Becoming a bona fide living legend isn’t as easy as Glen Campbell makes it look. First, you have to have a solid foundation of talent on which to build - like being one of the hottest guitar players in the world. Then you have to record songs that will stand the test of time - standards such as “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” and “Wichita Lineman.” And of course, to be a “living” legend, you need to survive the harsh reality of a celebrity lifestyle.
Not only do Glen’s special appearances as co-headliner at the Andy Williams Moon River Theatre in Branson draw sold-out crowds, but he’s still a hot draw on television as well. In 2000, PBS aired a Glen Campbell Special taped in Sioux Falls, SD, and he’s been profiled recently on A&E’s Biography , VH-1 Behind The Scenes, and CMT’s Inside Fame. The CMT profile pulled such strong ratings from the coveted 18-49 demographic that Country Music Television is now showing reruns of the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.
Although Glen was already hitting the top of both the country and pop charts by 1969, the Goodtime Hour gave his career “legs.” The popular CBS musical variety series was simulcast on the BBC from England to Singapore to Australia and paved the way for five BBC specials. The exposure gave Glen a global presence he enjoys to this day, 30+ years later. He has toured the UK, Europe, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand. As recently as 2000, Glen’s popularity in the UK sustained a 31-day tour of the region.
”It’s awesome when you think about the power of TV and movies,” Glen comments. “If I hadn’t had hit records, I wouldn’t have gotten TV and movies, but the Goodtime Hour made my career explode all over the world.” Besides having one of the most successful variety shows in television history, Glen will be remembered as one of the best guitarists of his generation. His musicianship has inspired many of today’s most renowned pickers, including Keith Urban and Steve Wariner, and lives on in the tracks of the most legendary collections of the 20th century. His enormous success as a crossover artist also paved the way for hit makers such as Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton to break genre barriers. In addition, Glen was one of the first country artists to forge a path into Hollywood’s studio back lots. His portrayal of John Wayne’s young sidekick in the classic True Grit will be viewed by generations to come, and since that success, numerous other country singers have gotten a chance to stretch their acting wings.
Glen’s tremendous impact on the artistic scene was an unlikely outcome for a sharecropper’s son, one of 12 children raised in rural Billstown, Arkansas. But Glen’s father recognized his talent early and bought his youngster a five-dollar Sears & Roebuck guitar. The child prodigy had conquered the instrument by the time he was 10. At 16, Glen left school to pursue music full time. He started in a three-piece combo with his uncle, Dick Bills, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but was soon touring the Southwest fronting his own band.
In 1961, the 24-year-old musician hit the Los Angeles studio scene like a blast of fresh air. Glen quickly became a sought-after studio picker, his talents enriching records by such artists as Frank Sinatra, the Beach Boys, Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, Merle Haggard, Elvis Presley, Jan & Dean and the Righteous Brothers. In addition, Phil Spector and Jimmy Bowen used him for most of their projects, and the Beach Boys invited him to join their group in the mid-sixties. He toured with that legendary band for 18 months in 1964 and ’65, until his own solo career took off.
Glen had released a single, “Turn Around Look At Me,” on a regional label in 1961 that cracked the charts and got the attention of Capitol Records. His first album for Capitol, Big Bluegrass Special, was recorded under the name The Green River Boys Featuring Glen Campbell. The debut collection yielded one Top 20 hit, “Kentucky Means Paradise,” and Glen continued to record for the label. Then, in 1967, “Gentle On My Mind” broke the world open like an oyster for Glen Campbell.
The single initially only made it to #30 in Billboard. More than a year later, however - after Glen had become a crossover sensation with “By The Time I Get To Phoenix,” “I Wanna Live” and “The Dreams Of The Everyday Housewife” - “Gentle On My Mind” made an incredible second chart climb. His success continued with the late 1968 release of “Wichita Lineman,” which hit #1 country and #3 on the pop charts. “Galveston” revisited that crossover success in early 1969.
In 1968, Tommy Smothers caught Glen’s guest-star appearance on The Joey Bishop Show. Tommy and Dickie Smothers were so impressed by his presence and talent that they asked Glen to host their summer replacement series, The Summer Brothers Smothers Show. Glen’s musical proficiency and natural wit sent the ratings through the roof. CBS executives were so delighted by Glen’s unexpected popularity that they offered the fledgling star his own series. The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour took to the airwaves in January 1969, and immediately soared. The variety show’s talented host became a household word across America and around the world.
The success of the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour was due to Glen’s triple-decker talent as a musician, singer and humorist and the guests he brought on the show. Glen gave viewers what they wanted: the best talent in a variety of entertainment and musical genres - Buck Owens and Lucille Ball; Eric Clapton with Cream and Kenny Rogers with The First Edition; Anne Murray and Ray Charles; Merle Haggard and Stevie Wonder; Neil Diamond, Johnny Cash and Ella Fitzgerald. In the process, Glen gave a tremendous boost to the careers of many fledgling artists. “We had a lot of country, but we did every kind of music,” Glen explains. “The Monkees were on, and so was Johnny Cash.”
In 1969, Glen had a hit with “True Grit,” recorded for the soundtrack of the movie in which he starred with John Wayne. His star continued to shine through the next decade as well. Two of his singles landed at #1 on both country and pop charts: “Rhinestone Cowboy” in 1975 and “Southern Nights” in 1977. In fact, Glen’s chart history is one of the most formidable in country music. In 1987, “Still Within The Sound Of My Voice” became one of the year’s most played records. That same year, one of the young stars who cite Glen’s influence as the main reason they chose a musical path - Steve Wariner - joined his hero on the hit duet, “The Hand That Rocks The Cradle.”
Glen’s accolades as a musician and singer are as impressive as his talent. He made history by winning a Grammy in both country and pop categories in 1967: “Gentle On My Mind” snatched the country honors, and “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” won in pop. He owns trophies for Male Vocalist of the Year from both the CMA and the ACM, and took the CMA’s top honor as Entertainer of the Year.
During his 40 years in show business, Glen 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 75 trips up the charts, 27 landed in the Top 10.
In the 1990s, Glen released a series of gospel albums, which opened up new vistas for the star and garnered a prestigious Dove Award. His tell-all autobiography, Rhinestone Cowboy, shot to the best-seller list when it was released in 1994. He released The Glen Campbell Collection (1962-1989) in 1997 and a new Christmas album in 1999.
Living in Phoenix with his wife, Kim, and their three children, ages 15, 17 and 19, Glen is reaping the rewards of 40 years of hard work. He is in the enviable - and well-earned - position of being able to pick and choose his tour dates and appearances, and he gets to spend quality time with his family. Even on the road, Glen has family at hand. His eldest daughter Debby, joined his stage show in 1987 and has toured with him ever since.
Of course, there’s one other activity that Glen attends to with the concentration of a pro athlete. Whether he’s at home in Phoenix, performing on the road, or guesting at Andy Williams’ theatre in Branson, Glen is constantly perfecting his golf game!