In 1960, Glen Campbell moved to Los Angeles to become a session musician. That October, he joined the Champs. By January 1961, Campbell had found a daytime job at publishing company American Music, writing songs and recording demos. Because of these demos Campbell soon was in demand as a session musician and became part of a group of studio musicians later known as the Wrecking Crew. Glen Campbell played on recordings by Bobby Darin, Ricky Nelson, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, the Monkees, Nancy Sinatra, Merle Haggard, Jan and Dean, Frank Sinatra, Ronnie Dove, Phil Spector and Elvis Presley. He befriended Presley when he helped record the soundtrack for Viva Las Vegas in 1964. He later said, “Elvis and I were brought up the same humble way – picking cotton and looking at the north end of a south-bound mule.” In May 1961, he left the Champs and was subsequently signed by Crest Records, a subsidiary of American Music. His first solo release, “Turn Around, Look at Me”, a moderate success, peaked at number 62 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1961. Campbell also formed the Gee Cees with former bandmembers from the Champs, performing at the Crossbow Inn in Van Nuys. The Gee Cees, too, released a single on Crest, the instrumental “Buzz Saw”, which did not chart. In 1962, Campbell signed with Capitol Records. After minor initial success with “Too Late to Worry, Too Blue to Cry”, his first single for the label, and “Kentucky Means Paradise”, released by The Green River Boys featuring Glen Campbell, a string of unsuccessful singles and albums followed. By 1963 his playing and singing were heard on 586 recorded songs. He never learned to read music, but besides guitar, he could play the banjo, mandolin and bass. From 1964 on, Campbell began to appear on television as a regular on Star Route, a syndicated series hosted by Rod Cameron, ABC’s Shindig!, and Hollywood Jamboree. From December 1964 to early March 1965, Campbell was a touring member of the Beach Boys, filling in for Brian Wilson, playing bass guitar and singing falsetto harmonies. In 1965, he had his biggest solo hit yet, reaching number 45 on the Hot 100 with a version of Buffy Sainte-Marie’s “Universal Soldier”. Asked about the pacifist message of the song, he said that “people who are advocating burning draft cards should be hung.” Glen Campbell played guitar on the Beach Boys’ 1966 album Pet Sounds, among other recordings. In April of that year, he joined Ricky Nelson on a tour through the Far East, again playing bass.
When follow-up singles did not do well, and Capitol was considering dropping Glen Campbell from the label in 1966, he was teamed with producer Al De Lory. Together, they first collaborated on “Burning Bridges” which became a top 20 country hit in early 1967, and the album of the same name. Campbell and De Lory collaborated again on 1967’s “Gentle on My Mind”, written by John Hartford, which was an overnight success. The song was followed by the bigger hit “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” later in 1967, and “I Wanna Live” and “Wichita Lineman” in 1968, remaining on Billboard’s Top 100 charts for 15 weeks. He won four Grammy Awards for “Gentle on My Mind” and “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”. In 1967, Campbell was also the uncredited lead vocalist on “My World Fell Down” by Sagittarius, a studio group. The song reached number 70 on the Billboard Hot 100. 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 the Academy Award for Best Song and the Golden Globe for Best Original Song. After he hosted a 1968 summer replacement for television’s The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour variety show, Glen Campbell hosted his own weekly variety show, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, from January 1969 through June 1972. The show’s comedy writers included Steve Martin and Rob Reiner. 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, Bread, The Monkees, Neil Diamond, Linda Ronstadt, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Roger Miller, and Mel Tillis. Campbell helped launch the careers of Anne Murray and Jerry Reed, who were regulars on his Goodtime Hour program. 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.
