As R.E.M. breaks up, reflections on the band and golf with bassist Mills and manager Downs

September, 2011

Michael Bamberger 

Is there a song more wistful than "Wichita Lineman," the Jimmy Webb composition that Glen Campbell turned into an A.M. anthem in the late 1960s ? Even all the schmaltzy strings backing him couldn't kill its greatness. Maybe you remember Campbell as the host of the Los Angeles Open in the 1970s and early '80s . When Campbell would talk to Vin Scully, he'd drawl like an Oklahoma quarterback, but his mod hair was always slightly long for golf.

He had just the right makeup for that tournament, as Bing Crosby did for his California event and Bob Hope did for his. It's heartbreaking to think of Glen Campbell now, going around the country on his Goodbye Tour , the first signs of Alzheimer's creeping into his memories. I'll bet he can still make a graceful pass at the ball, though. Sam Snead once told me (and surely others) that his own golf rhythm and his gift for music came from the same place.

This comes to mind because of the news a few days ago that the band R.E.M. has decided, as its members said in a statement, "to call it a day." The band's bassist, Mike Mills, and its manager, Bertis Downs, are golf bums of the highest order. You'll see them at Ryder Cups, at the Masters, at British Opens. A score of Tour players and caddies and writers count them as friends. On the Saturday night of the Tour Championship, a bunch of guys were going to an outdoor concert in Atlanta where Coldplay was playing, in part on the hope that Michael Stipe, R.E.M.'s lead singer, would be lured onstage. (Real life intervened; he didn't perform.)

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