A musician’s musician, Glen Campbell began his career in Los Angeles as a member of an elite group of studio musicians who later became famously known as, “The Wrecking Crew”. In the course of his life, he released 115 solo singles, 80 of which registered on one or more charts.
Working in the studio, backing other artists, was his bread and butter but in 1958 Campbell began recording and releasing songs for himself. His first song to chart was “Turn Around, Look at Me” in 1961. While he was the first to record it, the tune was covered by several others: The Vogues had a hit with the most popular and well-known version in 1968.
Most people probably regard Campbell as a country music act, but until 1966 nearly all of his efforts only charted as pop or easy listening (today called adult contemporary). From that point on most of his music made the country charts, while also continuing to register as pop or easy listening. His wide appeal made him an unusually successful cross-over artist.
Interestingly, Campbell recorded “Universal Soldier”, an early anti-war song in 1965, and just three years later recorded “Dreams of the Everyday Housewife” in 1968. This, I believe, is an accurate reflection of the times. The anti-war tune was a reaction to the Vietnam war, while women’s equality wasn’t quite as big an issue yet, although it would be very shortly thereafter.
As far as I know, Glen Campbell is the only artist who consistently scored hits on three major charts in the sixties and seventies, many times simultaneously. He had nine singles chart at #1, often on multiple charts. He even had two monster singles, “Rhinestone Cowboy” (1975) and “Southern Nights” (1977) that charted #1 on all three charts. Can you imagine that happening today? There’s no way that could happen now in the music biz. Genres and radio formats are too highly polarized and siloed.
Fifty-some years ago, my parents listened to country music and top 40 stations, while over at my grandmother’s house, easy listening (adult contemporary) was always on her kitchen radio. Glen Campbell is the only singer I could hear on all three formats. His music was ubiquitous. It was possible to hear Glen Campbell, rock, soul, and disco all on the same station on the same day, if not the same hour.
Below, the numbers following the year of release indicate the chart ranking (in order) for: Country, Top 40 (i.e., Billboard Hot 100), and Easy Listening (today called Adult Contemporary). A dash (–) means the song did not chart. Note that “Gentle on My Mind” was originally released in 1967, then re-released in 1968… chart rankings for each year are separated by three slashes (///).
Turn Around, Look at Me (2:36)
Universal Soldier (2:11)
Gentle on My Mind (2:59)
By the Time I Get to Phoenix (2:52)
Dreams of the Everyday Housewife (2:35)
Wichita Lineman (3:07)
Try a Little Kindness (2:27)
Rhinestone Cowboy (3:16)
Country Boy (You Got Your Feet in L.A.) (3:08)
Southern Nights (3:00)