One of the most vivid memories from my childhood in San Diego, CA is my cello teacher showing me an autographed headshot of Glen Campbell. The year was 1975 and I was eight years old. And she had performed the night before in the orchestra with his band on the San Diego date of his tour.
I had no idea who he was or why the photograph was so important to her. It was the same year that Rhinestone Cowboy came out.
Decades later, when I started working in recording studios in Los Angeles, I heard lots of the veteran players talk fondly and reverently about what an inspiring player he was.
“Probably the best flat-picking [guitar] player that ever lived” was what so many of them said. The baritone guitar solo on “Wichita Lineman” is such a great example of his extraordinary playing and deeply soulful musicianship.
I happened to be on my way to LA yesterday (driving in from Santa Barbara wine country) when I learned that he had finally succumbed to his illness. It was in LA that he reshaped pop music in so many ways and on so many levels, whether working as session player or by showing the world how cool country could be.
I never met him. But between the many guitar solos and songs of his that have played such a big role in my musical and emotional life, the news hit me like a brick. It felt and feels like I had lost a best friend.
The image is still so clear in mind: the autographed picture that my teacher was so proud of. I had no idea what it meant or what it would come to mean to me…
Here’s one of my favorite songs by him. It’s what I’m listening to on a sunny but otherwise blue day in LA.
Image via Lawren’s Flickr.