Glen passed a couple weeks ago after battling a long term fight with Alzheimer's. It was an incredible story that showed me that life is a series of phases. Campbell lived them all. First, in the 1960's and 70's with his amazing run of classic songs still loved today. Wichita Lineman, Galveston, and dozens more, leading up to a song all of the world knows, Rhinestone Cowboy.
Glen was the kind of entertainer that really doesn't exist anymore. Singer, actor, performer, amazing guitar player, Vegas act, TV star, and during the height of his run, was seemingly everywhere, and everyone loved him. He sung in one way or another virtually everyone there was to sing with, and they were lining up to do it.
How Great Is This Song!
By his own admission, he always tried to bridge the river between Country and Popular Music. And he did it. The greatest songwriters in America were lining up to give him songs so he could sprinkle his magic dust on it, with this unheard of five octave range. He knew a good song when he heard one, and knew how to sing and arrange it so neither side was offended. He did this more effectively than anyone I have ever seen. What a gift. His songs perfectly blended the genres, they were just...good songs.
His final gift was his public battle with Alzheimer's. Touring, and singing while the disease was in full force, he gave hope to thousands and awed millions with remarkable bravery. When his battle ended, his music sales soared and I was glad to see that. He earned every reason to keep his incredible music alive.
Glen Campbell. There were few like him.
Don Williams -
If you are reading this here, there is every possibility you are not very familiar with The Gentle Giant, Don Williams. His run covered a long period of time, and he successfully bridged and survived many changes to the format itself. Williams' list of hit songs is a mile long, and awards and nominations same.
Williams rose up in the 1970's with great songs like Tulsa Time, Amanda and others. Rode the wave of the Urban Cowboy craze in the late 70's and recorded amazingly huge songs like, I Believe In You and tons more. But he did it differently than many others. At the time, there was Conway Twitty, Kenny Rogers, George Jones, Waylon, Willie and Hank Jr. Williams was way outside of all that. He was not the heartthrob like Rogers, or Twitty, and had no headlines like Jones. His music was not reminiscent of the Outlaw Movement of Jennings, and Nelson, or the southern rock influence of Hank Jr. He just quietly recorded hit after hit. Williams style.
This was the #1 Song on the charts when I got my first job in Country Radio!
Williams was a real fan favorite singing truthful songs, with a voice that was as smooth and honest as anyone at the time, or any time His hit making survived the first real crush of New Country acts that appeared about 1982, with George Straight, Ricky Skaggs and John Anderson. And then the next crush about 1985 with Randy Travis, and Dwight Yoakum. But when Country turned to the higher profile presentations of Clint Black, Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, and the Tracy Lawrence types in 1989, Williams and others found that the tide had turned for good. Ironic, the Traditionalist that was Williams, was replaced by the New Traditionalist Movement on the radio. Especially after Williams never sold out to the "pop" sound of Country that was attempted early in the decade by many.
But Williams continued on with his chronic bad back, and toured and pleased thousands of fans for many years after falling of the charts. He embraced the new world and has about 800,000 Facebook fans, and this week, we lay him to rest. For many, including me, he helped forge a love for Country Music that we all still enjoy today.
Don Williams. He just did it quietly.
Troy Gentry -
When we all heard the news of Troy Gentry being killed this week, we all stopped and caught our breath. 50 years old, and dying a tragic death. Being half of the duo Montgomery Gentry, they helped pave the way for a new era of country. When you listen to an MG song, there is no doubt it's country. And there's no doubt they had the right idea about the music itself. They understood that many times in our format, we take ourselves musically way too seriously.
MG had no interest in singing formula songs about lovey-dovey relationships. I interviewed them once and they laughingly said that the song, She Don't Tell Me To, was as close to a love song as they would ever sing. They had no time to sing about sap. Their music simply made people happy. From Hell Yeah, to My Town, Speed, Somethin' To Be Proud Of, Hillbilly Shoes, and my favorite, She Couldn't Change me. And there were many more. What a gift to give, the gift of music giving happiness, making fans move at a show!
This song broke them through!
They came of age in the era of Brooks And Dunn dominance and that was tough to do. But they held their own, and separated themselves as their own act, with a look, sound, and attitude that was different from B&D. They were the Florida Georgia Line of the time, and helped pave the way for what would be known as Bro Country. In my ear, they were Bro, we just didn't really have a name for it then.
This duo faced some tough challenges in real life off the stage as well, and somehow survived and made it all work. And even after the songs stopped being played on the radio every 3 hours a few years ago, their fans never ever forgot them. And they never will. You see, MG made Country cool for many, and that's a gift all of us will benefit from for years to come.
Troy Gentry. Too young. Far too young.