Na­tive son, singer Campbell dies

Chart-top­ping mu­si­cian suc­cumbs to Alzheimer’s at 81

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - KEN­NETH HEARD

Singer and Arkansas na­tive Glen Campbell, whose dis­tinct voice bridged coun­try and pop mu­sic, died Tues­day in a hos­pice in Nashville af­ter a long bat­tle with Alzheimer’s disease, fam­ily mem­bers said.

“It is with the heav­i­est of hearts that we an­nounce the pass­ing of our beloved hus­band, fa­ther, grand­fa­ther and leg­endary singer and gui­tarist,” Campbell’s fam­ily posted on his web­site Tues­day af­ter­noon.

The singer was 81. Campbell was born in Bill­stown, a small Pike County com­mu­nity of about 50 peo­ple near De­light, on April 22, 1936. He was the sev­enth of 12 chil­dren.

He was best known for his coun­try- pop sin­gles “Rhine­stone Cow­boy,” “Galve­ston,” “Wi­chita Line­man,” “South­ern Nights” and “By the Time I Get To Phoenix,” but Campbell also was an ac­com­plished stu­dio mu­si­cian who played for such per­form­ers as Elvis Pres­ley, Dean Martin, The Mon­kees, Jan and Dean, and The Beach Boys.

One of Campbell’s daugh­ters, Ash­ley, wrote on Twit­ter that she was heart­bro­ken.

“I owe him ev­ery­thing I am and ev­ery­thing I will be. He will be re­mem­bered so well and with so much love,” she wrote.

Dolly Par­ton said Tues­day in a video state­ment on Twit­ter af­ter Campbell’s death, “Glen is one of the great­est voices there ever was in the busi­ness, and he was one of the great­est mu­si­cians.”

Gov. Asa Hutchin­son also re­sponded to the news of the death.

“Although Glen Campbell lived in a lot of places and per­formed his songs all over the world, I have al­ways thought of him as ours,” Hutchin­son said in a state­ment re­leased Tues­day af­ter­noon. “He was a proud Arkansan who had a huge im­pact on the mu­sic world.”

Campbell re­leased more than 70 al­bums dur­ing his 50-year ca­reer and sold more than 45 mil­lion records, plac­ing 80 songs on the Bill­board Coun­try Chart, the Bill­board Hot 100 or the Adult Con­tem­po­rary Chart.

Campbell’s last stu­dio al­bum, Adios, was re­leased June 9 af­ter he recorded it af­ter his 2011 Good­bye Tour.

“He learned to play the guitar real good,” his brother Ger­ald Campbell, 86, told the Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette in May. “We all played some, but Glen picked it up and he could tear that thing up.”

Campbell and his sib­lings grew up on a hard­scrab­ble farm in south­ern Arkansas where they picked cot­ton at early ages and learned to be self-suf­fi­cient, Ger­ald Campbell said.

Glen learned to swim by div­ing off a 40-foot bluff on the Lit­tle Mis­souri River near the fam­ily home where rel­a­tives of­ten held pic­nics.

Mu­sic was part of his life at an early age.

“I al­ways watched af­ter Glen,” Ger­ald Campbell said. “When he went to play­ing the guitar when he was about 10, a lot of the other boys were jeal­ous of him be­cause all the girls gath­ered around to hear him play and sing. They’d try to give him trou­ble, but I had his back.”

The in­stru­ment was his pride, his sis­ter Jane Rather said in a July 12, 1968, in­ter­view with the Arkansas Gazette.

Campbell was out­side play­ing one day with one of his friends when it was time for him to go in­side and prac­tice his guitar, Rather re­called in the ar­ti­cle. The friend sug­gested that Glen stay out­side and play longer, but Glen per­sisted.

The boy took Glen’s guitar and stepped on it, and a fight en­sued.

“Glen won,” Rather said in the ar­ti­cle.

Also in Campbell’s youth, his un­cle Dick Bills came to Arkansas from New Mex­ico to visit, and when he heard the young­ster’s tal­ent, he asked Campbell’s par­ents if Campbell could go back to Al­bu­querque and play in Bills’ band when he got older.

In 1954, Campbell trav­eled to Al­bu­querque and played for Bills and his San­dia Moun­tain Boys, ap­pear­ing on his un­cle’s ra­dio show and on a lo­cal chil­dren’s tele­vi­sion pro­gram.

“He was a guitar man,” said his brother Shorty Campbell, 84, in an in­ter­view this spring with the Arkansas Demo­crat- Gazette. “Oh, he was. They don’t come any bet­ter.”

