Singer Glen Travis Campbell, top-level studio guitarist, chart-topping singer and hit television host, has died Tuesday at 81 after a career that spanned six decades. Best known for hits as "Rhinestone Cowboy," "Wichita Lineman" and "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," he sold over 45 million records and even outsold the Beatles in 1968.
In the last part of his life he had Alzheimer's disease. Campbell was born in 1936 in Billstown, Arkansas, the seventh son in a sharecropping family of 12 kids. He started playing guitar and became obsessed with jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt. Later, he moved to Los Angeles and by 1962 had solidified a spot in the Wrecking Crew, a group of session pros.
In 1963 alone, he appeared on 586 cuts and countless more throughout the decade, including the Byrds' "Mr. Tambourine Man," Elvis Presley's "Viva Las Vegas,” Merle Haggard's "Mama Tried" and the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling." Wrecking Crew member Leon Russell called Campbell "the best guitar player I'd heard before or since.” Campbell had his first major hit in 1967, with "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," written by Jimmy Webb. In 1968, Campbell won Grammys in both the country and pop categories, including Best Country & Western Solo Vocal Performance, Male, Best Country & Western Song and Best Vocal Performance, Male. He had his own variety show, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, which he hosted from 1969 until 1972. He was even acting co-starring role in 1969's True Grit. Campbell was married four times, and has five sons and three daughters. In 2011, Campbell, 75, revealed that he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. In June of that year, he announced he was retiring from music.