Glen Travis Campbell (born April 22, 1936) is an American country music singer, guitarist, television host and occasional actor. He is best known for a series of hits in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as for hosting a variety show called The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour on CBS television.
During his 50 years in show business, Campbell has released more than 70 albums. He has sold 45 million records and racked up 12 RIAA Gold albums, 4 Platinum albums and 1 Double-Platinum album. Of his 74 trips up the country charts, 27 landed in the Top 10. Campbell's hits include John Hartford's "Gentle on My Mind", Jimmy Webb's "By the Time I Get to Phoenix", "Wichita Lineman" and "Galveston", Larry Weiss's "Rhinestone Cowboy" and Allen Toussaint's "Southern Nights".
Campbell made history by winning four Grammys in both country and pop categories in 1967. For "Gentle on My Mind" he received two awards in country & western, "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" did the same in pop. He owns trophies for Male Vocalist of the Year from both the Country Music Association (CMA) and the Academy of Country Music (ACM), and took the CMA's top honor as 1968 Entertainer of the Year. In 1969 Campbell was hand picked by actor John Wayne to play alongside him in the film True Grit, which gave Campbell a Golden Globe nomination for Most Promising Newcomer. Campbell sang the title song which was nominated for an Academy Award.
In 2005, Campbell was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
1950s–early 1960s: session musician and the Beach Boys
Campbell was one of 12 children born to a sharecropper father with Scottish ancestors right outside the tiny community of Delight in Pike County, Arkansas, in a town called Billstown, then a community of fewer than 100 residents. He started playing guitar as a youth without learning to read music. He credits his Uncle Boo for teaching him the guitar.
At 16, Campbell hocked his guitar and went to live with his Uncle Dick Bills in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Campbell joined his uncle’s band known as Dick Bills and the Sandia Mountain Boys and also appeared on his uncle’s radio show. A few years later, Campbell formed his own band, the Western Wranglers.
In 1958, Campbell moved to Los Angeles to become a session musician. He was part of the 1959 line-up of the group the Champs, famous for their instrumental "Tequila". Campbell was in great demand as a session musician in the 1960s. He was part of the studio musicians clique known as "the Wrecking Crew", many of whom went from session to session together as the same group. In addition to Campbell, Hal Blaine on drums, Tommy Tedesco on guitar, Leon Russell on piano, Carol Kaye on bass guitar, Al Casey on guitar were part of this group of session musicians that defined many pop and rock recordings of the era. They were also heard on Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound" recordings in the early 1960s.
He was a touring member of the Beach Boys, filling in for Brian Wilson in 1964 and 1965. He played guitar on the group's Pet Sounds album, among other recordings. On tour, he played bass guitar and sang falsetto harmonies.
He can be seen briefly in the 1965 film Baby the Rain Must Fall playing guitar in support of Steve McQueen.
Campbell was also the uncredited lead vocalist on "My World Fell Down" by the psychedelic rock act Sagittarius, which became a minor hit in 1967.
As a solo artist, he had moderate success regionally with his first single, "Turn Around, Look at Me". "Too Late to Worry, Too Blue to Cry" and "Kentucky Means Paradise" (cut with a bluegrass group called the Green River Boys) were similarly popular within only a small section of the country audience.
In 1962, Campbell signed with Capitol Records and released two instrumental albums and a number of vocal albums during his first five years with the label. However, despite releasing singles written by Brian Wilson ("Guess I'm Dumb" in 1965) and Buffy Sainte-Marie the same year ("The Universal Soldier"), Campbell did not achieve major success as a solo artist. It was rumored that Capitol was considering dropping him from the label in 1966 when he was teamed with producer Al DeLory, and together they collaborated on 1967's Dylanesque "Gentle on My Mind", written by John Hartford.
