Country star Glen Campbell has hit great highs and deep lows. Here are some lessons from his life.
MAKE IT A PASSION
I had the ambition to make something of myself because I came from humble beginnings. My dad had a guitar first, and I kinda took it over. All the kids could play it, but I really wanted to play guitar. It was something that I really really liked to do. I always carried the guitar with me. It was a whole lot better than ploughing, or looking at the north end of a south-bound mule! It was a lot easier than that. It was something that you really loved to do, so it doesn’t seem like work. If I go out and do a job, it’s not work for me, I enjoy doing it.
START EARLY, WORK HARD
My first gig was playing for Dick Bills and the Sandia Mountain Boys. It was a five-day-a-week radio show, so I would learn about ten new songs a day. It was a half-hour show. I was fourteen or fifteen years old. What a great training ground! It taught me never to limit yourself to one style.
GET USED TO FAME
I got my own TV show in the US in 1969, and my fame went stratospheric. I had a couple of albums already recorded, and then when I started the TV show, bingo! Something that didn’t sell forty units suddenly went to four hundred, then four thousand, four hundred thousand, four million… The power of television was just incredible. Capitol Records had every record press in America pressing Glen Campbell albums. And all the back albums – not just my latest one – started selling like crazy. I was out of the country when the first show aired, and when I came back and got off the plane, everyone in the airport was like, ‘Hi Glen!’ Like they knew who I was. I really knew then the power of television. I couldn’t go anywhere. But I was the kind of guy who’d sit and talk to a telephone pole if it was there.
IN GOD WE TRUST
I’m so glad I got out of drugs and drink. I stopped doing everything thanks to religion. I prayed and asked God to help me quit. I thank God for all that stuff. It’s like getting out of a hell hole. I quit for a while, and we started going to church and everything, and then I had my famous relapse… I think I wanted to see if it was as bad as I thought it was! I think I relapsed because the kids were in high school and we quit taking them out on the road with us, and I would go out and I wanted to be home. I didn’t want to be leaving my family and going to play gigs, so I started sneaking around drinking. And also, I was getting anxiety. Maybe it was because I didn’t want to be on the road, or maybe it was because of the onset of Alzheimer’s. We don’t know what caused the anxiety, but I was trying to self-medicate with drinking. Drinking is terrible, I can tell you that. I had to learn basically everything the hard way. I don’t know if it was worth it or not… I asked the Lord to forgive me and that was it.
FOLLOW THE ACTION
We’ve known a lot of young kids that are trying to make it in the record business now. We know a young family from Phoenix and they’re a country band, so they moved to Nashville. Our kids are in an indie pop band, so they moved to LA, and I think it is important to be where the centre of music is. That’s what I did: I went out to LA and that’s how my career got started. When you move to a city and you start networking, getting to know people, that’s generally how you break in.
Interview by Simon Harper
Glen Campbell’s final album ‘Ghost On The Canvas’ is available now.
His final UK tour begins in Salford on 21st October.