Glen Campbell topped the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart with his signature hit, “Rhinestone Cowboy,” on August 23, 1975.
With his virtuosic guitar chops and easy-going vocals, Glen Campbell was one smooth operator. By the late 1960s, Glen had established himself as a force on the country charts with No. 1 hits “I Wanna Live,” “Wichita Lineman,” and “Galveston.” The affable entertainer also crossed over to mainstream prominence with his variety show on CBS, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, which ran from 1969 to 1972.
In addition to his aforementioned guitar and vocal prowess, Glen was known for his uncanny ability for picking songs (much like George Strait years later). Glen struck Gold once again in 1975 when he recorded “Rhinestone Cowboy,” which was penned by Larry Weiss.
Road to My Horizon
Singer/songwriter Larry Weiss overheard the words “Rhinestone Cowboy” in a conversation and immediately recognized a catchy song title. Larry used the phrase to craft a relatable story about the dreams and frustrations that make up the road to stardom.
“I put my own meaning to it and wrote the song,” Larry said in The Billboard Book of Number One Country Hits by Tom Roland. Larry recorded the tune for his own album, but it received very little airplay. However, the tune caught the ear of Glen, who fortuitously heard it on an LA radio station. Glen took a copy of the song with him on a tour of Australia in 1974. Upon his return to the States, Glen determined to cut the tune.
The song about an aspiring singer almost seemed like his own life story, capsulizing the struggle for success with lyrical imagery like, “There’s been a load of comprising / On the road to my horizon.”
Glen Campbell Shines
For the recording of “Rhinestone Cowboy,” Glen wanted to allow the lyrics to shine foremost. “This was the first time I had ever made a record in which the words needed to shine above my singing,” Glen noted in his autobiography, Rhinestone Cowboy.
Glen released “Rhinestone Cowboy” on May 26, 1975. Less than three months later, the single topped the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart on August 23. It reigned atop the chart for three weeks, while also reaching No. 1 on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100 chart for two weeks in September.
“Rhinestone Cowboy” earned Song of the Year at the 1975 ACM Awards and 1976 CMA Awards. The RIAA certified the song Gold in 1975 for sales of 500,000 units.
The best part of this story is the friendship that forged between Larry and Glen. When Glen was suffering from Alzheimer’s and had to be moved to an assisted living facility in the mid-2010s, Glen’s wife, Kim, revealed that Larry would visit him weekly.
Glen succumbed to Alzheimer’s in August 2017. However, his signature hit, “Rhinestone Cowboy,” endures forever.