In Memoriam: Glen Campbell (1936-2017)

Country, pop, and session guitarist legend Glen Campbell has passed away at 81:

“It is with the heaviest of hearts that we announce the passing of our beloved husband, father, grandfather, and legendary singer and guitarist, Glen Travis Campbell, at the age of 81, following his long and courageous battle with Alzheimer’s disease,” the singer’s family said in a statement.

Glen Campbell was placed at #44 on our list of country music’s 100 Greatest Men:

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.

Glen’s work as a session musician was captured well in the documentary, The Wrecking Crew:

During his many years as a star, his classic hits included:

“Gentle On My Mind”

“By the Time I Get to Phoenix”

“Wichita Lineman”

“Galveston”

“Rhinestone Cowboy”

“Southern Nights”

Glen Campbell received the ACM Pioneer Award in 1998:

And country music’s highest honor in 2005, induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame:

As he struggled with Alzheimer’s toward the end of his life, he put a spotlight on the disease while also completing his legacy with a final album and moving documentary:

8 Comments

  1. Loved Glen Campbell. Like most people my age, I was obsessed with Rhinestone Cowboy when it came out. Over the years, I learned to love his earlier releases as well as the ones that came afterwards.

    I feel Glen was among the ranks of Kenny Rogers, Crystal Gayle, Anne Murray, and Eddie Rabbitt – country artists who sang great country songs but were pop-sounding enough to be played on pop radio as well. As a result, they were able to bring new audiences to country radio.

    He was such a talented musician and singer. He chose to record great songs. He deservedly was inducted into the Country Music Hall Of Fame.

    Hats off to Gentle On My Mind, Galveston, Wichita Lineman, Try A Little Kindness, Oklahoma Sunday Morning, Manhattan Kansas, Houston (I’m Coming To See You), Rhinestone Cowboy, Country Boy (You’ve Got Your Feet In L.A.), Southern Nights, Sunflower, Faithless Love, and so many more great songs.

  2. This just makes me think. Ya’ll should do a list of Top Crossover artist in Country? Just a thought.

    Anyway, I will always love traditional country the most but I love variety and as a crossover singer he was among the top. He had a great voice and found the best songs. He will be missed.

  3. RIP Glen. Never got to see him in concert. First time I saw him was on a TV show called Shindig around 1964. Favorite singles: “Gentle on My Mind” and “Galveston”. One of my favorite album tracks is from the album “Galveston”, “Every Time I Itch I Wind up Scratchin’ You” which Glen wrote with Jeremy Slate.

  4. Can anyone think of anybody else with the resume that Glen Campbell has? His session work was as part of the legendary Wrecking Crew here in Los Angeles; he subbed for Brian Wilson in the Beach Boys in 1964-65; he even released a folk/bluegrass album very early on in his career (1962’s Big Bluegrass Special with the Green River Boys).

    And then there was his TV variety show that ran from January 1969 to June 1972, and, like Johnny Cash’s, highlighted a lot of artists, both veterans and relative newcomers, that went on to have explosive careers of their own (Linda Ronstadt was one of those, as she was on twice [October 1969; January 1971]).

    G.C. was someone who transcended the mundane with his professional and musical acumen. I am fairly sure in saying this–the likes of Glen Campbell will never be seen again.

  5. Erik, Barbara Mandrell is the only one who comes close to Campbell that I can think of. She could play lots of instruments well, had her own television variety series, was the first act to win Entertainer Of The Year twice, and was inducted into the Country Music HOF.

    But I agree that Campbell was one of a kind and we’ll never see the likes of someone like him again.

  6. I for one would like to see G.C. get a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction for 2018 (albeit posthumously) because of his Wrecking Crew session resume (which included many established 1960s rock classics) and the fact that so many rock music figures, including Hall of Famers Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen, have given their plaudits. I really don’t think that he was ever given enough credit in his lifetime, supposedly because he was either too middle-of-the-road (though he arguably was middle-of-the-road), or just a bit too country for rock fans (uh…Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris, folks?). But now would be the time to make amends to him on the rock and roll side of the fence.

  7. I saw Glen Campbell when I was 13; my then 36 year old Mum hauled all five of us 200 miles from home to spend the day at the Ohio State Fair, only to rush home after the show so my Dad could work the midnight shift. She had a tiny sign that said ‘Everyday Housewife’; we were off to the side but fairly close and he saw her sign and sang it to her. He later had a stage hand bring her a pick; we found it in her jewelry box when she died.

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