involved with a cult, as were members of his immediate family. He had recently fallen out of favour with the elders, and was searching for a new direction. This was mentioned in the song within the oft misquoted line "Searching with my son for another Overlord". This can further be seen when listening to the sequence of guitar based Morse code later on in the song, but we all know what that says, right?
- James, Colchester, United Kingdom
I am surprised that nearly everyone is convinced that there is a woman somehow connected to this song just because he mentions needing someone. Love is not even mentioned. The guy is clearly just a lonely phone line repair man who converses with his counterpart in Wichita. While working up the lines one day he plugged his phone in to check to line quality and was surprised to hear a voice coming through the static and noise. He began a conversation and now he is always hoping to talk to the Wichita Lineman, which is easy because he is always on the line. He does 'need him more than wants him' because he is the only thing that gets him through the day. He would like a vacation, in Wichita, so he can meet him. All the rest of the text is just lineman vernacular.
It could actually be a woman on the other end, but I think the lineman would implicitly imply this. As he does not I think it must be a man and he is hiding his feeling in a cowboys-up-the-brokeback-mountain kind of way.

Thats what I think anyway...
- matt, Essex, United Kingdom
I was born in 1968 but I remember this jewel of a song being played in the AM radio background noise of my childhood. I honestly can't hear it without getting a lump in my throat for some reason. It is a desperately beautiful song, and of course Glen Campbell's rendition is the greatest, hands down, because of it's simplicity and tenor. For me the entire song hinges on the third stanza, and how Glen's voice rises and warbles a bit on the word vacation. Simply sublime. And of course it's also the set up stanza for the needing/wanting dichotomy. It is a song of the deepest kind of love and longing. The kind a good, hard working man has for his woman and his responsibilities. One of the top five love songs of "all time", to borrow the phrase.
- Jim, Gilbertsville, PA
Very,very confusing lyrics.
- Tom, ny, NY
well Im like alot of baby boomers who heard this back in 68 when it first came out. Had never heard of Glen Campbell but knew I liked this song!
They played this on alot of AM stations too as rock and pop and country were all heard on the AM band back then. Shortly thereafter I heard another "country" song that blew me away..and that was "Country Roads" by John Denver
- doug, kansas city, MO
To clear up any misunderstanding "still on the line" means still on the job, not still on the telephone. Singing in the wire refers to the sound electricity makes when running through electrical wire. Linemen repair electrical wire. A very hardy, hard working, plain speaking bunch. The song deftly, but with much subtleness, takes the hard lineman's work that he is dedicated to, and which is very much a part of him, and at which he must apply himself to, to his lover. He is singing about work and he is also sing about a relationship. I need a small vacation--affair--but it don't look like rain (but he is still in love)--and the line won't stand the strain--another argument. Searching in the sun for another overload--you can figure that one out. But, very beautifully, he needs her as much as he needs his work, and his work is his life, so that is for all time--forever. A haunting, outstanding song that elevates love by showing how much it is apart of our lives even when we are away from it at our work.
- Nick, Indianapolis, India
Auke, Leeuwarden, Nederland -- I think the expressions, "X is on the line (to Y)", and "X is on the phone (to Y)" here mean (and this was true anyway in the late 60's) that X is romantically interested in Y, and is trying to get Y's attention. This also comes up in the Beatles song, "She Came In Through the Bathroom Window," in the line, "Sunday's on the phone to Monday / Tuesday's on the phone to me." And the lines, "I know I need a small vacation / But it don't look like rain," sound to me like he's talking about himself -- 'if it would only rain, they'd call me in off this job' (because I'm guessing they don't send line repairmen out to work on WET high voltage lines! -- anybody confirm or refute this?)
- Fred, Laurel, MD
The singer is definitely talking about himself when he refers to "the Wichita lineman," because he identifies himself as a lineman from the very start. Also, the word "overload" tells us that he repairs electrical lines, not phone lines. Great song ... and I've always thought the high-pitched instrumental part that follows "still on the line" sounds like Morse code sent on a telegraph. I've always wondered whether that was intended, although this sort of communication would probably involve a different type of wires.
- Brian, Indianapolis, IN
I just realised how great this song is. I love the way he is talking prosaically about his lonely job then goes into: "And I need you more than want you. And I want you for all time." Mark from Sydney, your comment nearly spoiled it for me but not quite!
- rjh, London, United Kingdom
Hate to admit it but I do like this song. Wade Hayes rerecorded it
- Joel, Wheeling, WV
I'd like to think "Lineman" is a metaphor for G. Campbe-LL's: life, love, love-lost, lonliness & lust (need/more than want). If you've driven on the plains--or anywhere desolate--you know it can be romantic, but also errie, & definately lonely. Lineman captures this essence perfectly. Webb liked to construct thought- provoking lines. Like poetry, the listener can make them as deep or as literal as they like. Perhaps that's the beauty of it.
- Ned, Falls Church, VA
I guess I found out the 'meaning' of the song. First it starts describing the man who repares telephone lines, "I am a lineman...and the Wicihta lineman is still on the line". Notice the shift from first to third person in the story telling. I think the following verses in the first person are conversations that the lineman picks up from people who phone one another, eg: "And I need a small vacation". This is confirmed by the closing sentences "..and the Wicihta lineman is still on the line".
- Auke, Leeuwarden, Netherlands
I'm seeing lots of posts on sites where (obviously younger people) ask, "What was so special about 1968?" Well, I guess you just had to be there to know how special 1968 was. The music of 1968 was phenominal. It may be "dated" to some, but to those of us who lived 1968, there isn't a much better time to have grown up in. Wichita Lineman by Glen Campbell is one of those songs.
- Tom, Dozier, AL
Wichita Lineman - written by Jimmy Webb
as recorded by Glen Campbell
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3d8cHq7td5Q

