Glen Campbell

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Glen Campbell
Glen Campbell Capitol Archives

Singer, songwriter, actor, TV presenter Glen Campbell was born on 22nd April 1936, the 12th child and seventh son of a dirt poor sharecropper. Campbell drowned when he was a toddler in the Little Missouri River near his family’s Arkansas home. His lips were blue when he was pulled from the river and those who rescued him believed he was gone. But he lived miraculously after his brother Lyndell resuscitated him.

Campbell’s father recognised his musical talent and bought him a $5 guitar at the age of four. He quickly showed himself to be a prodigy under the tutelage of his Uncle Boo. As a teenager he broke the poverty cycle and began to earn a living with his guitar and went on to become one of the most respected, revered and popular performers of the rock ‘n’ roll era.

As a session musician in the 1960s he worked with Bobby Darin, Ricky Nelson, The Monkees, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, The Velvet Underground, Frankie Laine, The Association, Jan & Dean and The Mamas & the Papas. He was a touring member of The Beach Boys, filling in for an ailing Brian Wilson in 1964 and 1965. His guitar playing can be heard on “Strangers in the Night” by Sinatra, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” by The Righteous Brothers and “I’m a Believer” by The Monkees.

He topped the US album chart in 1968 with Wichita Lineman. Although the LP would stay on the chart for 46 weeks, it would be Campbell’s only number one album, (although the follow up Galveston peaked at number 2), “Wichita Lineman” has been referred to as “the first existential country song.” Apparently, songwriter Jimmy Webb’s inspiration for the lyrics came while driving through rural northern Oklahoma when he noticed a solitary lineman atop his pole. Webb then “put himself atop that pole and put that phone in his hand” as he considered what the lineman was saying into the receiver.

Webb known for his successful collaborations with Campbell is a brilliant songwriter, his songs have been recorded or performed by The 5th Dimension, Thelma Houston, The Supremes, Richard Harris, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Art Garfunkel, Amy Grant, America, Linda Ronstadt, R.E.M., and Carly Simon.

Campbell would conquer pop music in the mid-1970s when he released his best-selling single, “Rhinestone Cowboy,” a signature song that became his theme in many ways. The 1975 single, which has sold more than five million copies, remains a standard of the era. And in 1977 he released “Southern Nights,” a remake of Allen Toussaint’s classic. The song was the most-played jukebox track of 1977.

Before I go any further, I want to share with you a night I had in 2012, when I went to see Mr Campbell perform (on what we were told would be his last ever tour). And he was brilliant. He latest album at the time Ghost on the Canvas, contains a fine collection of tunes written by some of the finest young songwriters we have (Paul Westerberg, Teddy Thompson, Jakob Dylan, Roger Joseph Manning, Jr.), as well as Campbell’s own songs.

The album sadly was intended as his farewell to studio recording due to his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. His stage presence was amazing — his charisma flowed into the audience from the stage, and the songs, they just kept coming, it was one of those gigs where you think surely he’s played all his hits by now, but they just kept coming. There was one point during the show where Glen was about to launch into the next song when his daughter Debby — who stood close to her father on stage — shouted, “Dad, Dad, this one is in F sharp”, To which Glen replied, “Oh, F sharp is it?” He re-adjusted his hands on the fretboard and proceeded to play a blistering guitar solo over the introduction to the song. Alzheimer’s obviously attacks part of the brain but not the part that’s marked ‘guitar solos and singing’. Another thing he kept doing throughout the show was as he looked at the set list to see what the next song was he would say, “Oh, I love this song, I’m so lucky to have sung all these great songs.”

Campbell released more than 70 albums and sold over 45 million records. He was in great demand as a session musician in the sixties and worked as part of the studio musicians’ clique known as “the Wrecking Crew.” He played guitar on the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds album, as well as on recordings by artists from Elvis to Sinatra. On top of all this, Campbell hosted his own weekly variety show, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, from January 1969 through June 1972. His TV shows broke viewing records; everybody loved to hear Glen Campbell sing and play his guitar.

