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Glen Campbell to end touring

Country crooner Glen Campbell wants to ride off into the sunset and says he would rather play golf.

music Updated: Dec 04, 2003 13:10 IST
Dean Goodman (Reuters)
Dean Goodman (Reuters)

The Rhinestone Cowboy wants to ride off into the sunset.

Not long before his recent arrest on charges of drunk driving and leaving the scene of a car accident, country crooner Glen Campbell informshe would rather play golf near his Phoenix home than play gigs around America. Now that he faces up to 30 days in prison if convicted under Arizona's drunk driving law, part of Campbell's wish may come true sooner than expected.

Campbell, an admitted drug abuser in the 1970s, had claimed to be sober since a near-fatal cocaine overdose that decade, although his recovery was based on prayer and not a recognised treatment programme. He has apologised for his conduct in the November 24 incident in Phoenix, Arizona.

The one-time studio guitarist who became a hugely popular country music star in the 1960s and '70s, is still an in-demand performer. By the end of the year, he will have played about 170 shows, many of them at his own theatre in the country music mecca of Branson, Missouri.

But too many are at remote locations, like the recent gig at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, which required a 100- mile (160-km) trip from St Louis just after he had played the Grand Ol' Opry in Nashville.

"When I get there, I'm fine," said 67-year-old Campbell. "But I think it's just the travelling that that I think I'm really getting tired of."

Campbell also considers himself "lazy," and would rather play an early morning round of golf. He wants to take a year off "and sit back and see what's going on."

The retirement talk comes at a time when his career is receiving an extensive reappraisal through a new four-CD boxed set, "Glen Campbell: The Legacy 1961-2002. The package includes all his hits, such as "By The Time I Get to Phoenix," "Wichita Lineman," "Galveston," and "Rhinestone Cowboy," the signature hit that topped the U.S. pop charts for two weeks in 1975.

Parents will corner Campbell at gigs so their little wonders can serenade him with their off-key versions of the song. Other stars might call security, but the easygoing Campbell takes it in his stride.


He is so laid back that he almost seems disconnected. Asked to name his favourite guitarists of the rock era, Campbell paused a little before announcing, "The modern ones I don't know about."

Another pause for thought.

"That guy that was with Cream."

Er, Eric Clapton, who played with Cream 35 years ago?

"Eric! Oh! I went and saw him here...Boy, he's so good."

For the record, his favourite guitarist of all time is Django Reinhardt.

If time passes slowly for Campbell these days, he could barely pause for breath during the 1960s and 70s. The Arkansas native came to Hollywood in 1960, worked as a staff songwriter, released some little-noticed singles and hit the jackpot when he joined the Wrecking Crew, a loose collection of the most sought-after session musicians in town.

He sang or played guitar on hundreds of songs for such acts as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Nat "King" Cole, Bobby Darin, the Beach Boys and the Monkees. He briefly joined the Beach Boys in 1965 after Brian Wilson suffered a nervous breakdown.

His own recording career sputtered along until he covered folk singer John Hartford's "Gentle on My Mind" in 1967. It stalled at No. 39 on the pop charts but paved the way for his star-making collaborations with songwriter Jimmy Webb, another southern farm boy looking for his big break in the industry.

The two of them struck gold when Campbell released "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" later in 1967. The next year Campbell won four Grammys, two each for "Phoenix" and "Gentle." In 1969, Campbell won another Grammy when "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" was named album of the year.


Campbell and Webb quickly reunited for "Wichita Lineman," which went to No. 3 on the pop charts and No. 1 on the country charts. By now, he was hosting his own TV show and had become a bona-fide star. At a time when America was being torn apart by Vietnam War protests, Campbell presented a wholesome image, which he fosters to this day -- at least until his recent brush with the law.

"People speak out today, like the guy that did it on the Academy Awards (documentary film maker Michael Moore). They can make an ass out of themselves if they do that. I don't get mixed in with politics," he said.

Campbell enjoyed more hits, such as Webb's "Galveston" and "Honey, Come Back," "Try A Little Kindness," "Country Boy," and the 1977 pair "Southern Nights" and "Sunflower."

But as sales slowed, he focused on playing Branson, making gospel albums and starting a new family in Phoenix. While Johnny Cash spent the last decade of his life riding an unprecedented comeback, Campbell does not feel the same urge.

He says he would love to record another album with Webb, and has got about 15 Webb songs that "are just so awesome." But he has not done anything with them, because "I'm lazy, I guess."

First Published: Dec 04, 2003 13:08 IST