100 Greatest Men: #44. Glen Campbell

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A young talent from Arkansas that developed from an in-demand session musician into a frontman for the ages.

Glen Campbell played guitar from the age of four.  He picked up instrumental guidance from jazz records while developing his vocal skills at church.   By his teenage years, he was already playing in country bands throughout Arkansas, and by age eighteen, he had his own country band called the Western Wranglers.

Looking for work, he moved to California in his early twenties, where he became a popular session musician, playing on records by Elvis Presley, Merle Haggard, Frank Sinatra, and the Monkees.  He played live gigs backing up established artists, while also pushing his own solo career, which was aided greatly by his touring with the Beach Boys.   Their Capitol label signed Campbell to a deal, and after working diligently throughout the sixties, he would end the decade as a huge star.

Campbell released a string of classic hits and albums from 1967-1969, including several gold singles and LPs.   His dual success on the pop and country charts with “By the cialis tablets foreign Time I Get to Phoenix”, “Wichita Lineman”, and “Galveston”, made him a household name, and he dominated at all three major industry award shows.   His By the Time I Get to Phoenix set remains one of the only country albums in history to win the Grammy for Album of the Year, and his CBS show,  The Glen Campbell Good Time Hour, further cemented his popularity.

The hits slowed down as the seventies rolled in, though Campbell had well-received duets with Bobbie Gentry and Anne Murray.   Alcohol and substance abuse contributed to this decline, but despite battling those demons, he managed a brief comeback in the middle of the decade.   A pair of crossover hits topped both the country and pop charts: “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “Southern Nights.”  Both became signature songs for him, and helped get his radio career back on track.

Campbell would remain an inconsistent but regular presence on country radio until the late eighties, a decade that saw him conquer his addictions and become a born-again Christian.  In the nineties, he penned his autobiography, Rhinestone Cowboy, and opened a wildly popular theater in Branson, Missouri.   While this decade was intended to begin his retirement, Campbell remained a passionate live performer, and he won several awards for his inspirational albums.

Campbell was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005, but soon demonstrated that his music career wasn’t quite through yet. In 2008, he returned to Capitol records and released Meet Glen Campbell, his first new country album in fifteen years.   A diagnosis with Alzheimer’s inspired 2011′s farewell project, Ghost on the Canvas, which was hailed as one of his finest works.   He followed the album with a bittersweet farewell tour that is intended to bring an end to his public appearances upon his completion.

Essential Singles:

  • Gentle on My Mind, 1967
  • By the Time I Get to Phoenix, 1967
  • I Wanna Live, 1968
  • Wichita Lineman, 1968
  • Galveston, 1969
  • Rhinestone Cowboy, 1975
  • Country Boy (You Got Your Feet in L.A.), 1975
  • Southern Nights, 1977

Essential Albums:

  • Gentle on My Mind, 1967
  • By the Time I Get to Phoenix, 1967
  • Wichita Lineman, 1968
  • Galveston, 1969
  • Rhinestone Cowboy, 1975
  • Southern Nights, 1977
  • Ghost on the Canvas, 2011

Next: #43. Roger Miller

Previous: #45. Tim McGraw

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

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13 Comments

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13 Responses to 100 Greatest Men: #44. Glen Campbell

  1. bobNo Gravatar

    The first time I saw Glen Campbell was on the 60′s tv show Shindig. I can’t argue with your essential singles but my favorites are Gentle on My Mind and Galveston.

  2. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar

    If record sales were the only criterion, I suspect Campbell would be in the top fifteen, maybe even the top ten

  3. His version of “It’s Only Make Believe” was an essential part of my childhood soundtrack…still gets me a little misty-eyed. They don’t make ‘em like Glen Campbell anymore, eh?

  4. Erik NorthNo Gravatar

    I defy any of today’s “stars” to have the kind of career that G.C. has, between his own discography, standing in for Brian Wilson with the Beach Boys, having his own TV show, and, by way of doing “By The Time I Get To Phoenix”, “Wichita Lineman”, and “Galveston”, making Jimmy Webb into a household name in the songwriting pantheon. I really can’t think of anything he hasn’t done.

