NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Glen Campbell, the upbeat guitarist from Delight, Arkansas, whose smooth vocals and down-home manner made him a mainstay of music and television for decades, has died, his family announced on Facebook on Tuesday. He was 81.
“It is with the heaviest of hearts that we announce the passing of our beloved husband, father, grandfather, and legendary singer and guitarist, Glen Travis Campbell … following his long and courageous battle with Alzheimer’s disease,” a Facebook statement said.
Campbell is best remembered for a string of country-inflected hits that ran from the mid-1960s to the late 1980s: “Gentle on My Mind,” “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Wichita Lineman,” “Galveston,” “Southern Nights” and “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle” among them.
They fit in neatly on both pop and country radio, with two of them — “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “Southern Nights” — hitting No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
He was also famous for “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour,” a TV variety show that ran from 1969 to 1972.
Before he became a solo star, Campbell was one of the music business’ most in-demand session guitarists, known for his astonishing speed and his brilliant ear.
He was part of the famed “Wrecking Crew” of L.A. session musicians that included Hal Blaine, Leon Russell, Larry Knechtel and Carol Kaye.
The crack band played on records by Phil Spector, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, the Monkees, the Beach Boys and Frank Sinatra.
That’s Campbell’s fretwork on the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” and “Help Me Rhonda,” Sinatra’s “Something in the Night” and Elvis Presley’s “Viva Las Vegas,” among hundreds of recordings.
Such versatility was a necessity to get work and stay fresh, Campbell said in an interview. As a teenager, he was in a band with his uncle and the group had a regular radio gig.
“Music was my world before they started putting a label on it,” he told ClassicBands.com in 1999. “We had a five-day-a-week radio show, six, seven years. You use up a lot of material doing that. We did everything from country to pop, when rock came along.”
Channel 2’s Chris Parente interviewed the singer’s wife, Kim, and daughter, Ashley, in June as Campbell was in the final stages of his fight with Alzheimer’s.