Campbell left school at fourteen, "because they didn't teach me what I wanted to know, which was pickin' and grinnin'." He worked his way to Los Angeles, where he became one of the highest-paid sesson musicians in the business. In the late sixties, his singing career took off, aided immeasurably by weekly TV exposure on the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour. By 1975, he had a dozen gold records, and had recorded nearly thirty albums.
And the biggest was yet to come.
"I heard 'Rhinestone Cowboy' on the radio," he said. "It was a track off Larry Weiss' album, and I immediately got a cassette of it. I actually learned the song while we were on a tour of Australia in November of '74. When I got back to the States, I went into Al Coury's office at Capitol and he said, 'I've got a great song,' and he played 'Rhinestone Cowboy' for me. Well, I was familiar with the song by that time. The airlines had been on strike in Australia, which meant that we had plenty of driving time to spend listening to the cassette. And let me tell you, the freeway over there is something else -- from Sydney to Brisbane -- some 650-odd miles. So, by the end of that drive, I knew 'Rhinestone Cowboy.' I could've whistled it backwards. But I related to the lyrics immediately. In the first verse he says, 'There's been a load of compromising on the road to my horizon.' Then later he says, 'There'll be a load of compromising on the road to my horizon." And the truth in that struck me; I think that's what sold me on the song, much more than even the hook itself, the 'rhinestone cowboy' stuff."
Glen's version of "Rhinestone Cowboy" first appeared on his 1974 album, Houston (I'm Coming To See You). In May of 1975, it was released as a single, and took off right away, selling eighteen to twenty thousand copies a day. It went gold on September 5, and, at the same time, hit the top of the charts.
"I'd had number-one albums before, but never a number-one pop single," said Glen. "But I really had a feeling about 'Rhinestone Cowboy.' It went way beyond anything that I had ever visualized for it. I thought it would be a hit record, but I honestly had no idea that it would be as big as it was."
In 1984, movie studio 20th Century Fox released a lackluster film called Rhinestone, starring Sylvester Stallone and Dolly Parton. The song "Rhinestone Cowboy" did not appear on the soundtrack album, but there was a credit for Weiss in the film: "Based on the song 'Rhinestone Cowboy' by Larry Weiss."
Glen's Rhinestone Cowboy album, one of 60 albums he recorded, would eventually be certified platinum, and he also racked up four additional platinum and 12 gold albums during his half-century in show business. He was the recipient of the Grammy organization's Lifetime Achievement honor in 2012, and enjoyed something of a career resurgence in 2008 with the release of Meet Glen Campbell, a covers album featuring the likes of U2, Tom Petty and the Velvet Underground.
In 2011, Glen announced he was struggling with Alzheimer's disease, and launched "The Goodbye Tour" in Los Angeles later in the year. The following year released the first of three "farewell" albums, Ghost on the Canvas, and in 2013, he released See You There, which featured a stripped-down version of "Rhinestone Cowboy." His final album, Adiós, was released in June 2017, two months before he lost his brave and public battle with Alzheimer's on August 8. He was 81.
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