Glen Campbell is one of the backbones of country music. The legendary singer-songwriter scored number-one hits in both country and pop music during his fifty-plus-year career. Campbell also dabbled in TV, both as a television host and an actor. But his success didn’t always glitter like gold.
In 1975, Campbell recorded the iconic hit “Rhinestone Cowboy.” The song is purposely titled “rhinestone” instead of “diamond cowboy.” Here’s why:
“Rhinestone Cowboy” is about a veteran artist that’s already paid his dues in the music industry. “There’s been a load of compromising” Campbell sings in the song. The artist wants to be on the stage where lights will be shining on him. Because when those beacons of success hit the rhinestones of the narrator’s costume, then he’ll know that he made it.
“Like a rhinestone cowboy / Riding out on a horse in a star-spangled rodeo,” one of the most recognizable lines from the song reads.
According to Ben’s Country Music Show, Campbell recorded the song on Feb. 24, 1975.
Glen Campbell’s Version of ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’
When “Rhinestone Cowboy” was released in 1975, it topped both the country and pop charts at the same time. This hadn’t happened since 1961 when Jimmy Dean released “Big Bad John.” The iconic tune remained at the top of the charts for multiple weeks.
However, Glen Campbell wasn’t the first to record the song. The Arkansas native first heard Larry Weiss singing the song on the radio, according to KXRB. Campbell was very interested in recording it for himself. In 1974, Larry Weiss wrote and recorded “Rhinestone Cowboy.” Weiss didn’t have very much success with the song.
Campbell easily identified with the song because of his humble roots. He was born on an Arkansas dirt farm with no electricity. What’s more, he was one of 12 kids. Campbell and his siblings would pick cotton for farmers that lived nearby. When he was four-years-old, one of Campbell’s uncles bought him a guitar for five-dollars and he learned to play. Soon after, the “Rhinestone Cowboy” was playing at radio stations.
But it wasn’t until he was in his teens that he started getting paid to do what he loved. From there Campbell rose to country music fame, but not without paying his dues. His nostalgic voice, along with his good looks, helped him to move from a session artist, to score a solo recording contract.
Starting in 1961, Campbell cranked out singles and made it, a few times, into the lower reaches of the Hot 100. However, his success really came when he and the Oklahoma-born songwriter Jimmy Webb teamed up for several country-pop singles that Campbell recorded. “By The Time I Get To Phoenix”, “Wichita Lineman,” and “Galveston” are just a few of those singles.