The opening paragraph from his Ghost on the Canvas press release said it all:
“Ghost On the Canvas is the album of Glen Campbell’s life. Take that as literally or figuratively as you like and it still is the case. With beauty, power, heartfelt emotion and deep spirituality, this set of songs – a song cycle, if you will – traces the arc of Campbell’s 75 years: From dirt-poor, tiny-town Arkansas origins to Hollywood triumphs on the pop charts, TV and movies. From troubled free-falls of addiction and bad life choices to personal and spiritual redemption.”

“I’ve tried and I have failed Lord, I’ve won and I have lost, I’ve lived and I have loved Lord
, Sometimes at such a cost, One thing I know, The world’s been good for me, A better place awaits, You’ll see”

Glen Campbell, “A Better Place”

Glen Campbell is our real life ‘lineman’; he’s told us countless tales in songs over the years, he’s played on some of our favourite records.

Campbell was the subject of the documentary Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me, directed by longtime friend James Keach, which examined Campbell’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis and how it affected his musical performances during his final tour across the United States with his family.

Glen died in Nashville, Tennessee, on August 8, 2017, at the age of 81. He was buried in the Campbell family cemetery in Billstown, Arkansas.

Important Dates In The Life Of Glen Campbell:

On this day in music
13 Mar 2023
American drummer Jim Gordon, died in prison at the age of 77. He was one of the most requested session drummers in the late 1960s and 1970s. Gordon co-wrote Layla with Eric Clapton, worked with The Everly Brothers, The Monkees, The Beach Boys, George Harrison, (All Things Must Pass), John Lennon (Imagine), The Carpenters, Traffic, Glen Campbell, (Wichita Lineman), Steely Dan, Jackson Browne, Frank Zappa and many others. A diagnosed schizophrenic, Gordon murdered his mother on June 3, 1983, by pounding her head with a hammer. He was sentenced to sixteen years-to-life in prison in 1984.
8 Nov 2021
American songwriter, singer, musician and lyricist Margo Guryan died age 84. Her 1960s song ‘Sunday Mornin'‘, was hit for both Spanky and Our Gang and Oliver. Her songs have also been recorded by Cass Elliot, Glen Campbell amongst others.
3 Feb 2021
American singer-songwriter Jim Weatherly died age 77. He wrote mostly pop and country music, his notable songs include "The Need to Be" and "Midnight Train to Georgia" a 1973 No.1 hit single by Gladys Knight & the Pips. Ray Price, Lynn Anderson, Glen Campbell, Kenny Rogers, Kenny Chesney and Garth Brooks have all recorded his songs. He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2006.
8 Aug 2017
American singer, guitarist, songwriter, television host, and actor Glen Campbell died in Nashville, Tennessee at the age of 81. He became a patient at an Alzheimer's long-term care and treatment facility in 2014. Campbell released more than 70 studio albums and sold 45 million records worldwide. His hits include: 'By the Time I Get to Phoenix', 'Wichita Lineman', 'Galveston' and 'Rhinestone Cowboy'. His guitar playing can be heard on ‘Strangers in the Night’ by Frank Sinatra, ‘You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'‘ by The Righteous Brothers and ‘I'm a Believer’ by The Monkees.
9 Jun 2017
Adios, the 64th and final studio album by American singer-songwriter Glen Campbell, was released. After being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, Campbell embarked on a 2011–2012 Farewell Tour. After finishing the tour, he entered the studio in Nashville to record a final album. According to producer Carl Jackson, he had to stand with Campbell in the recording booth to record the vocals "line by line" as Campbell could not remember the lyrics. In the UK, Adiós debuted at No. 3 on the UK Albums Chart, becoming Campbell's highest UK debut ever.
30 Nov 2012
Glen Campbell played the very last live performance of his lifetime when he appeared at Uptown Theatre in Napa, California. Campbell revealed his Alzheimer's diagnosis to the public in 2011, and had set out on his Goodbye Tour as a way to say farewell to his fans.
5 Feb 2012
American record producer and session musician Al De Lory died aged 82. In the early Sixties De Lory played keyboards for various Phil Spector productions, and The Beach Boys, Glen Campbell including John Hartford's ‘Gentle on My Mind’, Jimmy Webb's ‘By the Time I Get to Phoenix’, ‘Wichita Lineman’ and ‘Galveston’. He was also a member of the Los Angeles session musicians known as The Wrecking Crew. As a bandleader he had his own hit in 1970 with an instrumental version of the ‘Song from M*A*S*H’.
