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Glen Campbell, pop star, requires little introduction. Less obvious, however, is his start as anonymous session man backing artists such as Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and the Monkees, among others. (Remember, only Michael Nesmith could play.) Campbell even "joined" the Beach Boys during an eighteen-month tour. Once he was given the opportunity to cut his own sides, a successive string of mellow pop hits and a TV show followed. His star tarnished only slightly after an arrest for drunken driving and aggravated assault in 2003. We recently caught up with the Wichita Lineman, who discussed his career, getting busted and playing golf with Alice Cooper.
Westword:You come from a large, poor family, yet you quit school -- perhaps the one real chance to get ahead for a 1950s Arkansas sharecropper -- to pursue being a musician.
Glen Campbell: I got a little taste of it when I was a little kid. We'd have musicals at Grandpa Dan's where everybody's got to play an instrument. It didn't take me long to realize a guitar was a whole lot easier to pick up and play than a hoe handle ever was.
How did your folks feel about that?
How did you get into session work? I read that was your goal, rather than becoming a star, which seems unusual.
When I went out to California, I got a job doing demos for publishing companies. Somebody had to record the songs before they got them to the recording artists. So I recorded their songs. People kept asking, 'Who's doing the guitar playing?' Glen Campbell. 'Who's singing on there?' Glen Campbell. And on and on. So I got invited to sessions to play guitar and sing background. That's basically how I got started and how I got a record contract.
Do you get tired of playing "By The Time I Get To Phoenix" and "Wichita Lineman" all the time?
I always say, "You gotta dance with who brought you there." I'm just glad I didn't get a hit on something I didn't like.
I suppose "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" takes on new meaning based on your drunken-driving arrest.
I wasn't drunk; I was inebriated. [Laughs]
Did this incident change you?
I don't drink anymore. I met something you can get too much.... Drinking does a lot of people in. It's just ugly. Like poor old Willie (Nelson) getting pulled over. Everyone in the world knows he's smoked I don't know how many joints a day, but it's therapeutic.
It works for some people.
I never could do it. I think I did pot just once, maybe twice. It never did agree with me. It just put me to sleep.
You're an avid golfer. Alice Cooper lives near you. You two ever hit the links together?
Oh yeah, many, many times. Coop's one heck of a golfer.