Glen Campbell Dead At 81

Glen Campbell died today (Tuesday) at age 81. He was a victim of Alzheimer’s disease.

  • Glen Campbell was born April 22nd, 1936 in Delight, Arkansas.
  • His early career was spent as a session guitarist in the Wrecking Crew, playing on tracks for Frank Sinatra, The Mamas and the Papas and The Beach Boys.
  • Campbell’s hits “Gentle on My Mind,” “Wichita Lineman,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and “Galveston” crossed over from country to mainstream pop charts.
  • His TV variety show, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, put him in American living rooms from 1968 to 1972.
  • Inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005.
  • He won nine Grammys (plus Lifetime Achievement recognition), nine Academy of Country Music awards, three AMAs and two Country Music Association awards.
  • Campbell was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in June 2011.
  • He was the subject of a bittersweet 2014 documentary called I’ll Be Me.

Glen Travis Campbell was born on April 22nd, 1936 in Delight, Arkansas, the seventh of 12 children. He started learning guitar at age four and dropped out of school at age 16 to play music professionally. He joined his uncle’s Dick Bills Band in 1954 before forming his own group, Glen Campbell and the Western Wranglers, in 1958. Campbell was also briefly a member of The Champs — known for the instrumental hit “Tequila” — in 1959.

Campbell was part of The Wrecking Crew session gang in Los Angeles and did a lot of work in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, recording with Frank Sinatra, The Mamas and the Papas, Bobby Darin and Merle Haggard. In 1965 and ’66, Campbell toured in place of Brian Wilson with The Beach Boys, and he played guitar on the group’s Pet Soundsalbum.

In 1967, Campbell established himself as a solo artist with a Grammy-winning version of John Hartford’s “Gentle on My Mind.”  “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Wichita Lineman” and “Galveston” — all by songwriter Jimmy Webb — kept Campbell high up on the country charts through the end of the ‘60s.

Many people will remember Campbell most fondly as host of the television variety show The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour from 1968 to 1972. But he also tried his luck on the big screen, co-starring with John Wayne in the 1969 western True Grit.

Campbell topped the country charts in 1975 with “Rhinestone Cowboy” and in 1977 with 1977’s “Southern Nights.”  During the ‘80s, despite marital problems and drug addiction, Campbell still scored a number of Top 10 hits. He turned to Christianity in the ‘90s and released several gospel albums. He published Rhinestone Cowboy: An Autobiography in 1994.

In June 2011, Campbell announced that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. (He checked into an Alzheimer’s care and treatment facility in April 2014.)

Campbell went on a final Goodbye Tour in 2012 with three of his children in his backup band. His last show was on November 20th, 2012 in Napa, California. The shows were documented in a 2014 film, I’ll Be Me, which won a Grammy and received an Oscar nomination.

Glen Campbell is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Musicians’ Hall of Fame, and his awards include eight Grammys, eight Academy of Country Music Awards and a Golden Globe nomination. He had 12 gold albums, four platinums and the 1968 double-platinum album Wichita Linemen.

His last studio album, Adiós, was released earlier this year.

Glen leaves behind his fourth wife, Kim, and seven children.

More from Jim Johnson
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