    I think it is also a little too easy to see him, as some still do, as a “middle of the road” artist. He was in a lot of ways, but he was also very honest about it, and still managed to create actual Art out of it all (IMHO).

  5. KevinNo Gravatar

    Glen’s sold less than ten million albums, according to RIAA, so he wouldn’t be among the 30 if this list was done according to sales.

    There are a small handful of artists that didn’t make the list who have sold more than him (John Michael Montgomery, Billy Ray Cyrus.)

    If he’d hit his peak in the late seventies or after, he’d certainly be higher on the cumulative sales list.

    After all, Johnny Cash has only sold 21.5 million albums, and a large percentage of those were sold after his death.

  6. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar

    remember – sales of 45 rpms count too, although not in album totals. Campbell and Cash both moved many million singles

  7. KevinNo Gravatar

    They did, but not that many. Johnny Cash’s only million-selling 45 was “A Boy Named Sue.”

    Glen Campbell had four million-selling 45 records: “Wichita Lineman”, “Galveston”, “Rhinestone Cowboy”, and “Southern Nights.”

    Given the length of time that male country artists have been relevant and how the marketplace has expanded and changed over that time, total sales aren’t terribly useful as a measuring stick.

    In terms of relative sales, meaning how an artist sold compared to his peers at the time, Campbell was incredibly successful.

    But even that measuring stick has its limits. If we went just by relative sales, Olivia Newton-John would’ve been the most important female country artist of the seventies!

  8. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar

    One problem with relying on RIAA data is that the record label had to push the song to the RIAA to get a record certified as silver,gold,platinum, plywood whatever and many labels didn’t bother with the certification process. Also official certifications began in 1958. Cash had a bunch of very successful singles and albums prior to then that don’t show up in RIAA totals. Unofficially 1963′s “Ring of Fire” plus three of his mid-50s singles are reported to have been million sellers

    Getting back to Campbell, his career is very analogous to that of Dolly Parton, in that both of them have done it all and some of it they did very well.

    Glen wasn’t the songwriter that Parton is, but Dolly isn’t in the same stadium as Glen as an instrumentalist. Both had marginal careers in the movies, success as television stars, recorded a variety of successful duets and many successful solo records. Glen’s biggest hits are among the best remembered songs of his generation.

    Internationally Glen Campbell achieved a level of success that far exceeded what most country stars apart from Jim Reeves would even dream of achieving. I’m not sure where the less than 10 million album sales comes from as he had 12 RIAA certified gold+ albums – most of the numbers I’ve seen suggest upwards of 45 million albums in the US alone

    I am not the biggest fan of Glen’s pop-country material but there is very little of it that will send me fleeing the room if it comes on the radio. His best material is exquisite. I think I would have Campbell in my top thirty. I notice that Tim McGraw is in the slot just behind Glen – I predict that in 30 years McGraw will be forgotten and Campbell still remembered (I doubt if I’ll make it to 90, so somebody exhume me and let me know how this prediction pans out !!)

  9. SweetcheeksNo Gravatar

    The comment above predicts that in 30 years Tim McGraw will be forgotten and Glen Campbell remembered. I can’t speak for Tim McGraw, but is Glen Cambell even remembered today by people 30 and under?

    I’m 30 now and have been listening to country music for 20 years. “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “Southern Nights” are the only Campbell songs I can identify, and until just now I had no idea who sung “Rhinestone Cowboy”. I don’t think any of my friends have ever mentioned Glen Campbell to me, much less tried to have a conversation about him. I can’t think of any Glen Campbell references on currently popular TV or radio programs.

    No doubt Campbell was well known to my parents generation, but probably not to mine. And I’d be shocked if more than a tiny percentage of today’s teenagers know anything other than a passing fact about him – if that. Therefore, I’d be surprised if he is remembered in any meaningful sense by more than a very small percent of individuals in 30 years. Hard core music fans, perhaps. But outside of that?