"Gentle on My Mind" was an overnight success. It was followed by the even bigger triumph of "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" later in 1967, and "I Wanna Live" and "Wichita Lineman" in 1968. The 1969 song “True Grit” by composer Elmer Bernstein and lyricist Don Black, and sung by Campbell, who co-starred in the movie, received nominations for both the Academy Award for Best Song and the Golden Globe.
Campbell won two Grammy Awards for his performances on "Gentle on My Mind" and "By the Time I Get to Phoenix".
His biggest hits in the late 1960s were the songs written by Jimmy Webb: "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," "Wichita Lineman", "Where's the Playground, Susie?" and "Galveston". An album of mainly Webb-penned compositions, Reunion: The Songs of Jimmy Webb, was released in 1974, but it produced no hit single records.
"Wichita Lineman" was selected as one of the greatest songs of the 20th century by Mojo magazine in 1997 and by Blender in 2001.
1970s: The Goodtime Hour, Rhinestone Cowboy and Southern Nights
After he hosted a 1968 summer replacement for television's The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour variety show, Campbell hosted his own weekly variety show, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, from January 1969 through June 1972. At the height of his popularity, a 1970 biography by Freda Kramer, The Glen Campbell Story, was published.
With Campbell's session-work connections, he hosted major names in music on his show including: the Beatles (on film), David Gates and Bread, the Monkees, Neil Diamond, Linda Ronstadt, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Roger Miller and helped launch the careers of Anne Murray, Mel Tillis and Jerry Reed who were regulars on his Goodtime Hour program.
In 1973, banjo player Carl Jackson joined Campbell's band for 12 years and went on to win two Grammy awards.
During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Campbell released a long series of singles and appeared in the movies True Grit (1969) with John Wayne and Kim Darby and Norwood (1970) with Kim Darby and Joe Namath.
In 1971, Campbell took the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour on the road for two nights to The Muny in Forest Park, (the largest and oldest outdoor theatre in America) in St. Louis, Missouri.
After the cancellation of his CBS series in 1972, Campbell remained a regular on network television. He co-starred in a made-for-television movie, Strange Homecoming, with Robert Culp and up-and-coming teen idol, Leif Garrett. He hosted a number of television specials, including 1976's Down Home, Down Under with Olivia Newton-John. He co-hosted the American Music Awards from 1976–78 and headlined the 1979 NBC special, Glen Campbell: Back To Basics with guest-stars Seals and Crofts and Brenda Lee. He was a guest on many network talk and variety shows, including: Donny & Marie, the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Cher, the Redd Foxx Comedy Hour, Merv Griffin, The Midnight Special with Wolfman Jack, DINAH!, Evening at Pops with Arthur Fiedler and the Mike Douglas Show. From 1982–83 he hosted a 30-minute syndicated music show on NBC, the Glen Campbell Music Show.
In the mid-1970s, he had more big hits with "Rhinestone Cowboy", "Southern Nights" (both U.S. #1 hits), "Sunflower" (U.S. #39) (written by Neil Diamond), and "Country Boy (You Got Your Feet in L.A.)." (U.S. #11).
"Rhinestone Cowboy" was Campbell's largest-selling single, initially with over 2 million copies sold in a matter of months. Campbell had heard the songwriter Larry Weiss' version while on tour of Australia in 1974 and felt it was the perfect song for him to record. It was included in the Jaws movie parody song "Mr. Jaws", which also reached the top 10 in 1975. "Rhinestone Cowboy" continues to be used in movie soundtracks and TV shows, including "Desperate Housewives", Daddy Day Care, and High School High. It was the inspiration for the 1984 Dolly Parton/Sylvester Stallone movie Rhinestone.
Campbell made a techno/pop version of the song in 2002 with UK artists Rikki & Daz and went to the top 10 in the UK with the dance version and related music video.
"Southern Nights," by Allen Toussaint, his other #1 pop-rock-country crossover hit, was generated with the help of Jimmy Webb, who turned Campbell onto the song, and Jerry Reed, who inspired the famous guitar lick introduction to the song, which was the most-played jukebox number of 1977.