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- Jeff, San Diego, CA
I lived in Hawaii during the early 70's because my dad was in the Navy. I've always associated this song with that time. My dad told me that the Navy would play this song over the PA system on base whenever the USS Wichita would pull into Pearl Harbor.
- Johnny, Ft Worth, TX
I was in eighth grade when Glen Campbell had his summer-show for the Smo-bros. RFK and MLK were assassinated that year - it was a tumultuous year in America and in the world. I cried for America the first time that year. This song, and others written by Jimmy Webb resonate to this day with me. RFK was born into wealth and privilege, MLK was not - but both men cared enough about humanity to put their lives on the line for their ideals - the founding fathers would be proud of them and for the thousands of Americans who have, in the our 250 years, sacrificed their lives in the name of freedom.
- Dave Orksi, Macomb, MI
OK, my apologies, if they are telephone wires, they are telephone wires.
- David, Winkler, MB
to john,in queensbury.thanks for that clever interpretation of the meaning. However, in one of Glen's performances, he adds a line, "I'm a Wichita lineman, holding on the line..." So I don't know if this is Glen's interpretation, or if that is the original meaning. Or if he is voicing the 'other' guy.
to Dan in reading,England, telephone wires don't make any noise, nor do they get power overloads, so I think that electric wires are a more suitable interpretation. And usually there is the concern of the weight of ice and snow on powerlines as opposed to telephone lines. He is looking for 'overloads'. Electric powerlines hum and sing.
- David, Winkler, MB
I remember this song from my childhood and its always been one of my absolute favorite songs.The image of the alone and lonely lineman out there on the flat endless Kansas plains has always just appealed to me as one of the most perfect songs ever written.Simple and crushingly real.Jimmy Webb and Glen Campbell created one of the all time great records with this one.
- Mark, byrdstown, TN
Eve from Detroit, there are indeed Linemen for the County. Many rural areas in Texas and other states have their own electric utility co-ops, which have many linemen that work for them. They are "owned" by the members that they serve, the residents in the county.

Great song Glen, one of my all-time faves.
- Wayne, Crockett, TX
It is a marvelous song, and it even gives public utilities some much-needed recognition. It's a song about the extraordinary emotions that affect an ordinary man, and a refreshing change from today's laments about how tough it is to be a celebrity.