21 Jun 2011
People magazine reported that 75-year-old Glen Campbell had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. "I still love making music," said Campbell. "And I still love performing for my fans. I'd like to thank them for sticking with me through thick and thin."
28 May 2008
American guitarist Jerry Cole died aged 68. He first entered the pop music scene as one of The Champs along with Glen Campbell. Cole and Campbell later formed the Gee Cee's and released one single called 'Buzzsaw Twist'. He backed up Elvis Presley in 1974 and also worked with Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Aretha Franklin, The Righteous Brothers, Little Richard, Ray Charles, Tony Orlando & Dawn, Lou Rawls, Gregg Allman, Lee Hazlewood, Blood Sweat & Tears, Kenny Rogers, Neil Diamond, Steely Dan, The Beach Boys and Isaac Hayes.
17 Sep 2006
American guitarist Al Casey died aged 69. Casey is noted for his work as a session musician and as a member of the Wrecking Crew and worked with The Beach Boys, Phil Spector, Elvis Presley, Glen Campbell, The Association, The Monkees, Johnny Cash, Simon And Garfunkel, 5th Dimension, Harry Nilsson, The Partridge Family, Frank Sinatra, and Nancy Sinatra.
1 Jul 2004
Glen Campbell began serving 10 nights in jail along with two years of probation for a November 2003 drink-driving, hit-and-run collision. The 68 year old entertainer was also sentenced to 75 hours of community service and fined $900.
25 Nov 2003
Glen Campbell was arrested in Phoenix Arizona with a blood alcohol level of .20 after his BMW struck a Toyota Camry. He was charged with 'extreme' drunk driving, hit and run, and assaulting a police officer. A police officer reported that while in custody, Campbell hummed his hit 'Rhinestone Cowboy' repeatedly.
20 Jul 2000
The Evergreen Ballroom in Lacey, Washington was destroyed by a fire. During the ballroom's heyday in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, many of music's greats played there: Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Duke Ellington, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Ike and Tina Turner and Fats Domino. Glen Campbell had lived in the kitchen at the venue for a while before he became famous.
26 Oct 1999
American singer, songwriter and actor Hoyt Axton died of a heart attack in Victor, Montana aged 61. He wrote songs for, Elvis Presley, Three Dog Night, (1971 US No.1 'Joy To The World'), John Denver, Ringo Starr, Glen Campbell. His mother Mae Boren Axton wrote 'Heartbreak Hotel'.
22 Sep 1985
The first Farm Aid benefit concert was held before a crowd of 80,000 people at the Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Illinois. Organized by Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp and Neil Young, the event had been spurred on by Bob Dylan's comments at Live Aid earlier in that year that he hoped some of the money would help American farmers. The star studded line-up of country stars included: Alabama, Hoyt Axton, Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash, Charlie Daniels Band, John Denver, Bob Dylan, John Fogerty, Vince Gill, Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings, George Jones, Kris Kristofferson, Loretta Lynn, Roger Miller, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Willie Nelson, Charley Pride, Bonnie Raitt, Kenny Rogers.
19 Aug 1979
American Rockabilly singer Dorsey Burnette died from a heart attack at his home in Canoga Park, California. He wrote 'It's Late', a hit for Ricky Nelson and Shakin' Stevens. After his death, singer and friend Delaney Bramlett organized a benefit concert for Dorsey’s widow at the Forum in Inglewood, California, in which Kris Kristofferson, Hoyt Axton. Tanya Tucker, Glen Campbell, Duane Eddy, Delaney and Bonnie, Gary Busey and Roger Miller appeared. Dorsey Burnette's pioneering contribution to the genre has been recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
30 Apr 1977
Glen Campbell went to No.1 on the US singles chart with 'Southern Nights', his second US No.1.
27 Nov 1976
20 Golden Greats by Glen Campbell started a six-week run at No.1 on the UK album chart. During his 50 years in show business, Campbell released more than 70 albums and has sold over 45 million records.
6 Sep 1975
