Midweek Music – True Grit – Vale Glen Campbell

Posted on Wed 08/09/2017 by


It is with sadness that today I note the passing of Glen Campbell, at the age of 81.

While Glen had a number of smash hits across the years, my favourite song he recorded was True Grit, first released in mid 1969. The song was a minor hit for Glen, just making it into the Top Ten on the U.S. Country charts, only just appearing in the mainstream charts for a week, and not even registering here in Australia, only played by a few local radio stations for a short time, and that’s where I first heard the song. There are a number of video clips of Glen performing this song, but the one I have selected is a recent one, this from 2001. While some of those earlier clips show Glen ‘going off’ during the small guitar solo in the middle of the song, here he just plays the main melody, and allows the keyboard player to do the improvisation around that melody, and while Glen is playing, he makes it look so effortless, the sign of a really good guitarist.

Link to Video at You Tube

This video was posted to You Tube by Glen Campbell – A Tribute

One of the lesser known things about Glen is that he was credited with being one of the best guitar players in the World, and that’s how he started off, as a guitarist. In 1960, he worked as a session musician playing guitar. He eventually got work with that famed group of session musicians later given the name of The Wrecking Crew. This group, made up with some of the best instrument players around, played backing for so many of the famous names in music, and singers and bands came from literally all across the Planet to their studio in Los Angeles to record their albums using these session musicians to play behind them. Some of those early singers gave this group that name because they thought that they might just wreck music, as when those acts performed their songs at live concerts, they couldn’t exactly reproduce the song as it was originally recorded with their backing.

Glen got work touring as a guitarist with The Beach Boys because of his work with this group of musicians, and with that Wrecking Crew, he aslo played on that magic Beach Boys album Pet Sounds. He wanted to have a solo career, and while he had a few minor hits, he didn’t get his breakthrough until 1967 with the release of the John Hartford written song, Gentle On My Mind, and that was immediately followed by the Jimmy Webb written song, By The Time I Get To Phoenix, both huge smash hits for Glen, and those two songs won him four Grammy Awards in the one year, and he followed these songs with Wichita Lineman, again written by Jimmy Webb, which was an even bigger hit for Glen.

His career was now assured, and he became one of the biggest names in music across the World. He even had his own TV show as well.

He had later hits, in 1975 with Rhinestone Cowboy, his biggest smash hit, a Monster Number One everywhere and then two years later with Southern Nights, also a huge Number One smash hit.

The song I have featured today, True Grit, was written by Don Black and Elmer Bernstein. Around the same time this song was recorded, he also appeared in a movie with John Wayne, that movie with the same name True Grit, a movie later reprised in 2010 by the Coen Brothers. The movie, a Western gave John Wayne his only Best Actor Academy Award, and this song was also nominated for an Academy Award as well, one of only two Country songs to be nominated for an Oscar up till that time.

Not long after the movie, John Wayne made a guest appearance on the Glen Campbell TV show, and Glen asked John to sing a duet with him. John Wayne famously responded that he could sing about as well as Glen could act.

I mentioned above that Glen was an excellent guitarist, and while he played a number of different guitars, he was most closely associated with the Ovation Guitar Company, and almost exclusively played those guitars, and in this video clip above, he’s playing an Ovation Guitar. He was one of the first of those major guitarists to become an endorser for Ovation Guitars, and I think at one time, he was contracted to Ovation Guitars.

That guitar manufacturing Company, Ovation, actually made a number of guitars exclusively for Glen and even now still has a couple of their guitar models branded as Glen Campbell guitars. Some of those guitars they only made a couple of models of, and Glen was perhaps one of the few people, if not the only person to have that specific guitar. In those early days, Ovation made acoustic guitars, and the electric guitar ‘field’ was almost solely occupied by the ‘big three’, Fender, Gibson, and to a slightly lesser extent, Rickenbacker. With Glen playing their instruments with such a high profile, Ovation did manufacture some electric guitars, and some of those early ones are rare indeed to find anywhere these days. Ovation, at Glen’s asking even made a couple of 12 string electric guitars as well. One of those is the legendary Ovation Bluebird Glen Campbell, the guitar pictured at right here, and if you click on the image it will open in a new and larger page. Ovation evidently only made five of them, and Glen had two or three of those, so they are exceedingly rare.

One of the enduring images I have seen of Glen is one taken recently, and here he is sitting on the stairway with his guitars arranged around him. That is the image below and the image is from the official Glen Campbell site. That beautiful Ovation Bluebird 12 string is at the top of the stairs, just to the left of that display case there. There’s 23 guitars and a banjo shown in this image, and amongst that group of guitars are probably some of the rarest guitars in the World. The guitar he is playing in the video clip above is on the right side of the staircase just near his shoulder. Again, if you click on the image, it will open in a new and larger window.

Today is a sad day in modern music history with Glen’s passing. We do however, have such a huge legacy of all his songs.

The Glen Campbell website is at this link, and the front page is a tribute to him.

Vale Glen Campbell.


Posted in: Music, Videos