- By the Time I Get to Phoenix
- These Days
- Wichita Lineman
Glen Travis Campbell (born April 22, 1936) is an American country music singer, guitarist, songwriter, television host, and occasional actor. He is best known for a series of hits in the 1960s and 1970s, and 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 accumulated 12 RIAA Gold albums, 4 Platinum albums and 1 Double-Platinum album. He has placed a total of 80 different songs on either the Billboard Country Chart, Billboard Hot 100, and/or the Adult Contemporary Chart, of which 29 made the Top 10 and of which nine reached number one on at least one of those charts. Campbell’s hits include his recordings of 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 in 1967 by winning four Grammys total, in the country and pop categories. For “Gentle on My Mind” he received two awards in country and western, “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” did the same in pop. Three of his early hits later won Grammy Hall of Fame Awards (2000, 2004, 2008), while Campbell himself won the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. 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 award as 1968 Entertainer of the Year. In 1969 actor John Wayne picked Campbell 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.
Glen Campbell was born in Billstown, a tiny community near Delight in Pike County, Arkansas, to John Wesley and Carrie Dell (Stone) Campbell. He was the seventh son of 12 children. His father was a sharecropper of Scottish ancestry. He started playing guitar as a youth and credits his uncle Boo for teaching him the guitar.
In 1954 Campbell moved to Albuquerque to join his uncle’s band known as Dick Bills and the Sandia Mountain Boys. He also appeared there on his uncle’s radio show and on K Circle B Time, the local children’s program on KOB television. In 1958 Campbell formed his own band, the Western Wranglers.
In 1960, Campbell moved to Los Angeles to become a session musician. Around this time he became part of a group called The Champs. Campbell soon was in demand as a session musician, and was part of a group of studio musicians known as The Wrecking Crew. During this period he played on recordings by Bobby Darin, Ricky Nelson, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, The Monkees, Nancy Sinatra, Merle Haggard, Jan and Dean,Elvis Presley,Frank Sinatra and Phil Spector.
By January 1961 Campbell had found a daytime job at publishing company American Music, writing songs and recording demos. 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”, was a moderate success, peaking at number 61 on the Billboard Hot 100. He also formed The Gee Cees with former bandmembers from The Champs, performing at The Crossbow Inn in Van Nuys, a Los Angeles suburb. The Gee Cees too released a single on Crest, instrumentals “Buzz Saw” b/w “Annie Had A Party”, 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.
From December 1964 to early March 1965, Campbell was a touring member of the Beach Boys, filling in for Brian Wilson. He also played guitar on the group’s Pet Sounds album, among other recordings. On tour, he played bass guitar and sang falsetto harmonies. In April 1966, he joined Ricky Nelson on a tour through the Far East, again playing bass.
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 elected to assert that “people who are advocating burning draft cards should be hung.”
When follow-up singles didn’t do well, and Capitol was considering dropping 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. Campbell won four Grammy Awards for his performances on “Gentle on My Mind” and “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”.
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.
His biggest hits in the late 1960s were the songs written by Jimmy Webb: “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Wichita Lineman“, “Galveston“, and “Where’s the Playground Susie“. 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.
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 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, 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 1976–78 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, 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 on NBC, The Glen Campbell Music Show.
In the mid-1970s, he had more hits with “Rhinestone Cowboy“, “Southern Nights” (both U.S. No. 1 hits), “Sunflower” (U.S. No. 39) (written by Neil Diamond), and “Country Boy (You Got Your Feet in L.A.).” (U.S. No. 11).
“Rhinestone Cowboy” was Campbell’s largest-selling single, initially with over 2 million copies sold. Campbell had heard songwriter Larry Weiss’ version while on tour of Australia in 1974. It was included in Dickie Goodman‘s Jaws movie parody song “Mr. Jaws”. Both songs were on 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. 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 No. 1 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.
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, 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 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 Paul Westerberg (writer of the title track), The Wallflowers singer Jakob Dylan, Chris Isaak, Rick Nielsen and Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins.
In January 2013, Campbell recorded his final song, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You”. The song, which is featured in a new 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.
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 marriage (1955–59) to Diane Kirk. After divorcing Kirk, Campbell married Billie Jean Nunley, a beautician from Carlsbad, New Mexico, who gave birth to Kelli, Travis, and Kane. They divorced in 1975. Shortly after that, he married singer Mac Davis‘s second wife, Sarah Barg, in 1976. They had one child named Dillon and divorced three weeks after Dillon’s birth in 1980.
Immediately after his divorce from Barg, Campbell began a relationship with fellow country artist Tanya Tucker. The relationship was marked by frequent tabloid gossip and articles. The couple recorded a number of songs together, including the single “Dream Lover”.
Campbell has been married to Kimberly “Kim” Woollen since 1982. The couple met on a blind date in 1981 when Woollen was a Radio City Music Hall “Rockette“. Together, they have three children: Cal, Shannon, Ashley. All three have joined Campbell on stage since 2010 as part of his touring band. Campbell, who was raised in the Church of Christ, joined a Baptist church in Phoenix along with his wife. In a 2008 interview they said that they have been adherents of Messianic Judaism for two decades.
On The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, Campbell avoided political topics. Around this time period he described himself in interviews as “a registered Democrat but I voted Republican a few times” and he performed in support of both Republican and Democratic politicians. Campbell performed the National Anthem at the 1980 Republican National Convention and continued to make a number of campaign appearances for Republican candidates during the 1980s and 1990s.
In June 2011, 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 more and more evident as the years progressed.
Campbell went 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. During the tours concerts and rehearsals, Campbell would often forget which songs he was supposed to play, repeating them after finishing a performance. He also frequently had to be reminded that he did have the disease, and relied on a teleprompter to remember the lyrics to most songs. Newer songs from his later albums had to be scrapped altogether, as Campbell struggled to remember the chords and lyrics for these. He performed “Rhinestone Cowboy” as a goodbye at the 2012 Grammy Awards ceremony held on February 12, 2012, his final televised on-stage performance.
In April 2014, news reports indicated that Campbell had become a patient at an Alzheimer’s long-term care and treatment facility. On March 10, 2015, NBC News reported that Campbell could no longer speak for himself and that two of his children, Debby and Travis, had sought legal action against Campbell’s wife Kim, with the assertion that she had “secluded” the singer and prevented them from “participating” in Campbell’s medical care.