For what it's worth, many municipalities--cities and counties--run their own utility companies for water, gas, and electric power.
- Mark, Lancaster, OH
I think it's a tragic love song,about a man who does'nt want to beleive what he's hearing.The lineman for the county and the wichita lineman are not the same man.The singing thru the wire is not to him..she's talking to the wichita man
That's why when he says he needs a small vacation there's a cry in his voice...it's not we need but I need one.The I need you more than..etc..is not meant for her to hear,he's not talking to her,he's listening to them,and says this in desperation..to himself. he wants her to hear it..but......change the first word in the last line from and to but and you'll see why.
- john, queenssbury , NY
I THINK IT IS A TRAGIC SONG OF LOSING LOVE- ABOUT A MAN WHO DOES NOT WANT TO BELEIVE WHAT HE'S HEARING.THE LINEMAN FOR THE COUNTY AND THE WICHITA LINEMAN ARE NOT THE SAME.THE SINGING THRU THE WIRE IS NOT MEANT FOR HIM,IT'S FOR THE WICHITA LINEMAN.THAT'S WHY WHEN HE SAYS HE NEEDS A SMALL VACATION THERE'S A CRY IN HIS VOICE.IT'NOT WE NEED.. BUT I. THE I NEED YOU MORE THAN WANT YOU..ETC.. IS NOT MEANT FOR HER TO HEAR,HE NEVER TALKS TO HER,HE'S TALKING IN DESPERATION TO HIMSELF.CHANGE AND TO BUT AND SEE
- john, queenssbury , NY
This is the greatest pop song ever written. It's the perfect balance between yin and yang, bitter and sweet etc. Opej space and isolation. It's bigger that Glen or Jimmy. It makes me cry everytime I hear it because it's about what could be but will never be. Dwight Yokam tried to pay tribute in his version but tried to cram too much in to to short a time. Casandra Wilson did a much better job. Glen did it best because he didn't realise the importance and historical impact of what he recorded. Big open spaces and insecurity and God and existentialim. It's bigger than me or you..
- Conrad, Charlotte, NC
There is a pretty good rendition of the song by Tom Jones (This is Tom Jones album). And, by the way, a fine version of The Beatles' Hey Jude.
- Pau, Barcelona, Spain
Don't try & figure out what kind of lineman this guy is -- it doesn't exist. Think about it: a lineman from the COUNTY? There ARE no county linemen in the U.S.! The telephone linemen work for AT&T or Bell, the electrical linemen work for Edison or Consumers Power, the telegraph linemen (when there was such a thing) worked for AT&T. No county employee can touch their wires! I mean, the liability alone would prohibit it! I think it just sounded romantic to say the guy worked for the county, kind of lonely sounding, more so than if he had a cushy job working for AT&T!
- Eve, Detroit, MI
A band called The Clouds from Sydney, Australia, covered the song in '96 on an album called Collage. I first heard their version on a Qantas flight in 2006. It is achingly beautiful and entirely addictive. I recall seeing Jim Webb give an interview on Australian television to Roy Slaven and HG Nelson (those in the US might know them from their winter and summer olympics shows 'The Dream'). I recall Jim saying that he thought the mark of a true song writer was to be able to write a song at short notice about any subject. This song is exactly what he was talking about. What separates Jim is that his turn into all time classics.
- James, Perth, Australia
Glen Campbell was quoted as saying this song was inspired by his experiences in Wichita Falls, TEXAS
- Dill, Soux City, IA
You can hear the version of this great hit by Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 on YouTube. It's simply awesome!
- Leya Qwest, Anchorage, AK
This song has been recorded by a diverse range of artists; from Ray Charles, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Dwight Yoakam to Kool and the Gang and punk band Urge Overkill. But it's the cool version by pop star supergroup Sergio Mendes & Brasi '66 that everyone remembers, recorded back in November of 1969.
- Leya Qwest, Anchorage, AK
Oklahoma-Kansas border??? I live in Oklahoma City area and my boyfriend lives in a suburb of Wichita called Park City and when one of us goes to visit the other, I can tell you that it takes about 30 minutes or more to drive between Wichita and Oklahoma.
- Natasha, Bethany, OK
"note the references to overloads and strain from heavy power use in cold weather"

Wrong, I'm from that area and it references the weight of the ice and snow on the lines which frequently break the line.
- Todd, Mesa, AZ
Jimmy Webb's a great writer. I also love the great guitar twang sound and the transition to almost another tune at the end.
- Bruce, Boston, MA
I've always liked the interplay between the lyrics, where the lineman is on one level thinking about his work ("if it snows that stretch down south won't ever stand the strain") and on a deeper level about his girl back home ("I need you more than want you, and I want you for all time...). Kind of the duel-conversation we have with ourselves from time to time, especially for workmen who work with their hands for a living.

