Since August 2011, road warrior Glen Campbell has been in the midst of his "Goodbye Tour", playing nearly 130 shows in mostly theaters and medium-sized indoor venues across North America and Europe. It is unclear whether Campbell will tour in 2013, as no dates have been announced on his official website.
A working musician for over 50 years, the proud Arkansan headed to Los Angeles when he was 24 years old. By July 1961 he was singing backup on Rick Nelson hit singles such as "Everlovin'", "A Wonder Like You" "Young World" and "It's Up To You". Campbell would eventually contribute rhythm guitar alongside James Burton to many Nelson recording sessions.
His stature grew as the famed Wrecking Crew reached their peak in the mid-'60s. They were a talented bunch of West Coast session players who played on thousands of recordings, including Elvis Presley's "What'd I Say" from the Viva Las Vegas soundtrack, the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, Frank Sinatra's Strangers in the Night, and various sessions with the Monkees' Michael Nesmith.
By the way, after Brian Wilson suffered a nervous breakdown and ultimately decided to focus on studio production, it was Campbell who replaced him on live dates until Bruce Johnston was permanently drafted.
Wilson also wrote and produced a superb ballad, "Guess I'm Dumb", as a token of gratitude for his buddy during the Today! sessions in October 1964. Released as a single featuring the Beach Boys on backing vocals, the gorgeous pop orchestration shockingly failed to chart.
While doing sessions day and night, the capo-endorsing guitarist continued to record solo singles. Finally, he hit pay dirt with producer Al DeLory in 1967 with John Hartford's "Gentle on My Mind" and Jimmy Webb's "By the Time I Get to Phoenix." Of course, Webb would contribute to Campbell's catalog for decades – "Christiaan No" from 1976's Bloodline is a jewel especially worthy of rediscovery.
Many of the sounds on modern country music radio, including Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, and Taylor Swift, can be traced back to Campbell's streak of hits in the late '60s that crossed over onto both the pop and country charts.
The acting bug then hit with a vengeance. Portraying an inexperienced, cocky, but lovable Texas Ranger next to John Wayne in the formidable western, True Grit, as well as landing his own top-rated variety series, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, capped off the busiest and most successful decade of the performer's career.
His singles tended to chart highly on the country charts while eschewing the pop field as the '70s and '80s came and went, except for the wildly successful "Rhinestone Cowboy", "Country Boy (You Got Your Feet in L.A.)", and "Southern Nights." After years of hard living, a conversion to Christianity found the singer releasing a string of crowd-pleasing gospel albums, beginning with No More Night .
The '90s and much of the '00s were barren years for Campbell, creatively speaking. While touring kept the singer busy, his recording career was often handled by sterile Nashville production and producers who had no knowledge of his impact on the pop culture landscape.
Producer Julian Raymond and engineer Howard Willing came to their hero's rescue in 2008, resulting in a covers album of modern pop and rock songs simply entitled Meet Glen Campbell. Not many folks would have believed the artist was capable of covering Foo Fighters and Green Day, but he pulled it off with admirable results. While not a major hit, it was Campbell's most critically-acclaimed album in over 30 years and brought him a significant number of younger fans.
In a brief email exchange with this writer, Raymond explained that he became a Campbell fan through his "parents playing Glen's records non-stop. I proposed the idea for Meet Glen Campbell to Capitol Records and then got to meet and propose the plan to Glen personally. He agreed and the rest is history..."
This critical reevaluation of Campbell's career continued with the 2011 follow-up, Ghost on the Canvas, produced by the same team but instead featuring mostly original songs co-written by the singer.
Raymond deserves much praise for inspiring Campbell to write again, as he had not contributed any self-penned songs since several album cuts found on the Galveston album in 1969 [i.e. "If This Is Love", "Friends", and "Every Time I Itch I Wind Up Scratchin' You"].
Released on Surfdog Records, Ghost on the Canvas debuted in the Top 10 on the Billboard Country chart and in the Top 30 on the Pop chart, becoming Campbell's highest charting album since Southern Nights 34 years earlier.
While his unfortunate bout with Alzheimer's disease may have robbed him of any future recordings, his showmanship and kinship with his audience remains firmly in place. Visit the star's official fan forum for further proof and to interact with like-minded admirers. Definitely try and catch him in concert while you still can. Glen Campbell remains the epitome of a living legend.
Author's Note: When singer Bobbie Gentry burst onto the pop music landscape in 1967 during the Summer of Love with "Ode to Billie Joe", who could have imagined the massive success awaiting her? The following year, Gentry recorded a duet album with Campbell, appropriately titled 'Bobbie Gentry and Glen Campbell', that featured the single, "Let It Be Me" [their cover of the Everly Brothers' "All I Have To Do Is Dream" became an even bigger hit in the UK, but it was left off the LP]. To read about her enduring significance and exactly why she abandoned her career, visit the following two-part article: "Ode to Bobbie G: The music and mystery of a Mississippi Delta Queen."
Exclusive Interview: The Master of Telecaster, James Burton, was probably Campbell's most significant guitar compadre in the recording studio. Also a member of the famed Wrecking Crew in Los Angeles, Burton is best known for his extensive work with Rick Nelson and Elvis Presley. To read a revealing conversation with Burton marking the 25th anniversary of Nelson's untimely death ["On The Road With Rick Nelson..."], simply click on the highlighted link.
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