From: Billstown, AR, USA
Most people know and love Glen Campbell as the country and pop music megastar who released a large number of well-crafted hits throughout the 1960s and 1970s. What is lesser known about the pop icon however is that he was an outstanding guitarist, got his start playing on rock records and was an integral member of the legendary collective of Los Angeles studio musicians now known as the Wrecking Crew. Through this affiliation in the 60s, Campbell played on numerous tracks for bands like the Beach Boys, Monkees and Paul Revere & The Raiders to name a few. He also released a significant amount of solo material backed by the Wrecking Crew at this time, including the Jimmy Webb penned pseudo-psychedelic masterpiece ‘Wichita Lineman’ proudly featured here on TWOS.
Glen Travis Campbell was born on April 22, 1936 in the small, unincorporated community of Billstown, Arkansas. His father was a poor cotton sharecropper and Glen was the seventh of 12 children to be brought into his tight-knit, Christian family. Campbell started playing guitar at the age of four after his father gifted him a five-dollar Sears model, with his uncle Boo first teaching him the basics of how to play. Most of his family was musically inclined and by the time Campbell was six, he was already performing on local radio stations. Campbell continued playing guitar without any formal training throughout his youth, honing his skills when not working in the cotton fields. He developed his talent by listening to radio and records, and considered Django Reinhardt among his most admired guitarists.
As a teenager, Campbell’s family relocated to Houston, TX where he dropped out of high school at age 14 to work with his brothers, installing insulation and pumping gas. In 1954, Campbell moved to Albuquerque, NM when he was 17 years old to join his uncle's band that was known as Dick Bills & The Sandia Mountain Boys. Four years later, Campbell formed his own band called the Western Wranglers, which played six, sometimes seven nights a week. He never learned to read music, but besides guitar, Campbell could play the banjo, mandolin and bass.
In 1960, Campbell relocated to Los Angeles to become a session musician and then joined a rock band called the Champs. By early 1961, Campbell had begun working at American Music publishing company, writing songs and recording demos. Because of this output, he was soon in high demand as a session musician and became a part of the aforementioned Wrecking Crew. During the spring of 1961, Campbell left the Champs and was signed to Crest Records, a subsidiary of American Music. There he released his first solo record (‘Turn Around, Look at Me’), which became a minor hit, peaking at #62 on the Billboard Hot 100.
1962 saw Campbell sign to Capitol Records where he first released a debut LP with the Green River Boys titled Big Bluegrass Special, which made little impact. His subsequent single however (‘Too Late To Worry, Too Blue To Cry’) was moderately successful and reached the #76 spot on the Billboard Hot 100. By the time 1963 rolled around, Campbell had either sung or played on a whopping 586 different recordings. In 1964, Campbell began appearing on various television music programs, including Shindig!, Hollywood Jamboree, and as a regular on Star Route. From late ’64 into the spring of 1965, Campbell got a huge break when he became a touring member of the Beach Boys, filling in for Brian Wilson by singing falsetto harmonies and playing bass, before being replaced by Bruce Johnston. Brian Wilson then produced and co-wrote a single for Campbell titled ‘Guess I'm Dumb’, which failed to chart despite receiving critical acclaim.
In 1965, Campbell scored another minor hit with a cover of Buffy Sainte-Marie's ‘Universal Soldier’, which peaked at the #53 spot on the Billboard Hot 100. He also continued as a session musician, most notably playing guitar on the Beach Boys' classic album Pet Sounds. 1966 did see Campbell’s popularity begin to wane however, until Capitol teamed him up with producer Al De Lory for the single ‘Burning Bridges’, which became a Top 20 country hit reaching the #18 spot on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart in 1967. Later in ’67, Campbell and De Lory teamed up again on the single ‘Gentle On My Mind’, which not only also became a respectable hit on both the country and pop charts, but also won two Grammy awards. This track was followed by the bigger hit ‘By The Time I Get To Phoenix’, which was written by Jimmy Webb, peaked at the #2 spot on the country charts and a solid #26 on the pop charts, and also won two more Grammies. 1967 also saw Campbell (although uncredited) sing lead vocals on Sagittarius’ ‘My World Fell Down’, which peaked at the #70 spot on the Billboard Hot 100.
1968 saw Campbell continue his run of success, first with ‘I Wanna Live’, which topped the country charts and peaked at #36 on the Hot 100. In the spring of ’68, Campbell then issued the aforementioned, Jimmy Webb classic ‘Wichita Lineman’, which again topped the country charts and hit the #3 position on the Hot 100. This year also saw Campbell host the summer replacement for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour television variety show that then led to him being given his own weekly variety show (The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour), which ran from January, 1969 through June, 1972. Throughout its successful run, Campbell’s TV show hosted major rock groups including Cream, the Monkees and even The Beatles remotely on video. 1969 also saw Campbell star in the western movie classic True Grit opposite of the great John Wayne. The song ‘True Grit’ was sung by Campbell and received nominations for the Academy Award for Best Song and the Golden Globe for Best Original Song.
The 1970s saw Campbell continue his huge success with the megahits ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ and ‘Southern Nights’, along with ‘Country Boy (You Got Your Feet in L.A.)’ and ‘Sunflower’. Campbell also made numerous television appearances on iconic shows like Donny & Marie, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The Merv Griffin Show, The Midnight Special, and The Mike Douglas Show, along with starring in the made for TV movie Strange Homecoming opposite Robert Culp. By the 1980s, Campbell’s popularity has begun to wane, but he had without a doubt left behind an incredible body of work. In 2005, Campbell was deservedly inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and released a comeback album on Capitol. In 2010, Campell was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and embarked on a farewell tour that included three if his children in the backup band. He continued to perform and record into 2013, but finally succumbed to the disease on August 8, 2017 at the age of 81.