He had been charting in America since 1961 and recording memorable, significant songs for most of that time. But then, after 14 years, a pop No.1 arrived for Glen Campbell.
This wonderful vocal interpreter from the town of Delight, Arkansas had first charted in the autumn of 1961, aged 25, with the No.62 single “Turn Around, Look At Me.” As an in-demand session guitarist and touring member of the Beach Boys, he didn’t make the Top 40 in his own right until “Gentle On My Mind” had a second chart run in 1968, even then only reaching No.39.
Glen’s definitive recordings of Jimmy Webb’s songbook are part of pop music history. But while “Wichita Lineman,” “Galveston,” and the rest were major hits, Campbell never made the top of the Billboard Hot 100 until September 6, 1975. That was when “Rhinestone Cowboy,” written and first recorded by Larry Weiss and now produced by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter, climbed from No.3 to take over at the top from K.C. and the Sunshine Band’s “Get Down Tonight.”
In the second week of its reign, it went No.1 country as well, becoming the first song to achieve that simultaneous victory since Jimmy Dean’s “Big Bad John” did it in 1961 – just one week after Glen took that first chart bow.
A global cowboy
Disco may have been on the rise in September 1975, but there was still plenty of room for a great pop song on the charts, not just in the States but around the world. “Rhinestone Cowboy” went to No.1 in Canada and Ireland, No.2 in New Zealand and Switzerland, No.3 in Holland, No.4 in the UK and Belgium, and No.5 in Australia. Little more than 18 months later, Campbell was back at the top of the American chart with Allen Toussaint’s “Southern Nights.”
And as a postscript for songwriters who think their work will never reach a wide audience: Larry Weiss had been so depressed about the failure of his own original of “Rhinestone Cowboy” that he had been considering renting a storefront property and going into the furniture business – until Campbell’s cover came along.
Buy or stream “Rhinestone Cowboy” on the Glen Campbell album of the same name.