Glen Campbell: 1936-2017 | Rock Candy

Glen Campbell: 1936-2017

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Glen Travis Campbell was born April 22, 1936, in Pike County, one of a family of fourteen. Adept and music and singing from a young age, Campbell was particularly talented. His Uncle Boo, Dick Bills, taught him guitar, and Campbell moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the mid-1950s to join his uncle’s band and radio show.

While still a young man, he logged many miles as a performer, with one of his early notable gigs being a touring member of the band the Champs of “Tequila!” fame. Glen Campbell also played on many of the Beach Boys’ early songs, including 1965’s #1 pop hit, “Help me, Rhonda” and sessions for 1966’s "Pet Sounds." Campbell even toured with the group after bandleader Brian Wilson quit performing live, playing Wilson’s bass parts and, with his crystalline voice, singing the famous Beach Boys harmonies.

He declined an offer to officially join the Beach Boys. The deeply versatile Campbell didn’t need the gig. During the same period, he was a studio gun for hire, as part of a loose-knit group of musicians called the Clique, or the Wrecking Crew. He played on sessions for the Monkees, Ricky Nelson, Nat King Cole, Merle Haggard, Elvis Presley, Dean Martin and countless others, including Frank Sinatra’s #1 Grammy-winning comeback hit, “Strangers In The Night.”

With his incredible range as a vocalist and instrumentalist – not to mention his good looks – Glen Campbell was destined to step out beyond the anonymity of the studio. He signed as a solo artist to California’s Crest Records, and in 1962, joined Capitol Records. It took a few years for Campbell to emerge as a solo star; in fact, he was almost dropped by Capitol in the mid-1960s. But 1967 saw the release of “Gentle On My Mind” and “By The Time I Get to Phoenix," songs for which Campbell won a total four Grammys in country and pop.

He hosted a summertime replacement show for the Smothers Brothers show in 1968, which turned into his own show, "The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour," running from 1969 through mid-1972. He starred with Kim Darby in two films based on fellow south Arkansawyer Charles Portis’s novels, 1969’s "True Grit" and 1970’s "Norwood." He voiced Chanticleer, the rooster in the 1991 animated comedy "Rock-A- Doodle," in addition to several other TV and movie appearances.

The mid-1970s saw another string of big Campbell hits, including Campbell’s biggest-ever song, “Rhinestone Cowboy,” an international million-seller. The 1980s began with Campbell becoming tabloid fodder due to his tumultuous alcohol- and cocaine-fueled relationship with Tanya Tucker, more than 20 years his junior, while Campbell was between his third and fourth marriages. He hit the tabloids again with a 2003 arrest for drunken driving. He married former Radio City Music Hall Rockette Kim Woollen in 1982. Their three musician children toured with Campbell beginning in 2010.

In 2011, it was announced that Campbell had Alzheimer’s. Campbell’s subsequent farewell tour through 2012 featured mostly older songs because of this, and he used a teleprompter for lyrics and chords. His final TV performance was at the 2012 Grammys, where he played “Rhinestone Cowboy.”

Campbell’s 2014 song, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” was featured in the Campbell documentary called "I’ll Be Me." He spent his 81st birthday in 2017 in the Nashville, Tennessee, memory care facility where’d he’d been living.

With more than a half-century as a performer on stage, on television and in movies, Glen Campbell charted more than eighty songs.

-Stephen Koch


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