Glen Travis Campbell (April 22, 1936 – August 8, 2017) was an American singer, songwriter, musician, television host, and actor. He is best known for a series of hits in the 1960s and 1970s, and for hosting a music and comedy variety show called The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour on CBS television, from January 1969 through June 1972.
During his 50 years in show business, Campbell released more than 70 albums. He sold 45 million records and accumulated 12 RIAA gold albums, four platinum albums, and one double-platinum album. He placed a total of 80 different songs on either the Billboard Country Chart, Billboard Hot 100, or 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 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. Campbell appeared as a supporting role in the film True Grit (1969), which earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Most Promising Newcomer. Campbell also sang the title song, which was nominated for an Academy Award.
Glen Travis Campbell was born in Billstown, a tiny community near Delight in Pike County, Arkansas, to John Wesley (a sharecropper of Scottish ancestry) and Carrie Dell (Stone) Campbell. He was the seventh son of 12 children. He started playing guitar as a youth and he credited his uncle Boo for teaching him that instrument.
In 1954, Campbell moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, 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.
9. 1960–1966: Early career
In 1960, Campbell moved to Los Angeles to become a session musician. That October, he joined the Champs. By January 1961, Campbell had found a daytime job at publishing company American Music, writing songs and recording demos. Because of these demos Campbell soon was in demand as a session musician and became part of a group of studio musicians later known as the Wrecking Crew. Campbell 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, Ronnie Dove, and Phil Spector.
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”, a moderate success, peaked at number 62 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1961. Campbell also formed the Gee Cees with former bandmembers from the Champs, performing at the Crossbow Inn in Van Nuys. The Gee Cees, too, released a single on Crest, the instrumental “Buzz Saw”, 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 1964 on, Campbell began to appear on television as a regular on Star Route, a syndicated series hosted by Rod Cameron, ABC’s Shindig!, and Hollywood Jamboree.
From December 1964 to early March 1965, Campbell was a touring member of the Beach Boys, filling in for Brian Wilson, playing bass guitar and singing falsetto harmonies.
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.”
Campbell played guitar on the Beach Boys’ 1966 album Pet Sounds, among other recordings. In April that year, he joined Ricky Nelson on a tour through the Far East, again playing bass.