Glen Campbell Biography
Glen Campbell is best known for his country music career, and his later crossover success as an actor in films such as 1969’s True Grit.
Glen Campbell was born on April 22, 1936, in Delight, Arkansas. Campbell began his musical career as a songwriter and sideman to many of the 1960’s biggest stars. He transitioned to film with John Wayne in 1969’s True Grit, snagging a Golden Globe nomination for his performance. Campbell was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005, and earned a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. He announced plans to retire from touring in 2013.
Glen Travis Campbell was born on April 22, 1936, on a family farm in Delight, Arkansas. The son of Wesley, a sharecropper, and Carrie Dell, Campbell was one of 12 children. The family was largely impoverished—all the Campbell children pitched in to help pick cotton—but extremely musical, and Campbell showed musical promise early on. At the age of 4, his father bought him a $5 Sears and Roebuck guitar; within a few years, Campbell was appearing as a paid act and performing guest spots on local radio stations.
A talented guitarist by the age of 16, Campbell dropped out of high school and headed out West, where he played with bands in Wyoming’s bars and roadhouses. In 1952, he joined the Sandia Mountain Boys (a band founded by his uncle, Dick Bills) and soon became a popular performer on local television and radio shows in New Mexico. At the age of 22, Campbell formed his own band: Glen Campbell and The Western Wranglers.
Success as a Collaborator
Shortly thereafter, Campbell relocated to Los Angeles. He took a job at the American Music Company, a small publishing house that employed a staff of songwriters. In 1961, at the age of 24, Campbell wrote and recorded the single “Turn Around, Look at Me.” Its modest success caught the attention of Capitol Records and, under contract with the label, he became known as a skilled session guitarist and finger-picker. Campbell worked as a sideman with artists including Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Merle Haggard, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, the Righteous Brothers, and the Monkees. Prominent producers Phil Spector and Jimmy Bowen also regularly tapped Campbell for their recordings.
In 1965, following Brian Wilson’s retirement, Campbell was invited to tour with The Beach Boys as a temporary bassist. Two years later, he recorded the song “Gentle on My Mind,” which proved to be a crossover pop success. Campbell’s next single, “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” also entered the Top 40 and earned a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance. That same year, his song, “Gentle,” earned the Grammy for Best Country and Western Recording.
As Campbell racked up the accolades, the Country Music Association honored him as the Entertainer of the Year and, in 1968, Campbell released his biggest hits to date: “Wichita Lineman” and “Galveston.” Both tracks served to narrow the gap between country and pop music.
In 1968, Campbell made a guest appearance on The Joey Bishop Show. The Smothers Brothers comedy duo caught the performance and were so taken with Campbell, they presented him with the opportunity to co-host The Summer Smothers Brothers Show. Campbell’s ease, humor and musical skill charmed audiences and impressed CBS executives, who offered Campbell his own primetime variety show.
Debuting in 1969, The Glen Campbell Good Time Hour was a combination of musical acts, comedy segments, and glamorous guest stars. The show, which was produced under The Smothers Brothers production label, became a No. 1 hit in the United States and the U.K., making Campbell an international star.
After his television success, Campbell moved to the big screen. He forged a film career with his debut performance opposite John Wayne in 1969’s True Grit. Although the variety series was canceled in 1972, the success of his No. 1 singles, “Rhinestone Cowboy” (1975) and “Southern Nights” (1977), further cemented Campbell’s status as a crossover success.
Beginning in the late 1970s, while dating singer Tanya Tucker, Campbell’s abuse of cocaine and alcohol began to take a toll on his career. The couple’s explosive relationship and flagging record sales made Campbell a mainstay in the gossip pages. However, after a few years of touring in the 1980s, Campbell left Los Angeles, successfully overcame his drug habit, and became a born-again Christian.
In 1994, Campbell published a tell-all autobiography fittingly titled Rhinestone Cowboy. In 2005, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. He continues to appear at theaters in Branson, Missouri, and in 2008 he released an album of cover songs entitled Meet Glen Campbell.
In 2011, Campbell announced that he was suffering from Alzheimer ‘s disease. The country legend decided to record one more album and hit the road one more time before his condition worsened. Campbell has begun to experience memory problems, as he told People magazine. “I’m going to be right in the middle of a sentence, man—and it just goes.”
Glen Campbell released Ghost on the Canvas to warm reviews and has enjoyed great support from fans during his farewell tour. In February 2012, he was honored at the Grammy Awards, receiving the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. He also participated in a special tribute to his music with Blake Shelton and the Band Perry. The entire audience rose to their feet and sang along as Campbell performed his signature tune “Rhinestone Cowboy.” The event was a fitting salute to one of country’s most influential stars.
In April 2013, Campbell announced plans to retire from touring, citing the progression of his Alzheimer’s disease. Around the same time, Campbell embarked on a trip to Washington, D.C., where he advocated for Alzheimer’s research. What is sadly expected to be his final album, See You There—a reimagining of hits like “Wichita Lineman” and “Rhinestone Cowboy”—was released in August 2013. The next year the documentary Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me was released, with one of its songs, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” earning an Oscar nomination and winning a Grammy for Best Country Song.
Glen Campbell. (2015). The biography.com website. Retrieved 02:54, Jun 27, 2015, from