The melody is absolutly haunting. Anyone who has travelled the seemingly endless highways of the American mid-west (Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Nebraska etc.) can feel the loneliness of the lineman deep down to their bones.
- Rick, Seattle, WA
I was 8 years old when this came out (1968), and this song just stuck in my heart in a special way...I personally feel that the song has both gentleness and power/meaningfulness....thanks, Glen
- David, Broomall, PA
I have always thought that line... "And I need you more than want you, and I want you for all time" was one of the most touching and romantic lines ever written in a song. If he wants her for all time, and he needs her even more than he wants her...think about what that says about how much he needs her! I melt every time I think about that....
- Stephanie, Houston, TX
if you want to hear a great cover of this song, check out the "Optiganally Yours" version on there album "Spotlight On: OY" it will change your life.
- joe, streator, IL
My grandfather was an electrical lineman and in his day was EXTREMELY dangerous work. I think that the man in the song thinks about this often and thinks about what could happen on his long important trips away from home.
- Jay, toledo, OH
I would have thought the chorus line was pretty straightforward: "I need you more than want you": I don't want you as much as I need you; however, don't despair, because "and I want you for all time" - so I do really really want you! And just think how much I need you!
- Paul, London, England
I get chills everytime I hear this or any Jimmy webb song written for Glen Cambell. No matter the story behind it goes they are truly timeless songs.
- Rafael, Pasadena, CA
The "lineman" is not actually a electricity worker - he works on the telephone lines. The line about standing the strain if it snows refers to the weight of the snow on the cable.
- Dan, Reading, England
"Want" in this case is deliberatley ambiguous. In the first use of the word it signifies a physical lust that is usurped by his need for his partner's mere presence. The second use of the word "want" means to lack something - i.e. his partner's presence. Therefore one can summise that he's extremely lonely and seriously missing his lady.
- Antony, brighton, England
Johnny Cash did an amazing cover of Wichita Lineman on his "Hurt" CD release. Anyone who hasn't heard it should definitely check it out. I really, really can't reccomend it enough, especially to anyone who already likes the song in the first place.
- Alistair, New York, NY
"I need you more than want you, etc" refers to the deeper, more spiritual side of love (need) as being even more important than the physical (want). This was always very plain to me.
- Jerry, Brooklyn, NY
"I need you more than want you, etc" refers to the deeper, more spiritual side of love (need) as being even more important than the phusical (want). This was always very plain to me.
- Jerry, Brooklyn, NY
Well, I thought it was perfectly clear...LOL.
- Jenifer, Tokyo, Japan
Re the line, "and I need you more than want you, and I want you for all-time"

One of Jimmy Webb's trademarks are lyrics which are ambiguous, cryptic and sometimes contradictory. I heard him explain in an interview once that he puts these sorts of lines in a song because it acts as a hook, making people curious about the song, and also gives them the space to make their own meaning out of it.

Macarthur Park is the classic example of this technique.
- Mark, Sydney, Australia
Does anyone know what the line "and I need you more than want you, and I want you for all-time" means ? I can't get my head round the meaning.
- The Bear, Stirling, Scotland
I crave music by Van Halen, David Lee Roth, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Wall of Voodoo, Led Zepellin, and so many other rock machines. But there is something about this song that just stops me in my tracks, dead cold. A true sonic masterpiece.
- Big Mike, Merrillville, IN
This is a truly inspirational track and no matter how stressful your day has been, I defy you not to feel relaxed afterwards!
- DAVID, LONDON, England
Webb, in an interview, once said that the basis for the song was a joking bet that he could write a song about ANYTHING and make it a hit. When he saw the lineman he knew he had found it. The song is about a worker with the the county Rural Electrification crew (note the references to overloads and strain from heavy power use in cold weather).
- Keith, SLC, UT
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