Music often stirs nostalgia. When Glen Campbell’s name is mentioned, many songs may come rushing to mind. The song “Southern Nights” in particular, has been known to evoke many a trip down memory lane, especially for those with roots from the South.
Have you ever felt a Southern night
Free as a breeze, not to mention the trees
Whistling tunes that you know and love so
For some, hearing the song almost feels like riding through the night, down a dark country road in the back bed of an old pick-up truck, a warm Southern wind pushing against you so strongly that your hands grip tightly on the truck bed’s wall, blocking out all sensations aside from that warm Southern breeze.
The song was written by Allen Toussaint and recorded by Glen Campbell in 1976 reaching No. 1 on various country and pop charts. The lyrics for the song were inspired by Toussaint’s childhood, in which he would travel to the backwoods of Louisiana to visit relatives, and they would often spend evenings on the porch looking up at the stars and sharing their best tall tales.
When Campbell heard Toussaint’s song, he was struck by how much it reminded him of his own experiences growing up in southwestern Arkansas.
Happy Birthday, Glen!
Today, Campbell is celebrating his 79th birthday. Best known as a talented singer/songwriter in country music, Campbell is also arguably one of the most underrated guitar players in country music and one of the last great thumbpickers (a rare fingerstyle of guitar playing where musicians pick a melody on the treble strings of their guitars while using the thumb to give a steady rhythm on the bass).
Campbell graced stages with thumbpicking greats such as Chet Atkins and Merle Travis but what set Campbell apart was how fast he played. A glimpse of his guitar speed can be seen in his 1974 performance of “William Tell Overture” in New York City’s Central Park.
While Campbell had been playing since he was young, at age 18 he left his humble beginnings in Arkansas to join his uncle’s band, Dick Bills and the Sandia Mountain Boys, in Albuquerque, NM. A few years later, Campbell moved to Los Angeles, where he soon became part of one of the most acclaimed groups of studio and session musicians in the country, The Wrecking Crew.
Similar to ghostwriters, studio and session musicians would perform the music recorded on well-known artists’ albums but would not be paid royalties, nor would they be credited on the final album. Still the sheer volume of music they recorded made them a force to be reckoned with. In the prologue of Kent Hartman’s book, The Wrecking Crew: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll’s Best-Kept Secret, Hartman professes, “If a rock-and-roll song came out of an L.A. recording studio between about 1962 and 1972, the odds are good that some combination of the Wrecking Crew played the instruments.”
Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2011, the country music legend embarked on a farewell tour with a backing band featuring three of has children. The tour wrapped in 2012, and last year, reports surfaced that Campbell has been residing at an Alzheimer’s long-term care and treatment facility.
During Campbell’s extraordinary career he has released more than 70 albums, sold 45 million records, earned an Academy Award nomination, and, in what is perhaps most fondly remembered by many of his fans, hosted his own popular television variety show, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour. Some of Campbell’s most notable songs are “Rhinestone Cowboy“, “Gentle on My Mind” and “Wichita Lineman”.
In honor of his birthday today, as well as his storied career, AccuRadio is featuring Glen Campbell’s most unforgettable hits on a selection of our stations. Choose your favorite, and celebrate with us!