Glen Campbell Was a Beach Boy and Fought For Chart Success Against Wayne Newton

If you’re younger than 55 years old, there has been Glen Campbell music on your radio your entire life!

Glen played with a group called the Champs who had recorded and had a hit with the novelty record Tequila several years before Glen joined the group.  The song was a near instrumental, with the music interrupted from time to time by the sax player stopping long enough to bellow out, “Tequila.”  Income from that job must have been minor since Glen was also doing session work during that time starting in 1960.

When he got a chance to sign a record contract on his own in 1961, Glen left the group and recorded a record that was almost a minor hit, Turn Around Look At Me. The record only managed to get as high as #62 on the charts but was a top ten record in 1968 for the Vogues.  A year later Glen signed with Capitol Records, the label he would stay with for most of his career.  He released a record with the Green River Boys that made it to #20 on the country charts, but had no follow-up success and spent the next few years as a member of the Wrecking Crew,

A year later Glen signed with Capitol Records, the label he would stay with for most of his career.  He released a record with the Green River Boys that made it to #20 on the country charts, but had no follow-up success and spent the next few years as a member of the Wrecking Crew, a collection of studio musicians that played on an astonishing number of records in the 1960s.

In 1965 Brian Wilson decided to stop touring with the Beach Boys so he could find sanctuary in the safety of recording studios.  Glen replaced Brian for four months as a member of the touring group, making him an official Beach Boy.  Brian created a song that he had Glen sing on, although the record (Guess I’m Dumb) never made the charts (but a video of Glen lip-synching survived).

For the next few years, Glen continued to do studio work (including some banjo and guitar work on Brian’s Pet Sounds).  He managed to barely dent the pop charts a few times, and had a top 20 Country hit in 1966 (Burning Bridges), but true success eluded him until 1967.

Jimmy Webb had written a few songs that Johnny Rivers recorded and then written Up, Up and Away for the Fifth Dimension.  Somehow Jimmy and Glen connected, and in the next year Glen had hits with two songs written by Jimmy that took Glen’s career into overdrive, By the Time I Get To Phoenix and Witchita Lineman.  The first single hit #2 on the Country charts, but only got up to #26 on the Pop charts, and at the time the Pop charts were where the real money was.  In hopes of getting better results, somebody at Captial talked Glen into recording Dreams of the Every Day Housewife – and they also got Wayne Newton to release the song.  The company even released identical press releases for the two singers, each indicating that Housewife would be the song would be the breakthrough that each one needed in the pop music world.  Glen did better than Wayne on the pop charts (Glen #32, Wayne #60).  The song did much better for Glen on the Country charts, reaching number 3.  It wasn’t until Wichita Lineman came out the next year that Glen finally broke down the pop barriers…and Wayne had to wait until Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast was a hit in 1972.

The Smothers Brothers television show hit the air in 1967 and started an endless battle with the censors at CBS.  At that time, television shows typically ran for 39 weeks each year and a summer replacement would take their place for a few months before the next season.  Several hosts were considered for The Summer Brothers Smothers Show, and an effort to smooth things over with CBS, and Glen’s friendly personality and country music presence was calming enough to get Glen his own television show.  Things went so well that Glen was given his own show beginning in 1969 and he continued on the air for over three years.  Thanks in part to the exposure of the television show (and in larger part to his incredible singing and guitar-playing talent) Glen had a few more hits on the pop chart and a long string of major hits on the Country and Adult Contemporary charts during that period.  He even got to make a movie with John Wayne (True Grit).

His career faded a bit going into the seventies, but all that changed when he released Rhinestone Cowboy in 1975.  That was his biggest selling record and was followed by a string of Pop/Country crossover records over the next two years.  1977 was his last appearance on the Top 40 Pop charts, although he continued to release top ten Country hits through the eighties.  After the resurgence of New Country in the early nineties destroyed most of the existing Country careers Glen began recording Christian music, and that kept his career alive through until the mid-nineties.

In 2010 Glen was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s.  Over the next few years, he recorded a handful of songs that were put together for a final album release this year.  Along the way, a documentary about his illness was produced, and a song from his final sessions was released in 2014 when the movie came out.  I’m Not Gonna Miss You is a heartbreaking look at the impact his illness was having on Glen’s life and abundent talents.

Be prepared to shed a tear or two when you watch that video.

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