  10. TomNo Gravatar

    …”rhinestone cowboy” is still among the top five songs my showerhead has to endure fairly regularly until this day. next to “country roads” it was probably the most played “country song” on swiss or german radio morning shows in the 70′s and 80′s. and it’s still played quite frequently by those stations that make people of my age group turning up the radio, when the eagles, bob seger, fleedwood mac, bto or dire straits come on.

    however, my first contact with glenn campbells music was “galveston”, which is still my absolute favourite from his musical portfolio. my mother must have liked his hairstyle better, judging from some old photos. looking back, that one, lynn anderson’s “rose garden” and johnny cash’s “ring of fire” were the tunes that kicked off my lifelong love for the genre. the country universe on swiss radio was a very tiny quadrant to get started.

  11. Erik NorthNo Gravatar

    In response to what Sweetcheeks said about Glen–I wouldn’t be too hasty about him not being remembered. Maybe there won’t be songs written about him or that drop his name in there (the last of which I consider an absolutely hoary and horrible cliche among a lot of today’s country songs), but there is always likely to be some enterprising “young’un” somewhere who’ll rediscover him in some way.

    I should hasten to point out that, even before hitting really big nationally in 1967 with John Hartford’s “Gentle On My Mind”, Glen did a number of earlier recordings, including the much-covered “Long Black Limousine”, and the Buffy Sainte-Marie protest song “Universal Solider.” They very much showed the man’s diversity and cagey song selection from very early on (early-to-mid 1960s).

  12. SweetcheeksNo Gravatar

    Its a good point that Erik North makes. If Campbell gets “rediscovered” he could become cool again and well known. It certainly could happen! Also, I’m speaking out of personal experience and I did grow up in an area of the country where country music isn’t terribly popular. Still, part of the joy of music is sharing it with others, and I highly doubt that any of my friends (except on country message boards!) are into Glen Campbell.

    I think my comment is also motivated by a conversation I had a few months ago with a 23 year old graduate student. I’m in my early 30s now and I had mentioned to him some TV shows I enjoyed in re-runs growing up – Facts of Life, Different Strokes, Growing Pains, Threes Company. Even though he is plugged into popular culture and had TV growing up, he had no knowledge of these shows that I remember fondly, their characters, or theme songs and I was taken aback.

    It took me a few minutes to remember that the popular culture of my youth is hardly any better than that of a younger generation, and that what I remember fondly would seem hokey and outdated to a younger generation with different concerns. Why should a kid who grew up on Malcom in the Middle check out Growing Pains re-runs unless he is a TV historian or aficionado? Can he talk about those shows with his friends? Not really. Are they “essential viewing,” no. Some things — I Love Lucy, Johnny Cash, et cetera — may survive through the generations, but very few. I came to realize how unreasonable I was being in expecting a younger generation to like the stuff my generation liked.

    So Paul Dennis made the comment about Tim McGraw being forgotten in 30 years but not Glen Campbell. Campbell hasn’t had a hit or been part of mass culture for twenty years already, and McGraw is still having hits today. I doubt my grandkids will care one whiff about Tim McGraw or Glen Campbell, and quite frankly, I see little reason why they should.

    But it seems odd to say Mc Graw will be forgotten in 30 years (many of his fans will be in their 50s or 60s in 30 years) while Campbell will be remembered (his fanbase will be between 70 and 100, but mostly dead).

    But I think country fans who are my age and who are from my area of the U.S. are more likely to remember MC Hammer, Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw and Saved by the Bell than Glen Campbell. That’s not to make any comment on artistic/entertainment quality, just what was popular when we were growing up. We’re not likely to remember Campbell because we were never introduced to him.

    And I’d hope Campbell fans are ok with that, just as I had to learn to be ok with the fact that a younger generation doesn’t give one crap about the TV shows that I treasured as a kid. Likewise, most Glenn Campbell fans might not be interested in Taylor Swift or Hunter Hayes; I hope they could understand why Swift and Hayes fans would return the disinterest, and be perfectly justified in doing so.

  13. stargirNo Gravatar

    It’s with such sadness that I watch the slow decline of Glen Campbell. He’s always been my favorite performer. I’ve been to 4 of his concerts beginning in the 1960′s and last in the 1995 when I he gave me his autograph, held my hand and let me take a photo. What a great day!!
    There are no performers today who can make a song their own, like he could.

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