Campbell, his fa­ther, Shorty Campbell and Ger­ald Campbell moved to Hous­ton to be­gin an in­su­la­tion busi­ness, but it turned out to be a short-lived ca­reer for the man who wanted to be­come a mu­si­cian.

“He worked one week and said, ‘No,’” Shorty Campbell said. “Glen asked, ‘When do you get paid? I told him, ‘Fri­day’ and Glen said, ‘Get my money,’ and he left.

“Glen said as a work­ing man, you can’t get too far ahead,” Shorty Campbell said. “He said he wanted to play guitar.”

Shorty Campbell took his brother to a mu­sic store in south Hous­ton, and they bought a Fen­der guitar and a small am­pli­fier. He played shows in Hous­ton for six months “mak­ing ends meet and stay­ing alive,” Shorty Campbell said.

He formed his first band, Glen Campbell and the Western Wran­glers, in 1958.

In 1960, Campbell moved to Los An­ge­les and joined The Wreck­ing Crew, a group of stu­dio mu­si­cians that in­cluded key­boardist Leon Rus­sell and drum­mer Hal Blaine.

He played on record­ings for Nat King Cole, Nancy Si­na­tra, Ricky Nel­son and oth­ers. He toured with The Beach Boys, fill­ing in for Brian Wil­son on bass, in 1964 and 1965 when Wil­son had a re­ported ner­vous break­down. Campbell also played guitar on the group’s al­bum Pet Sounds.

Campbell signed with Capi­tol Records, but af­ter a string of songs didn’t sell well, the com­pany con­sid­ered drop­ping him from the la­bel in 1966.He teamed with pro­ducer Al De Lory and re­leased the song “Burn­ing Bridges” in 1967, and it be­came a top20 coun­try hit.

Later that year, he re­leased “Gen­tle on My Mind” and won Grammy awards in the coun­try and pop cat­e­gories. “Gen­tle on My Mind” in­cludes the lyrics “I pre­tend to hold you to my breast and find, that you’re waitin’ from the back roads by the rivers of my mem­ory. Ever smilin’, ever gen­tle on my mind.”

At a time when “out­laws” like Way­lon Jen­nings, Wil­lie Nel­son and Kris Kristof­fer­son pop­u­lated coun­try mu­sic’s charts, Campbell’s clean-cut, farm boy im­age set him apart.

A year later, he fol­lowed “Gen­tle on My Mind” with “Wi­chita Line­man,” and his ca­reer took off.

He was friends with co­me­dian Tommy Smoth­ers and co-hosted the CBS show The Sum­mer Smoth­ers Broth­ers Show in 1968, although he didn’t agree with the pro­gram’s lib­eral pol­i­tics.

Suc­cess didn’t change Campbell.

“He was just the same,” Shorty Campbell said.

Glen Campbell main­tained his coun­try boy im­age, of­ten an­swer­ing in­ter­view ques­tions with his home­spun Arkansas flair.

“If we grew it, we ate it. If Daddy shot it, Mamma cooked it,” he would say of his up­bring­ing in ru­ral Arkansas.

“He al­ways said ‘if you let money go to your head, you ain’t any­body,’” Shorty Campbell said. “He was just plain Glen Campbell.

“Suc­cess never went to his head.”

In a 1999 in­ter­view with the Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette, Campbell said that if peo­ple met him, they’d see the “real” Glen Campbell.

“Most of the time when they turn around they say, ‘Are you Glen Campbell?’” Campbell told the news­pa­per. “I say, ‘I used to be.’”

Campbell hosted his own weekly va­ri­ety show from 1969- 72 called The Glen Campbell Good­time Hour on CBS, show­cas­ing mu­si­cians like Linda Ron­stadt, fel­low Arkansan Johnny Cash, Neil Di­a­mond, Wil­lie Nel­son and Merle Hag­gard.

In 1969, he ap­peared in the movie True Grit with John Wayne, play­ing the role of a Texas Ranger in the adap­ta­tion of Arkansas au­thor Charles Por­tis’ novel.

He in­vited his broth­ers to the movie set in Colorado dur­ing film­ing.

“I couldn’t be­lieve it,” Ger­ald Campbell said. “We stopped at a place to get gas in Colorado af­ter they filmed True Grit, and I told a guy there that I had a brother do a movie. That guy knew my name was Campbell be­fore I told him. It was my voice. We all sound the same.”