After the cancellation of his CBS series in 1972, Glen Campbell remained a regular on network television. He co-starred in a made-for-television movie, Strange Homecoming (1974), 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 to 1978 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 and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, where he performed “Rhinestone Cowboy”. He has also appeared on Cher, the Redd Foxx Comedy Hour, The Merv Griffin Show, The Midnight Special with Wolfman Jack, DINAH!, Evening at Pops with Arthur Fiedler and The Mike Douglas Show. From 1982 to 1983, he hosted a 30-minute syndicated music show, The Glen Campbell Music Show. In the mid-1970s, he had more hits with “Rhinestone Cowboy”, “Southern Nights” (both U.S. number one hits), “Sunflower” (U.S. number 39) (written by Neil Diamond), and “Country Boy (You Got Your Feet in L.A.)” (U.S. number 11). “Rhinestone Cowboy” was Campbell’s largest-selling single and one of his best-known recordings, initially with over 2 million copies sold. Glen Campbell had heard songwriter Larry Weiss’ version while on tour of Australia in 1974. Both songs were in the October 4, 1975, Hot 100 top 10. “Rhinestone Cowboy” continues to be used in TV shows and films, including Desperate Housewives, Daddy Day Care, and High School High. It was the inspiration for the 1984 Dolly Parton/Sylvester Stallone movie Rhinestone. The main phrase of Campbell’s recording was included in Dickie Goodman’s Jaws movie parody song “Mr. Jaws”. Campbell also 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 number one pop-rock-country crossover hit, was generated with the help of Jimmy Webb, 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.
Glen Campbell made a cameo appearance in the 1980 Clint Eastwood movie Any Which Way You Can, for which he recorded the title song. He gave up smoking in 1992, and believed it improved his singing voice. In 1999 he was featured on VH-1’s Behind the Music, and on A&E Network’s Biography and a PBS in concert special in 2001. He also appeared on a number of CMT programs, where he ranked among their Greatest Men of Country Music. He is credited with giving Alan Jackson his first big break after he recorded with Campbell’s music publishing business in the early 1990s. Campbell also served as an inspiration to Keith Urban, who 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 then-farewell album titled Ghost on the Canvas was announced which served as a companion to Meet Glen Campbell (2008). Following his late 2010 Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Glen Campbell embarked on a final “Goodbye Tour”, with three of his children joining him in his backup band. His final show was on November 30, 2012, in Napa, California. After the end of the tour, Campbell entered the studio in his home town Nashville to record what would be his final album, Adiós, which would not be revealed until five years later. According to his wife, Kim Campbell, he wanted to preserve “what magic was left”, in what would be his final recordings. In January 2013, Campbell recorded his final song, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You”, during what would be his last recording sessions. The song, which is featured in the 2014 documentary, Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me, was released on September 30, 2014, with the documentary following on October 24. On January 15, 2015 Campbell and fellow songwriter Julian Raymond were nominated for Best Original Song at the 87th Academy Awards. On August 30, 2016, during the 10th Annual ACM Honors, Keith Urban, Blake Shelton and others performed a medley of Glen Campbell’s songs in tribute to him. His wife Kim Campbell accepted the Career Achievement Award on his behalf. Alice Cooper described him as being one of the five best guitar players in the music industry. In April 2017, Campbell’s final album, Adiós, was announced, featuring twelve songs from his final 2012–13 sessions. The album was released on June 9, 2017.
In June 2011, Glen Campbell announced he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease six months earlier. According to his family, symptoms of the disease had been occurring for years, becoming increasingly evident as time progressed. “When you first begin to see signs, you just chalk things up to the normal aging process,” said his wife, Kim. Glen Campbell went on to perform at the 2012 Grammy Awards ceremony, and did a final “Goodbye Tour” in 2012 with three of his children joining him in the backup band. He became a patient at an Alzheimer’s long-term care and treatment facility in 2014 and died of the disease in Nashville, Tennessee, on August 8, 2017, six years after his diagnosis.
- April, 22, 1936
- Billstown, Arkansas
- August, 08, 2017
- Nashville, Tennessee
Cause of Death
- Alzheimer's disease
- Campbell's Cemetery
- Billstown, Arkansas