september 2017

In this publicity shot from the late 1960s, Campbell poses with a custom Dobro Californian electric resonator guitar. The distinctive instrument was designed by Semie Moseley of Mosrite fame.

The masterful guitarist and vocalist rose from session musician to superstar by fusing pop and country.

Early in his career, Glen Campbell’s guitar wizardry made him an integral part of L.A.’s famed yet largely anonymous group of studio players called the Wrecking Crew. And then his sparklingly clear tenor voice, affable personality, and crossover appeal earned him worldwide recognition as one of the more influential musical artists of the latter half of the 20th century. Campbell died in Nashville on Tuesday, August 8, after battling Alzheimer’s disease, which he was diagnosed with in 2011. He was 81.

Born in the tiny Billstown community near Delight, Arkansas, in 1936, Glen Travis Campbell was the seventh son (of a seventh son) in a family of 12 children. His father was a sharecropper and his extended family also included several musicians. At age 4, Campbell received his first guitar. “I took it over immediately, even though the strings were kind of high on it,” Campbell told Branson’s Review in 2002. “The guitar didn’t have an adjustable neck to lower the strings, so Dad made me a capo out of a piece of old inner tube and I could now play higher-up on the guitar’s neck without hurting my fingers.”

After dropping out of high school, Campbell briefly relocated to Casper, Wyoming, to play in a nightclub with his uncle, Eugene, whom the family called “Boo.” A stint in Albuquerque followed in 1956, with the Sandia Mountain Boys—the band of another of his uncles, Dick Bills. Two years later, Campbell formed the Western Wranglers. By 1960 he had disbanded that group and moved to Los Angeles, making $100 a week touring with the Champs, the instrumental outfit whose “Tequila” had been a 1958 smash.

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