Camp­bell said good­bye through mu­sic

The Denver Post - - FEATURES - By Sandy Co­hen

LOS AN­GE­LES» Glen Camp­bell was a rare en­ter­tainer who got to say good­bye to his life and ca­reer in ev­ery way he knew how.

Be­fore his mind evap­o­rated into Alzheimer’s dis­ease, Camp­bell was able to go out on one last big tour, star in a doc­u­men­tary and record an al­bum of his fa­vorite songs, fit­tingly called “Adios.” Three of his chil­dren sing on the al­bum, which was re­leased this sum­mer.

The coun­try su­per­star died Tues­day morn­ing in Nashville, Tenn., Camp­bell’s fam­ily said. He was 81.

“I owe him ev­ery­thing I am, and ev­ery­thing I ever will be,” daugh­ter Ash­ley Camp­bell wrote on Twit­ter. “He will be re­mem­bered so well and with so much love.”

A gui­tarist since age 4, Camp­bell’s mu­si­cal tal­ent, boy­ish looks and friendly charm brought him decades of suc­cess. He won five Gram­mys, sold more than 45 mil­lion records, and had 12 gold al­bums and 75 chart hits, in­clud­ing No. 1 songs with “Rhine­stone Cow­boy” and “South­ern Nights.”

His per­for­mance of the ti­tle song from the 1969 film “True Grit,” in which he played a Texas Ranger along­side Os­car win­ner John Wayne, re­ceived an Academy Award nom­i­na­tion. Camp­bell was nom­i­nated again for an Os­car in 2015 for “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” a song from the doc­u­men­tary “Glen Camp­bell … I’ll Be Me.”

The 2014 film about Camp­bell’s farewell tour in 2011 and 2012 of­fers a poignant look at his de­cline from Alzheimer’s while show­cas­ing his vir­tu­oso gui­tar chops that some­how con­tin­ued to shine as his mind un­rav­eled.

His wife, Kim Camp­bell, an­nounced this year that her hus­band could no longer play gui­tar.

Camp­bell’s mu­si­cal ca­reer dated back to the early years of rock ’n’ roll. He toured with the Champs of “Te­quila” fame. He was part of the house band for the ABC tele­vi­sion show “Shindig!” and a mem­ber of Phil Spec­tor’s “Wreck­ing Crew” stu­dio band that played hits by the Ronettes, the Righ­teous Broth­ers and the Crys­tals. Camp­bell also played gui­tar on Frank Si­na­tra’s “Strangers In the Night,” The Mon­kees’ “I’m a Be­liever” and Elvis Pres­ley’s “Viva Las Ve­gas.”

“We’d get the rock ’n’ roll guys and play all that, then we’d get Si­na­tra and Dean Mar­tin,” Camp­bell told The As­so­ci­ated Press in 2011. “That was a kick. I re­ally en­joyed that. I didn’t want to go nowhere. I was mak­ing more money than I ever made just do­ing stu­dio work.”

One of 12 chil­dren, Camp­bell left his na­tive Arkansas and a life of farm work as a teenager in pur­suit of mu­sic. He moved to Al­bu­querque to join his un­cle’s band and ap­pear on his un­cle’s ra­dio show.

By his early 20s, Camp­bell had formed his own group, the Western Wran­glers, and moved to Los An­ge­les. He opened for The Doors and sang and played bass with The Beach Boys as a re­place­ment for Brian Wil­son, who in the mid-1960s had re­tired from tour­ing to con­cen­trate on stu­dio work. In 1966, Camp­bell played on The Beach Boys’ clas­sic “Pet Sounds” al­bum.

“I didn’t go to Nashville be­cause Nashville at that time seemed oned­i­men­sional to me,” he told The As­so­ci­ated Press. “I’m a jazzer. I just love to get the gui­tar and play the hell out of it if I can.”

By the late 1960s, he was a per­former on his own, and an ap­pear­ance on Joey Bishop’s show led to his TV break­through. Tommy Smoth­ers of the Smoth­ers Broth­ers saw the pro­gram and asked Camp­bell if he’d like to host a sum­mer­time se­ries, “The Sum­mer Broth­ers Smoth­ers Show.”

“The whole lid just blew off,” Camp­bell told The As­so­ci­ated Press. “I had never had any­thing like that hap­pen to me. I got more phone calls. It was awe­some. For the first cou­ple of days I was like how do they know me? I didn’t re­al­ize the power of tele­vi­sion.”

His guests in­cluded coun­try acts, but also The Mon­kees, Lu­cille Ball, Cream, Neil Di­a­mond and Ella Fitzger­ald.

Like his cross­over con­tem­po­raries Johnny Cash, Roy Clark and Kenny Rogers, Camp­bell also en­joyed suc­cess on TV. He had a weekly au­di­ence of 50 mil­lion peo­ple for the “Glen Camp­bell Good­time Hour” on CBS.

He re­leased more than 70 of his own al­bums, and in the 1990s recorded a se­ries of gospel CDS. A 2011 al­bum, “Ghost On the Can­vas,” in­cluded con­tri­bu­tions from Ja­cob Dy­lan, Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick and Billy Cor­gan of Smash­ing Pump­kins. “Adios” fea­tures col­lab­o­ra­tions with Wil­lie Nel­son and Vince Gill.

Camp­bell was mar­ried four times and had eight chil­dren.

As he would con­fide in painful de­tail, he suf­fered for his fame and made oth­ers suf­fer as well. He drank heav­ily, used drugs and in­dulged in a tur­bu­lent re­la­tion­ship with coun­try singer Tanya Tucker in the early 1980s. In late 2003, he was ar­rested near his home in Phoenix af­ter caus­ing a traf­fic ac­ci­dent. He later pleaded guilty to “ex­treme” DUI and leav­ing the scene of an ac­ci­dent and served a 10-day jail sen­tence.

Be­sides his wife, Kim, and his daugh­ter Ash­ley, Camp­bell is sur­vived by chil­dren Cal, Shan­non, Debby, Kelli, Travis, Kane and Dil­lon, and 10 grand­chil­dren.

Lawrence K. Ho, Los An­ge­les Times/tns

Glen Camp­bell per­forms as part of his farewell tour at Club Nokia on Oct. 6, 2011, in Los An­ge­les.

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