Glen Campbell: guitarist extraordinaire

Nosing about YouTube the other day, I came across the first video below showing Glen Campbell playing one of his most famous songs, written by John Hartford. (Can you identify the other country greats onstage?). I was amazed at the quality of his solo beginning at 1:25, but then discovered that his great picking is on view on other YouTube clips as well. I had no idea the man was so much more than a singer. Born in 1936, Campbell was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s several years ago, and is apparently now in its final stages. When he goes, we’ll lose one of the greats.

Some of the YouTubers note, as Wikipedia confirms, that Campbell was a session musician in Los Angeles before he became famous, and his skills below tell you why. Others complain that, wedded to his Ovation guitars by contract, he could have played a better instrument. But regardless, the clips below show what he was capable of.

Galveston,” written by Jim Webb, is my favorite Glen Campbell song, and here he plays a wicked solo. Sadly, most of the first part of the song is missing, but you can hear another live version here.

And finally, a fantastic instrumental version of Bill Withers’ haunting 1971 song, “Ain’t No Sunshine.”


  1. Craw
    Posted December 26, 2016 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    He was part of The Wrecking Crew who played on many of the Phil Spector recordings. I think he played on Good Vibrations.

    • jt512
      Posted December 26, 2016 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

      Funny you should mention that. I was just telling my girlfriend about The Wrecking Crew, and we’re going to watch The Wrecking Crew documentary this evening. I love the documentary. I’ve watched it twice already.

      • merilee
        Posted December 26, 2016 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

        Loved that movie! (also love Jimmy Webb songs). Sad about Glen’s Alzheimer’s.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted December 26, 2016 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

        Excellent doc; it’s got a spot next to Standing in the Shadows of Motown and 20 Feet from Stardom on my shelf.

        • Merilee
          Posted December 26, 2016 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

          And Muscle Shoals ( which I akwYs think should be Mussel Shoals…)

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted December 26, 2016 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

      I believe ol’ Glenn toured as a member of the Beach Boys way back when, filling in for Brian Wilson when BW would have his debilitating episodes.

      • jt512
        Posted December 27, 2016 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

        According to the documentary The Wrecking Crew, you are correct.

    • Posted December 26, 2016 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

      I love his music & have all my life,& im 55 years young…
      Thamk you Mr Campbell, for bringing your beautiful music to my ears & putting it in n my heart & soul.
      You have ALWAYS inspired me to learn how to pick the geiture & i have got better with my rethum (thank you)
      I sit & play along with you songs on the blue tooth speaker my wife bought me…YOU ARE PURE RAW TALENT.

  2. Posted December 26, 2016 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    I have always loved his version of the William Tell Overture — it was on the B side of Rhinestone Cowboy as I recall

    • George
      Posted December 26, 2016 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

      Watch all the way through to see Campbell play the guitar on his head. Not standing on his head – he puts the guitar on his head and plays it.

  3. George
    Posted December 26, 2016 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    Camera turns to Roy Clark quite a bit so what we need is Glen Campbell & Roy Clark playing ‘Ghost Riders in the Sky’.

    • Michael Fuhr
      Posted December 26, 2016 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

      Roy did a great Malagueña as well (ignore the crappy visuals in this video and just listen to Roy).

      • Rita
        Posted December 26, 2016 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for that, it is great, and you’re right about the crappy visuals, too. They should have a seizure warning!

  4. Posted December 26, 2016 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Other artists on the Gentle on my Mind video: Roy Clark, Crystal Gayle, Willie Nelson, and others that I should recognize by name but don’t.

  5. Posted December 26, 2016 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Glen Camobell singing “All I Have to Do Is Dream.” ❤️

  6. Kurtis Rader
    Posted December 26, 2016 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    I was a big fan of his as a teenager in the 70’s when that wasn’t “cool”. But then my musical tastes have always been somewhat eclectic thanks to my mother. “Galveston” is a great song but I think “Witchita Lineman” is his best song. It reliably brings tears to my eyes. Johnny A did a great cover of it on his “Sometime Tuesday Morning” album.

    • Posted December 26, 2016 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

      A friend of mine actually worked as a lineman in the Midwest and tells me that that song is very similar to what goes through a lineman’s mind.