The next year, Glen Campbell starred with Joe Na­math as ex-Marines in Nor­wood, an­other adap­ta­tion of a Por­tis novel.

In the mid-1970s, Campbell re­leased the songs “South­ern Nights” and “Rhine­stone Cow­boy,” both No. 1 hits in the United States.

Campbell of­ten in­cluded his fam­ily in his per­for­mances. Sib­lings per­formed with him at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, and his broth­ers toured with him across the coun­try and in Canada.

Ger­ald Campbell met Lu­cille Ball through his brother.

“I asked her for a hug and sneaked me some jaw sugar,” he said, re­fer­ring to a kiss.

While play­ing shows in Reno, Nev., Glen Campbell en­joyed play­ing black­jack, but his pop­u­lar­ity pre­vented him from vis­it­ing the black­jack ta­bles alone. He gave Ger­ald Campbell $100 a night to be his “body­guard” and stand by him, keep­ing fans from in­ter­rupt­ing his gam­bling.

For six days, Ger­ald Campbell re­mem­bered, his brother hired him. On the last day, he said, Glen didn’t feel like play­ing that night.

“‘ Dadgum,’ I told him,” Ger­ald Campbell said. “‘You knocked me out of a hun­dred bucks.’”

Campbell was mar­ried four times and had eight chil­dren.

His 15-month public af­fair with coun­try singer Tanya Tucker in­cluded al­co­hol and co­caine binges in the early 1980s and made him the sub­ject of tabloid headlines.

In 1981, he met Kim­berly Wollen, a Ra­dio City Mu­sic Hall dancer, on a blind date, and the two were mar­ried a year later.

Dur­ing his ca­reer, he bat­tled sub­stance abuse, but fam­ily mem­bers “took him to church and talked him out of it,” Shorty Campbell said.

In 2005, Glen Campbell was in­ducted into the Coun­try Mu­sic Hall of Fame

He re­leased his 61st al­bum Ghost on the Can­vas on Aug. 30, 2011, and his fam­ily an­nounced that he was suf­fer­ing from Alzheimer’s disease. He em­barked on what he called his “good­bye tour,” and on Sept. 6, 2012, he per­formed at Robin­son Cen­ter Mu­sic Hall in Lit­tle Rock.

Campbell was open about his disease, of­ten jok­ing about it dur­ing in­ter­views.

“I’ve hurt big toes worse than that,” he said dur­ing a Sept. 3, 2011, in­ter­view with Na­tional Public Ra­dio. “I’m not go­ing to let it get me down. Or it might get me down. I don’t know. I don’t even know what this is. What’s an Alzheimer?”

His wife, Kim Campbell, replied in the in­ter­view: “It’s where you start los­ing your mem­ory.”

Campbell an­swered, “I re­mem­ber ev­ery­thing. I re­ally do.”

The 2014 doc­u­men­tary film Glen Campbell … I’ll Be Me re­counted his 2011-12 farewell tour and chron­i­cled his fight with Alzheimer’s while show­cas­ing his still adept guitar skills. The song “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” won a Grammy for best coun­try song in 2015 and was nom­i­nated for an Os­car for best orig­i­nal song.

Ger­ald Campbell said he has kept a suit­case full of news ar­ti­cles, pho­to­graphs and videos of his brother’s ca­reer.

“I’ve got ev­ery­thing about him,” he said. “I want to take it out and look it all over.”


Glen Campbell poses for a por­trait in 2011 in Mal­ibu, Calif. Campbell, the grin­ning, high-pitched entertainer who had such hits as “Rhine­stone Cow­boy” and spanned coun­try, pop, tele­vi­sion and movies, died Tues­day.

File pho­tos

Glen Campbell ( top, right) shares the stage on his tele­vi­sion show, The Glen Campbell Good­time Hour with fel­low Arkansan Johnny Cash (from left), coun­try le­gend Merle Hag­gard and Hee Haw star Buck Owens in an un­dated pub­lic­ity photo. At left, Campbell and John Hart­ford per­form on the show in 1968. Hart­ford, a reg­u­lar on the show, wrote Campbell’s break­through hit, “Gen­tle on My Mind.”

Demo­crat-Gazette file photo

Glen Campbell vis­its his par­ents, Wes and Car­rie Campbell, dur­ing a Christ­mas­time trip to his home­town of Bill­stown near De­light in 1981.

File photo

This im­age is taken from Glen Campbell’s video, “Ghost on the Can­vas,” for what was meant to be his fi­nal al­bum in 2011, but he wound up re­leas­ing two more.

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