While “Rhinestone Cowboy” is considered Glen Campbell’s signature song, he wasn’t really the fancy dude in the bedazzled white outfit he wore while riding a horse and promoting that hit.
I met Glen Campbell a few times and saw several of his live shows, even getting a chance to hand out with his band and daughter Debby backstage once when he visited a small venue in Lenoir, NC.
He seemed like a nice easy-going guy and above all a consummate musician. Although he was known for his voice, he almost always had a guitar in his hands and appeared awkward on stage without either his acoustic/electric Ovation or an electric Fender Stratocaster.
And man, could he play. He often told the story about when he was a kid and he figured out how to play the William Tell Overture after seeing a Lone Ranger movie and hearing the title theme.
He made that instrumental a staple of his shows and every time I saw him play it he never missed a note. See it here.
While he wasn’t a prolific songwriter himself, he often gave credit to the composers of his big hits during his shows, particularly to Jimmy Webb who penned such masterpieces as “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Galveston,” and Wichita Lineman.” Credit is also due, of course to John Hartford who wrote “Gentle on My Mind.”
After Campbell died Aug. 8, 2017 from Alzheimer's disease, Webb posted a tribute on Facebook. “Let the world note that a great American influence on pop music, the American Beatle, the secret link between so many artists and records that we can only marvel, has passed and cannot be replaced – my friend and brother in music, Glen Campbell.” You can see that post here.
RollingStone reported on Campbell's “consummate musicianship, noting his inspiration on the development of the Beach Boys' sound (as a key member of the famed "Wrecking Crew," the group of L.A. studio players who backed countless influential recordings throughout the Sixties and Seventies) and his love for everything from the Righteous Brothers to Flatt & Scruggs.”
While Campbell’s recordings have been absent from the charts for decades, his voice appeared in this year’s soundtrack of the movie “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.” The song “Southern Nights” is included on the Awesome Mix Vol. 2, a collection of essential tunes that no one should leave the Earth without.
On stage, Campbell always kept it light, showing off a self-deprecating sense of humor. One of his asides was, “I’m glad to be here. In fact, I’m glad to be anywhere.”
Glenn Campbell will always be here as long as people appreciate great music.