Music legend Glen Campbell celebrates end of a long career

Glen Campbell
Glen Campbell
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HIS fans will salute him one last time at the weekend and you be can sure the experience will teeter between joy and sadness. After announcing his Alzheimer’s diagnosis in June, the legendary Glen Campbell is preparing to say goodbye, having decided to bow out gracefully with one final UK tour, which brings him to Festival Theatre on Sunday night.

It’s often said that Alzheimer’s patients have good days and bad days, and on the occasion of this interview, it’s sadly the latter.

The 75-year-old country music Hall of Fame member, who has sold a staggering 45 million records, seems a little confused and out of sorts, answering what questions he can with short statements.

“I don’t know how bad the Alzheimer’s is,” he says, with a glint in his eye. “I’m still as dumb as ever.”

Fortunately, his wife, Kim, is by his side to help when he loses his train of thought, which happens occasionally.

“We don’t want to focus on the bad things,” she says, looking ahead to Sunday’s gig. “We’re looking at this as a celebration of a career, it’s not meant to be sad. We’re just going to enjoy it.”

Campbell shares his wife’s positive outlook. “I’m really happy and content with my life now,” he says. “I’m just so grateful to be alive. I was in hospital for six months and it was terrible, really terrible. Hospital is a depressing place. It’s not a nice place to be at all. So I’m grateful to be able to get on with life again. I’ve a real longing to enjoy every day.”

Following the illness, the odds were stacked against the singer making any kind of a musical comeback - but he’s worked extremely hard to make sure the farewell tour is a success.

“It’s been difficult, but I’m getting there, little by little,” he admits. “I had to train my voice again, which is something that took a lot of effort – it still takes a lot effort.”

A real family affair, Campbell’s tour features sons Cal, 28, and Shannon, 26, and daughter Ashley, 24.

The trio are in a band together, Instant People, and they’ll open the show for their dad, while Debby, Campbell’s eldest daughter from his first marriage (Kim is Glen’s fourth wife), sings duets and backing vocals in her dad’s band.

“It’s like a big family holiday when we’re on tour,” says Kim. “We’ve learned to cherish each day.”

As she says, the tour is a celebration, and there is still plenty to get excited about, namely those big hits By The Time I Get To Phoenix, Rhinestone Cowboy, Galveston and Wichita Lineman.

It’s more than 20 years since Campbell played in Edinburgh, and the singer has fond memories of his last visit. “I’m thrilled to be returning,” he says. “The audience was wonderful on my previous tour and I felt right at home. They made me feel appreciated.”

Campbell was born on April 22, 1936, in Delight, Arkansas. He was one of 12 children, and when he was 16 went to live with his uncle in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Already an accomplished guitarist, he joined his uncle’s band, later going on to form his own group, The Western Wranglers.

By 1959, Campbell moved to LA to become a session player and that’s when he fell in with The Wrecking Crew, a group of musicians for hire who played on pretty much every pop record made in LA during the Sixties.

“I loved playing with The Wrecking Crew,” he recalls. “I got to play with amazing people and earned more from those days than I did as a solo artist.”

As well as playing on records by Ike and Tina Turner, The Righteous Brothers, The Monkees and Frank Sinatra with the Wrecking Crew, Campbell worked on many Beach Boys hits. And when Brian Wilson quit touring, he even took his place on tour.

He recalls, “The fans tore the clothes off you. They’d be screaming, ‘He touched Dennis, get his shirt’. From then on I was always the first in the car. I’d never seen anything like that before.”

Campbell was fairly reluctant to pursue a solo career in the beginning, but the songs he was offered were simply too good to turn down.

He became a household name and was soon sharing stages with his pal Elvis Presley in Las Vegas. “A real nice guy,” he says of The King. “Boy, what a singer, and what a shame what happened to him.”

Given his illness, there has been a lot of talk as to what shape Campbell will be in for Sunday’s gig - but Kim is confident of her man saying farewell to his Edinburgh fans in style.

“When he goes on stage, it’s just like a light switch turns on,” she says. “He’s been doing amazing shows, sings great, plays great.

“It’s really good for him to play music and keep going. But we know at some point it’s going to be time to stop.”

Glen Campbell, Festival Theatre, Nicolson Street, Sunday, 7.30pm, £30-£32.50, 0131-529 6000