Continuing his search to uncover the greatest acoustic guitarists Stuart Ryan examines the burning style of a legendary country picker.
Stuart Ryan on the acoustic style of country singer and session guitarist Glen Campbell.
You will certainlY have heard of Glen campbell, but you might not know what a fabulous guitarist he is. one of the most prolific session musicians in America in the 60s he played on scores of hits that belong to the pantheon of modern classics – it’s his gentle acoustic strumming on Frank Sinatra’s Strangers In The Night and on The Righteous Brothers’ That Loving Feeling. He also featured on many of The Beach Boys’ tracks and worked for Nat King Cole, Phil Spector, Elvis Presley and many others. In the 60s he was part of the famous ‘Wrecking Crew’ team of session musicians and his achievements during this time would have left many a guitarist feeling that they had reached the apogée of professional achievements.
However, Campbell was only just getting started and went on to have a glittering solo career that spawned 73 Top 40 hits and even saw him outsell the Beatles in 1969. with over 50 million album sales to his credit it’s fair to say that Glen campbell is a true guitar legend. What’s more, he was able to more than hold his own against some of his most gifted picking contemporaries – just check out his playing with The ‘Alabama Wildman’ Jerry Reed and you’ll see what I mean!
Born in Pike County, Arkansas on April 22nd, 1936, Campbell learned how to play guitar from an uncle. He moved to LA and spent the 60s working as a studio guitarist and solo artist signing with Capitol Records in 1962. After initial solo offerings failed to generate the needed hits it looked like his solo career may falter. However, 1967’s Burning Bridges album spawned several hits including the album’s title track. The following year his version of Jimmy Webb’s Wichita Lineman was a huge success and cemented Campbell’s position as a serious solo artist. The hits continued to come in the 70s with the single rhinestone cowboy shifting a staggering two million copies.
Campbell’s idiosyncratic guitar style is evidence of his wide ranging studio career where an ‘everything goes’ approach to the instrument would have been essential. You’ll hear plenty of country but also be-bop and Django-infused licks alongside bluesy phrases. His highly individual style does make demands on you as a player as a typical Campbell guitar part can feature anything from chicken pickin’ to high-tempo alternate picking. A superb rhythm and lead player I’ve elected to look at his strumming style and his lead approach. Sadly, Glen announced in 2011 that he was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and after a farewell tour he retired from music. If you are looking for a lesson in taste and technique then you don’t have to look much further than Glen Campbell.
I would have been content to just do studio work. Making it on my own never really entered my mind. Glen Campbell
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