      • Posted December 26, 2016 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

        This is the story Jimmy Webb tells about ‘Wichita Lineman’. He wrote the verses (‘I am a lineman for the county…’)and bridges (‘And I need you more than want you…’) and hadn’t worked out a chorus. He sent it to Campbell who recorded it as he received it. Campbell assumed that the one-note telegraphic guitar sound was the hook (which was in fact Webb la-la-la-ing an unformed idea). What we think of as the chorus is Webb’s idea for the bridge. Webb told Campbell how surprised he was when it was recorded as we hear it today.

  7. harrync
    Posted December 26, 2016 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Changed my opinion of Glen Campbell – though maybe Glen Campbell changed too. Early Glen Campbell – yeh, he’s OK. Late Glen Campbell – fantastic. Found myself applauding, even though I knew it was on tape. Disclosure – both of my parents were born in Galveston, so that may have had some subconscious effect on my opinion.

  8. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted December 26, 2016 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Campbell was a decent actor and was appealing in “True Grit” (though his character is not).

  9. Larry
    Posted December 26, 2016 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    Though my preference is for jazz, I certainly appreciate Campbell’s recordings of Gentle on My Mind and Wichita Lineman, as well as his considerable vocal and guitar skills.

  10. Posted December 26, 2016 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    Jerry, I think you’ll like this. This is Campbell and Hartford together picking ‘Gentle on my Mind’ on a southern porch: a great singer/guitarist with the writer of what I consider is the finest pop lyric ever. It doesn’t get better than the 4 spondees of the third verse:
    ‘Though the wheat fields and the clothes lines
    And the junkyards and the highways come between us…’
    This is a lovely video as you see these 2 guys’ mutual respect.

    Btw. Campbell tells the story of when he was starting out and session musicianing for Sinatra. In the studio Ol’ Blue Eyes spotted the long-haired Glen and asked, “Who’s the fairy on guitar?”

    • Merilee
      Posted December 26, 2016 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

      Too bad Ol’ Blue Eyes wasn’t nearly as good a man as he was singer.

  11. Bob
    Posted December 26, 2016 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    Oh yes, Glen Campbell was a very accomplished musician before he was ever a star. Every Glen Campbell fan should watch the documentary “I’ll Be Me.” I watched it on Netflix but it can also be seen here:

    “In 2011, music legend Glen Campbell set out on an unprecedented tour across America. He thought it would last 5 weeks; instead it went for 151 spectacular sold out shows over a triumphant year and a half. What made this tour extraordinary was that Glen had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He was told to hang up his guitar and prepare for the inevitable. Instead, Glen and his wife went public with his diagnosis and announced that he and his family would set out on a “Goodbye Tour.” The film documents this extraordinary journey as he and his family attempt to navigate the wildly unpredictable nature of Glen’s progressing disease using love, laughter and music as their medicine of choice. Special appearances include Bruce Springsteen, The Edge, Paul McCartney, Blake Shelton, Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, Taylor Swift, Steve Martin and Chad Smith among many others.”

    • Merilee
      Posted December 26, 2016 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for the tip. Fortunately Canuck Netflix has it!

  12. Randall Schenck
    Posted December 26, 2016 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    Don’t know if anyone mentioned it but He also had a TV show on CBS for a time 69-72. I guess he was a summer replacement for the Smothers Brothers when they were kick off CBS.

  13. Posted December 26, 2016 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    What channel does the “Wreking Crew” come on & what time????? I have never seen it, but id LOVE TOO
    .Anyone, please let me kn. Im in Florida.
    .Thank you in advance.

  14. bluemaas
    Posted December 26, 2016 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    O quite ! = an answer:
    right off @ 0:03 to 0.04 on that stage
    with him as well: m’Darling Mr Waylon J !

    “ … … when you’re down to your last shuck
    with nothin’ to sell !”

    So been there.

  15. Mike
    Posted December 27, 2016 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    Glen Campbell was a great Musician who could play a variety of instruments ,including the Bagpipes.

  16. Posted December 27, 2016 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    I saw Glen Campbell in the 1960s on a TV show (here in Australia) playing the ‘William Tell Overture’ on an acoustic guitar – a great picker.


  17. JH
    Posted December 30, 2016 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Got to share this more recent one featuring his talented kids and songwriting of Paul Westerberg (look for cameo)

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