Legendary Glen Campbell passed away last month
Glen Campbell was an extraordinary guitar player. Like many cheap throwaway expressions, the word “extraordinary” is much abused and is often invoked undeservedly.
But Glen Campbell certainly fitted the description, like a glove. In fact, he was more than extraordinary, in many ways.
His was a rags-to-riches story, having been born the seventh son of a seventh son near Arkansas, Texas. His parents were sharecroppers, and life, like most people at the time, wasn't easy.
Glen dropped out of school at 16, after becoming totally immersed in the music of Django Reinhardt the great jazz guitarist.
He played with various bands - never much singing - and eventually after awhile leading his own band, he moved to Los Angeles.
He wasn't long there until he became a member of a renowned bunch of session musicians known as the Wrecking Crew.
All members of the Wrecking Crew could play more than one instrument. Campbell fitted the bill, playing Mandolin, Bass, Banjo, Pipes, and countless different guitars…..electric, acoustic, 12-string, he had at least 10 all around him when he played live.
In the late 50’s he played guitar on most of the major albums and hit singles that were being released in the US, and it became regular for Campbell to play with Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, The Righteous Brothers, Simon & Garfunkel, Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, The Beach Boys, The Monkees……an incredible list of the top singers in the USA. In addition to his session work, he began playing live with Sinatra and Presley, and his most significant gig of all The Beach Boys.
When Brian Wilson became ill, refusing to go on the road, the Beach Boys demonstrated the esteem in which he was held by asking if he’d fill in and take Wilsons place.
He couldn't believe this was happening.
For eighteen months he became a full member, and became well known - though still as a sort of journeyman musician.
Perhaps his most famous studio contribution came on I Get Around by the Beach Boys. The early 1960s, saw him play acoustic, electric and 12-string guitar on several multi-million selling Beach Boys recordings, including Help Me Rhonda and Dance, Dance, Dance. Though Campbell’s inability to read music occasionally made him the butt of jokes in the studio, Campbell's career gave him the last laugh
His greatest artistic contribution as the principal interpreter of songs by Jimmy Webb, notably Witchita Lineman, By The Time I Get To Phoenix and Galveston, all recorded in the late 1960s. Campbell’s enunciation and the sweetness of his tenor voice brought out the poetry and emotion of the compositions.
In the late 60’s he became the hottest property in the music scene in the USA, selling over 45 million records, and packing out stadiums, countrywide.
His TV Show was also a massive hit.
Rhinestone Cowboy in 1975 really catapulted him into mega powered stardom. The last song on that album called Country Boy, became another million seller.
It didn't always suit Campbell who'd begun drinking but it wasn't a problem at that stage. That was to come later.
Glen Campbell was a superb singer with a Tenor voice to die for.
His voice suffered from the hard treatment eventually, but he never lost the range and the incredible interpretative expertise.
He will be remembered as a wonderful, pure singer.
One of a kind.
He moved to the Palace in Branson, Missouri in the 1990’s as signs of the oncoming, inevitable downturn in his career began to make him less valuable as a touring entity, although he never played to bad crowds. The good decision paid off, and in Branson he was shielded from any audience decline, and continued to enjoy sold out houses. The venue became The Glen Campbell Theatre until he eventually resigned from it years later.
The onset of Alzheimer's began some five years ago, and although he endured some days when he couldn't do anything, on days he could, he recorded an album for posterity called “Adios” featuring songs he really wanted to record.
The album was released in June of this year.
Featuring guest appearances by Willie Nelson, Roger Miller, and Vince Gill and recorded in the years up to 2015.
He was laid to rest in his hometown Delight, Arkansas on Wednesday, August 9 2017.
He was 81 years of age.
Glen Campbell RIP.