From 1971 to 1983, Campbell was the celebrity host of the Los Angeles Open, an annual professional golf tournament on the PGA Tour.
1980s–2000s: Later career and Country Music Hall of Fame induction
Campbell made a cameo appearance in the 1980 Clint Eastwood movie Any Which Way You Can, for which he recorded the title song.
In 1999 Campbell was featured on VH-1's Behind the Music, A&E Network's Biography in 2001, and on a number of CMT programs. Campbell ranked 29th on CMT's 40 Greatest Men of Country Music in 2003.
He is also credited with giving Alan Jackson his first big break. Campbell met Jackson's wife (a flight attendant with Piedmont Airlines) at Atlanta Airport and gave her his publishing manager's business card. Jackson went to work for Campbell's music publishing business in the early 1990s and later had many of his hit songs published in part by Campbell's company, Seventh Son Music. Campbell also served as an inspiration to Keith Urban. Urban cites Campbell as a strong influence on his performing career.
In 2005, Campbell was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
It was announced in April 2008 that Campbell was returning to his signature label, Capitol, to release his new album, Meet Glen Campbell. The album was released on August 19. With this album he branched off in a different musical direction, covering tracks from artists such as Travis, U2, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Jackson Browne and Foo Fighters. It was Campbell's first release on Capitol in over 15 years. Musicians from Cheap Trick and Jellyfish contributed to the album as well. The first single, a cover of Green Day's "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)", was released to radio in July 2008. In March 2010, a farewell album titled Ghost on the Canvas was announced which served as a companion to Meet Glen Campbell.
Ghost on the Canvas was released on August 30, 2011 with collaborations that include Wallflower's singer Jakob Dylan, Chris Isaak and Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins.
Relationships and children
Campbell has been married four times and is the father of five sons and three daughters, ranging in year of birth from 1956 to 1986. Campbell's eldest daughter is Debby from his first marriage (1955–1959) to Diane Kirk. Their firstborn died as an infant and Debby was their second child. After divorcing Kirk, Campbell married Billie Jean Nunley, a beautician from Carlsbad who bore him Kelli, Travis, and Kane. They divorced in 1975. Shortly after, he had an affair with and later married singer Mac Davis's second wife, Sarah Barg, in 1976. They had one child together (Dillon) and then divorced in 1980, three weeks after Dillon's birth. In 1980-81 he had a relationship with then 21-year-old country star Tanya Tucker. Campbell has been married to Kimberly "Kim" Woolen since 1982. Woolen was a Radio City Music Hall "Rockette" when she and Glen met on a blind date in 1981. They have three children together, Cal, Shannon and daughter Ashley who have joined their father on stage since 2010 as part of his touring band. Campbell, who was raised in the Church of Christ, and Woolen joined a Baptist Church in Phoenix. In a 2008 interview they told that they have been adherents of Messianic Judaism for two decades.
On November 24, 2003, Campbell was arrested on drunk driving and hit-and-run charges. According to the police report, Campbell drove his car into another car at a Phoenix intersection. He left the accident scene but was later arrested at his nearby home. After he was booked into a Maricopa County lockup, Campbell kneed a sergeant in the thigh, for which he was charged with aggravated assault on a police officer, a charge that was later dropped. Campbell pleaded guilty on May 10, 2004 to extreme DUI and leaving the scene of an accident and received a 10-day jail sentence.
Campbell, a Republican, performed at the 1980 Republican National Convention] and made a number of campaign appearances afterwards. According to The Guardian, "In their heyday, Campbell, Ronald Reagan and Charlton Heston – three proud Republicans – were close friends."
In June 2011, Campbell said he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease six months earlier. He added he had been suffering from short-term memory loss for years. He also said he intended to do a farewell tour before retiring from the music industry.
Photograph is from the 1969 movie, True Grit & was Hand Oil Tinted by artist Margaret A. Rogers.