Paramount Pictures / True Grit / The Official Trailer
During his 81 years on this Earth, Glen Campbell made the journey from small town boy to beloved country legend. Born to John Wesley and Carrie Dell Campbell on April 22, 1936 in Billstown, Arkansas, Campbell was the seventh son out of 12 children. His father was a sharecropper, but instead of following in his footsteps, Campbell found himself drawn to music.
Campbell gives his Uncle Boo the credit for helping him learn guitar, and he left home to join his uncle’s band when he was 18. In the years that followed, Campbell worked as a session musician before he went on to develop his career as a solo country artist.
After over five decades as a country star, Campbell charted a total of 80 songs, including the mega hits “Galveston,” “Wichita Lineman,” and “Rhinestone Cowboy.” But in 2011, Campbell announced something that shook the country community to its core…he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.
Campbell went on one final “Goodbye Tour” before he retired in 2012. Since he revealed his diagnosis, many came to admire Campbell for his brave public fight against a disease that has had so much stigma in the past. But more than anything else, Campbell will always be remembered for his charm and multiple talents.
Following his successful career as a session musician, Campbell branched out on his own when he signed a recording contract with with Crest Records. He released his first single in 1961, called “Turn Around, Look At Me.”
Campbell ended up taking the song to the 61st spot on the Billboard Hot 100, which was quite the accomplishment for an artist that just made his debut.
“Turn Around, Look At Me” was only the beginning of a string of hits that Campbell would release throughout the next five decades.
When The Beach Boys needed someone to fill in for their leader Brian Wilson, Campbell was the one who stepped up to fill his shoes. From December 1964 to March 1965, Campbell toured with the group across the country. He was in charge of playing bass guitar and even sang the falsetto harmony parts.
But Campbell’s connections to the Beach Boys didn’t end with that tour. He also played the guitar for their popular album Pet Sounds, which was released in 1966. Over the years, Campbell played on several other recordings for the Beach Boys as well.
In 1967, Campbell released his sixth studio album Gentle On My Mind. The album was a smash success, and climbed to the top spot of the Billboard Country Albums chart. It also crossed over to the Billboard pop charts, where it peaked at the fifth position.
Campbell only released one single off of the album, which was its title track. The single “Gentle On My Mind” was just as successful as the album itself, and as of today, has been played on the radio over 5 million times.
In 1968, Campbell stood in as a replacement on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour television variety show. The experience allowed Campbell to start his own variety show in 1969, which was called The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.
With “Gentle On My Mind” as the theme song, the show ran from January 1969 to June 1972, and featured musical performances and comedy. Many famous artists appeared on Campbell’s show over the years, including Ray Charles, who is pictured with him in the photo above. Charles appeared as a guest on the show a total of four times from 1969-1970.
In addition to being a country music star and television host, Campbell also acted in a variety of films. His most popular role was that of La Boeuf in the 1969 Western film True Grit. Campbell starred alongside Western movie legend John Wayne in the film, which was a blockbuster hit.
Campbell sang the movie’s theme song, which helped him earn a nomination for an Academy Award. Campbell was also nominated for a Golden Globe for his acting in the film, proving the power of his multiple talents.
Campbell strengthened his cowboy image in 1975 when he released his single “Rhinestone Cowboy.” The song went on to become the biggest hit of Campbell’s entire career, when it topped both the Billboard country and pop charts at the same time.
The song helped Campbell earn countless trophies at the CMA, ACM, and AMA awards. In addition, the song was nominated for Best Country Song and Record of the Year at the Grammys.
Considering the title of the song and Campbell’s Western movie background, it was no surprise that the music video for “Rhinestone Cowboy” was Western themed. It also was no surprise that it earned an iconic status equal to the song itself.
Campbell returned to television in 1982 with a new, 30-minute music program called The Glen Campbell Music Show. Although the show only ran for one season, Campbell was able to invite many talented artists to appear as guest performers.
Just a handful of the many artists who graced the stage on The Glen Campbell Music Show were Tammy Wynette, Emmylou Harris, and Willie Nelson. Of course, Campbell also performed on the show, and his parents even made an appearance as well.
In 2005, Campbell was one of three artists inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, with his fellow inductees being DeFord Bailey and Alabama. He was introduced during the ceremony by Vince Gill, who spoke about the various accomplishments Campbell had enjoyed throughout his career.
Campbell’s wife Kim looked on proudly from the audience as Campbell soaked up all the applause. “I can’t tell you what a thrill it is to be here,” he said, before he went on to thank his many musical idols and his family.
Of course, Campbell saved his Uncle Boo for last, thanking him for teaching him how to play the guitar.
After Campbell announced he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, he gave his fans a final treat with his Goodbye Tour. Three of Campbell’s children joined him on the road, including his daughter, Ashley. His children helped serve as a source of support on the tour, which was more difficult for Campbell than the fans knew.
Campbell’s struggles with his disease during the Goodbye Tour were captured on film, and later turned into the documentary Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me. In 2013, Campbell recorded his last-ever song, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” which was used as a theme for the film. The film’s entire soundtrack went on to earn a Grammy Award for Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media in 2016.
Although Campbell’s Goodbye Tour continued until November 2012, he issued his final televised goodbye during the Grammy Awards on February 12, 2012. Other country artists performed their own tributes to Campbell before he started singing his trademark song “Rhinestone Cowboy.”
Wearing a Western getup, Campbell took complete command of the stage, as The Band Perry and Blake Shelton stood by his side. The crowd roared with applause at the conclusion of his performance, knowing they had just witnessed something truly special.
Which moment from Campbell’s career was your favorite? Let us know.