Glen Campbell started a two week run at No.1 on the US singles chart with 'Rhinestone Cowboy', his first No.1 after 13 Top 40 hits. The record gained three Grammy nominations and was the Country Music Association's Song of the Year for 1976.
26 Aug 1975
Glen Campbell was at No.1 on the US Country singles chart with 'Rhinestone Cowboy'. The song was one of six songs released in 1975 that topped both the Billboard Hot 100 and Billboard Hot Country Singles charts. The other songs were 'Before the Next Teardrop Falls' by Freddy Fender; '(Hey Won't You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song' by B.J. Thomas, 'Thank God I'm a Country Boy' and 'I'm Sorry'/'Calypso,' both by John Denver; and 'Convoy' by C.W. McCall.
19 Apr 1969
Glen Campbell was at No.1 on the Billboard country singles chart with the Jimmy Webb song 'Galveston', which also made No.4 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song describes a soldier waiting to go into battle who thinks of the woman he loves and his hometown of Galveston, Texas: "I still hear your sea waves crashing/as I watch the cannons flashing/ I clean my gun/And dream of Galveston." In 2003, this song ranked No.8 in CMT's 100 Greatest Songs in Country Music.
21 Dec 1968
Glen Campbell topped the US album chart with 'Wichita Lineman'. Although the LP would stay on the chart for 46 weeks, it would be Campbell's only No.1 album. The title track which was written by American songwriter Jimmy Webb reached No 3 on the US singles chart.
30 Nov 1968
Glen Campbell started a five-week run at No.1 on the US album chart with 'Wichita Lineman.' Jimmy Webb's inspiration for the lyrics came while driving through Washita County in northern Oklahoma. Webb was driving through an endless litany of telephone poles, each looking exactly the same as the last. Then, in the distance, he noticed the silouette of a solitary lineman atop a pole. Webb then "put himself atop that pole and put that phone in his hand" as he considered what the lineman was saying into the receiver.
17 May 1967
Working at the Capitol Recording Studio in Hollywood, Glen Campbell recorded 'Gentle On My Mind,' a song written by John Hartford and arranged by Leon Russell. The song went on to win won four Grammy Awards the following year and became the theme to the television variety show, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour between 1969 and 1972.
7 Mar 1966
Tina Turner recorded her vocal on the Phil Spector produced 'River Deep Mountain High'. It went on to make No.3 in the UK but only No.88 on the US chart. Spector was well aware of Ike Turner's controlling attitude in the studio, and therefore he drafted an unusual contract: the River Deep – Mountain High album and single would be credited to Ike and Tina Turner, but Ike was paid $20,000 to stay away from the studio, and only Tina Turner's vocals would be used on the record. Session musicians who played on the track included Leon Russell (keyboards), Glen Campbell (guitar), and Hal Blaine (drums).
23 Dec 1964
During a US tour Beach Boy Brian Wilson had a nervous breakdown during a flight from Los Angeles to Houston. Wilson left the band to concentrate on writing and producing. Glen Campbell replaced Wilson for the bands live shows before Bruce Johnston replaced him.
9 Oct 1964
The Beach Boys recorded ‘Dance Dance Dance’, with Glen Campbell playing the lead guitar intro. It would go on to become their twelfth US Top 40 hit.
8 Jun 1963
The Crystals' 'Da Doo Ron Ron' peaked at No.3 on the US singles chart. Produced by Phil Spector, who used a multi-track recording system to build the song layer upon layer to achieve a result that become known as a "wall of sound". Backing musicians include Glen Campbell on guitar, Leon Russell on piano, Hal Blain on drums and Nino Tempo on sax.
19 Dec 1958
Conway Twitty was at No.1 on the UK singles chart with 'It's Only Make Believe'. The song became the first to reach the UK Top 10 in four different years by different artists: Billy Fury (1964), Glen Campbell (1970) and Child (1978).
8 Apr 1942
Glenn Wallichs launched Capitol Records in the US. The label became home to such artists as Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Bobby Darin, Dean Martin, Glen Campbell, Steve Miller, Dr. Hook, Bob Seger, Tina Turner, Heart and countless others. Wallichs was the man who invented the art of record promotion by sending copies of new releases to disc jockeys.
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