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.
8. 1967–1972: Burning Bridges to The Goodtime Hour
Campbell performing at the Michigan State Fair, c. 1970
When follow-up singles did not do well, and Capitol was considering dropping Campbell from the label in 1966, he was teamed with producer Al De Lory. Together, they first collaborated on “Burning Bridges” which became a top 20 country hit in early 1967, and the album of the same name. Campbell and De Lory collaborated again on 1967’s “Gentle on My Mind”, written by John Hartford, which was an overnight success. The song was followed by the bigger hit “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” later in 1967, and “I Wanna Live” and “Wichita Lineman” in 1968. Campbell won four Grammy Awards for his performances on “Gentle on My Mind” and “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”.
In 1967, Campbell was also the uncredited lead vocalist on “My World Fell Down” by Sagittarius, a studio group. The song reached number 70 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The 1969 song “True Grit” by composer Elmer Bernstein and lyricist Don Black, and sung by Campbell, who co-starred in the movie, received nominations for the Academy Award for Best Song and the Golden Globe for Best Original Song.
His biggest hits in the late 1960s were the songs written by Jimmy Webb: “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”, “Wichita Lineman”, “Galveston”, and “Where’s the Playground Susie”. An album of mainly Webb-penned compositions, Reunion: The Songs of Jimmy Webb, was released in 1974, but it produced no hit single records. “Wichita Lineman” (1968) was selected as one of the greatest songs of the 20th century by Mojo magazine in 1997 and by Blender in 2001.
After he hosted a 1968 summer replacement for television’s The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour variety show, Campbell hosted his own weekly variety show, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, from January 1969 through June 1972. At the height of his popularity, a 1970 biography by Freda Kramer, The Glen Campbell Story, was published.
With Campbell’s session-work connections, he hosted major names in music on his show, including The Beatles (on film), David Gates, Bread, The Monkees, Neil Diamond, Linda Ronstadt, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Roger Miller, and Mel Tillis. Campbell helped launch the careers of Anne Murray and Jerry Reed, who were regulars on his Goodtime Hour program.
During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Campbell released a long series of singles and appeared in the movies True Grit (1969) with John Wayne and Kim Darby and Norwood (1970) with Kim Darby and Joe Namath.