Glen Campbell

Glen Campbell

“But I’m gonna be where the lights are shinin’ on me,
Like a rhinestone cowboy…”

If you are under the impression that you’ve never heard Glen Campbell, you are probably mistaken. A gifted musician, vocalist and performer, the guitarist who fittingly came from Delight, Arkansas has delighted millions with his hit songs, movie and television appearances, and as one of the busiest session musicians in Hollywood during the 60s and 70s.

Campbell was one of twelve children born to an Arkansas sharecropper in 1936. He took up the guitar at a very young age, taught by his uncle Boo. By the time he was fourteen, he was earning money as a professional musician in a local western swing band. After making a bit of name for himself, he decided to move out west.

Arriving in Hollywood, he soon became part of a group of formidable studio musicians dubbed “The Wrecking Crew” who were basically the house band for a steady stream of famous performers. During this time, he and his gifted brethren played on records from such artists as Elvis Presley, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Jan and Dean, The Monkees, The Mamas and the Papas, Ray Charles and many, many more. In 1963 alone, Glen played on over 600 records.

During this period, Campbell was also writing folk songs and looking to break out on his own. The first ones didn’t do too well, but that changed in 1967. After signing with Capitol Records, he scored his first #1 hit with “Gentle on My Mind,” a folksy acoustic song that didn’t have a chorus. The next year, he followed up with two more #1 hits, both penned by Jimmy Webb – the sad breakup song “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and the hauntingly beautiful “Wichita Lineman.” For his impressive efforts, he was awarded four Grammy Awards in 1967 and one the following year.

There were still bigger things on the horizon for Glen Campbell. In 1968, he came into the living rooms of millions of television viewers via The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, a lighthearted variety show that ran for four seasons on CBS. He also appeared with John Wayne in the 1969 western, True Grit, and earned an Academy Award nomination for the title song, which he wrote and sang, of course.

In the 70s, more hits followed, including “Rhinstone Cowboy” and “Southern Nights,” both of which also went all the way to the top of the charts, with the former selling over two-million copies alone. During the decade, he also hosted The American Music Awards for three years and the Los Angeles Open golf tournament from 1971-83.

When the 80s arrived, the hits slowed down but Campbell remained the tireless performer. He made a cameo appearance in the Clint Eastwood film, Any Which Way You Can, and recorded the title song. In 1991, he lent his voice to the memorable rooster, Chanticleer in the animated Don Bluth film, Rock-A-Doodle. Eventually, he built a performance venue in Branson, Missouri called The Glen Campbell Goodtime Theater, where he performed for many years to his adoring fans.

In 2008, Glen came back to Capitol to record his first album in fifteen years (and incidentally, his 60th release), titled Meet Glen Campbell. He followed in 2010 with what would become his farewell album, the critically-acclaimed Ghost on the Canvas. The beloved performer announced the same year that he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He embarked on the Glen Campbell Goodbye Tour to bid farewell to his many loyal followers. At the 2012 Grammy Awards, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award and performed a touching version of “Rhinestone Cowboy” which earned him a lengthy and well-deserved standing ovation from his peers.

With millions of album sales, his own television show, movie appearances, Grammy Awards, countless hit records for other artists, and a performance venue that bears his name, one thing is clear – it’s a good thing this folk singer with the ever-present smile got an early start in the music business. Little did he realize how much work he had ahead or how many smiles he would bring to others.

If you count yourself as one of Glen Campbell’s millions of fans, we would love to hear your thoughts and recollections of this beloved performer in our comments section below.