A universal superstar, Glen Campbell rocked the country
(No. 38 in a continuing series on artists who should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but are not)
By Phill Marder
This blog started in September, but my first article on who belongs in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame actually ran in Goldmine over 10 years ago. Since that time, some from my original list were inducted and some who became eligible since have been added.
So my basic list has been in existence for quite some time. What I’m trying to tell you is that this week’s choice has been on that list since the beginning. I’ve passed him by until now because, for me, writing about him is a daunting assignment. But the recent sad news concerning him forced me to finally give it a shot. He has accomplished so much, it is ridiculous to try to summarize it, particularly in one blog entry. But I’m going to attempt it with the hope that maybe some of those responsible for nominating Hall of Fame candidates will delve a little deeper into his qualifications and make an intelligent choice.
So without further ado, let me present for your consideration – and the consideration of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee – another musical giant thus far passed over.
I give you Glen Campbell.
Campbell recently turned 75 and has a new album “Ghost On The Canvas” due August 30, with a tour to follow. Unfortunately, it will be his final tour as he recently has been diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer’s.
One of Rock’s great guitarists, Campbell moved to Los Angeles in his early 20s and got his first real taste of notoriety with the Champs, who had recorded the Rock classic “Tequila” a couple years earlier. As his reputation spread, he became a member of the famous “Wrecking Crew” studio group that included drummer Hal Blaine and keyboardist Leon Russell, both members of the Hall of Fame, Tommy Tedesco, Al Casey and Carol Kaye. Of all the “Wrecking Crew” members, Campbell went on to have the most distinguished career, backing the likes of Elvis, Ricky Nelson, Bobby Darin, the Association, the Monkees, the Mamas & Papas and many more.
He filled in on bass and vocals with the Beach Boys when Brian Wilson first became incapacitated and sang on a minor 1967 hit by the group Sagittarius and on a 1964 top 10 record “Little Honda” by the Hondells.
Campbell really started opening eyes (and ears) when he began making regular appearances on “Shindig,” the weekly Rock show that had a two-year run with regulars including Russell, Darlene Love, Delaney Bramlett, Billy Preston and The Righteous Brothers. Campbell got to show off his playing prowess, but he also stunned audiences who were unaware of his vocal abilities.
After minimal success as a solo artist, Campbell finally made headway with his 1967 recording of John Hartford’s “Gentle On My Mind,” which earned Campbell Grammys for Best Country & Western solo performance by a male and Best Country Recording. But Campbell also won another two Grammys the same year for “By The Time I Get To Phoenix,” which carried off the Best Vocal Performance by a male and Best Contemporary Male Solo Vocal Performance, leaving no doubt Campbell had arrived.
The next year, Campbell’s “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” album was given the Grammy for Album of the Year. The above two singles plus “Wichita Lineman” have all been awarded Grammy Hall of Fame status as well. The latter hit No. 3 and made the list of top 200 singles of all time in a 2004 list compiled by Rolling Stone. English journalist Stuart Maconie called it “the greatest pop song ever composed.” Of course, Campbell just recorded it. The tune was written by Jimmy Webb, who also composed “Phoenix,” but, though recorded by many, “Wichita Lineman” generally is associated with Campbell as is another Webb composition, “Galveston,” which hit No. 4 for Campbell in 1969. Thought to be a protest against the Vietnam War, Webb later revealed he actually had the Spanish-American War in mind when he wrote it.
Campbell also was busy revisiting early Rock chestnuts, doing covers of Jack Scott’s “Burning Bridges,” Roy Orbison’s “Only The Lonely” and “Dream Baby,” Dorsey Burnette’s “Hey Little One,” The Everly Brothers’ “Let It Be Me” and “All I Have To Do Is Dream” and Roger Miller’s “Little Green Apples” with Bobbie Gentry, and Conway Twitty’s “It’s Only Make Believe” and made them hits all over again.
But his biggest successes didn’t come until the mid to late ‘70s when he hit No. 1 with “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “Southern Nights.” All the while, his prolific output remained sprinkled with Rock classics.
Campbell also was a constant chart presence in the United Kingdom with eight top 40 singles, “Honey Come Back” and “It’s Only Make Believe” each peaking at No. 4 and six top 40 albums, “20 Golden Greats” topping the UK chart in 1971.
Detractors may complain that Campbell was a Country artist, therefore he shouldn’t be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. But, as noted, much of his recorded output focused on Rock & Roll classics. And Country Music played just as important, or maybe even a more important role in the formation of Rock & Roll than did the more heralded blues. Many Country stars already are entrenched in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, those being Chet Atkins, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys, Johnny Cash, Floyd Cramer, The Everly Brothers, Wanda Jackson, Brenda Lee, Carl Perkins, Jimmie Rodgers, and the greatest Country star of all, Hank Williams.
Thankfully, Campbell was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005. But in 2007 he also was inducted into the Musicians’ Hall of Fame as a member of Rock’s most notorious studio band, The Wrecking Crew. And in 2008, Q Magazine, which presents highly regarded music awards for Britain, presented Campbell with the Q Legend Award.
Put it all together, and add the page after page of accomplishments not noted here (50 years in the business, over 70 albums, his own television series in addition to his work on “Shindig,” major roles in several motion pictures, including the original “True Grit,”) and you should come to just one conclusion…Glen Campbell belongs in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.