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Small town, big dreams: Glen Campbell rose from the cotton patch to reach to the stars

Small town, big dreams: Glen Campbell rose from the cotton patch to reach to the stars

August 13th, 2017 in Opinion Editorial

It's a long way from tiny Delight, Ark., to the bright lights of Hollywood and Nashville. But Glen Campbell made that journey.

Born during the Depression in Pike County, not all that far from the Twin Cities, Campbell was one of 12 children, His parents were sharecroppers and life was hard. But there were good times, too. His family loved music, and by age 4 he was playing guitar. At 6 he was performing locally on radio.

He kept at it whenever he wasn't needed in the fields. He continued improving his playing and singing when he moved to Houston for work at the age of 14. He was playing professionally in a band by 17 and formed his own group, the Western Wranglers, four years later.

It was a hard life on the road. So much so that Campbell traded it in to become a session musician in Los Angeles. That's where he caught the eye of major industry players. Campbell was soon in big demand, a studio musician in the legendary Wrecking Crew. His guitar was heard on a wide variety of recordings. From country stars like Merle Haggard to pop artists like Ricky Nelson and the Monkees to legendary performers such as Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin—even Elvis himself.

He got a recording contract of his own in 1962, cut a few sides and appeared on a few TV shows. He filled in for Brian Wilson during a Beach Boys tour and played on their iconic 1966 album "Pet Sounds."

Then success hit with "Gentle on My Mind." Campbell followed it up with "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" and "Wichita Lineman." The sharecropper's son from Delight was on his way.

He had his own variety show, hosting some of the biggest names in the business. He starred alongside John Wayne in "True Grit." He hosted award shows and TV specials, acted in a few more movies and had his biggest hit ever, "Rhinestone Cowboy."

Stardom came with problems. Campbell married four times along the way and battled drug and alcohol problems. But the Arkansas boy carried on, eventually making it to the Country Music Hall of Fame. He picked up numerous awards along the way, including 10 Grammies and an Academy Award nomination. In 2011, Campbell made the announcement that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. He continued to perform as often as he could for the next couple of years as the disease took its toll.

Glen Campbell lost his battle with Alzheimer's on Tuesday. He was 81. His legacy of life, love and music gave joy to millions around the world. But he will always be remembered with special fondness in Southwest Arkansas as one of our own, a small-town boy who became a star.

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