by Alan L. Chrisman
Glen Campbell has recently announced that because he has Alzheimers, he has recorded his last songs and a documentary on him, called I’ll Be Me is being released. He had many hits throughout the late 60’s and 70’s, among which are: “Gentle on my Mind”, “ By The Time I Get To Phoenix”, “Wichita Lineman”, “Galveston”, “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “Southern Nights”. But some people may not know that before that, he was also a session guitarist as part of "The Wrecking Crew” , a much-used L.A. collective of musicians, who played on many artists’ recordings and hits: The Mamas and The Papas (“ California Dreamin’”), Beach Boys (”Good Vibrations”, “California Girls” , “Pet Sounds”, The Byrds’,( “ Mr. Tamborine Man”), Simon and Garfunkle, Frank Sinatra, Elvis, The Carpenters, Phil Spector, The Monkees, 5th Dimension, and many, many more.
Glen Campbell grew up in Arkansas in a sharecropping family of 12. He was a later part of The Champs, who had an instrumental hit, “Tequilla” in 1958 and in ‘64 he toured with the Beach Boys, replacing Brian Wilson. But in 1967, Campbell had his first big hit with John Hartford’s “Gentle on my Mind”. Then he followed up with the best sellers, “By the Time I get To Phoenix”, and” Wichita Lineman”, both written by Jimmy Webb. I mentioned Jimmy Webb in my earlier article on Johnny Rivers. As I said, Rivers first discovered Webb, recording the first version of “Phoenix” in 1966 and with “Up Up and Away” for the 5th Dimension, which Rivers produced. Webb would also write a giant hit for actor Richard Harris, ““McArthur Park”, a seven minute extravaganza in ’68.
In 1968, Campbell would be a summer replacement for the very popular Smothers Bros.TV Show, which would lead to his own show from ’69-“72, in which he had many musical guests like John Hartford, Anne Murray, and Jerry Reed.
“Galveston”, another Jimmy Webb composition was a chart-topper too. And in the mid-70’s, Campbell hit with his biggest seller, “Rhinestone Cowboy” and with New Orlean’s Allen Toussaint’s “Southern Nights”. Campbell also did some acting, appearing in John Wayne’s film, “True Grit” in ’69.
Jimmy Webb, songwriter, would continue to write songs for Linda Ronstadt, Barbra Streisand, John Denver, etc. He also released several solo albums throughout the 70’s of his own songs, including Words and Pictures(’70), which includes a reference to fellow songwriter ,“P. F. Sloan”, (“Eve of Destruction”, “Secret Agent Man”) whom I again talked about in my article on Johnny Rivers.
Glen Campbell, singer and guitar player, had several hits and played on many others, not credited. Not bad for a southern boy and guitar picker! Campbell, because of his advancing Alzheimers, doesn’t always recognize some people, but can still, evidently, sometimes play his guitar.
See below GLEN CAMPBELL doing Jimmy Webb songs medley: