Five things you didn't know about Glen Campbell

How the Rhinestone Cowboy rose from poverty to become an international star

Glen Campbell
Glen Campbell in action at the 2004 CMA Music Festival in Nashville, Tennessee 
(Image credit: Rusty Russell/Getty Images)

Country singer Glen Campbell, whose hit songs Rhinestone Cowboy and Wichita Lineman brought him international fame, has died aged 81.

"The sweet-voiced, guitar-picking son of a sharecropper" became a recording, TV and film star in the 1960s and 1970s, says the New York Times, and was one of the biggest names in show business at the height of his career, with his easygoing manner, smooth voice and "all-American good looks".

In 2011, Campbell revealed he was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease so fans would understand if he seemed disoriented on stage.

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Here are five things you didn't know about him.

He got his first break on his uncle's radio show

Campbell grew up on a small farm in Arkansas, where he was the seventh son in a family of eight boys and four girls. His "ticket out of poverty" was his "uncanny" ability to play the guitar, says American Songwriter. After lessons from his Uncle Boo, Campbell's first break was playing with another uncle, Dick Bills, on a radio show in Albuquerque, where he met Elvis Presley.

He played guitar for Frank Sinatra and the Beach Boys

Campbell was a talented session guitarist for some of the biggest musicians of his era before becoming a star in his own right. His rhythm guitar appears on Frank Sinatra's Stranger in the Night, the lead riff on I’m a Believer by The Monkees and he also appears on Viva Las Vegas by Elvis Presley and the Beach Boys' landmark album Pet Sounds, reports The Guardian.

He was in a film with John Wayne

Campbell's all-round appeal lay in the way he effortlessly bridged the worlds of country music and pop, The Times says, adding the star would say he was "not a country singer, but a country boy who sings". His all-American cowboy looks saw him appear in several films, including True Grit alongside John Wayne. He was "as blonde as the sun and solid as a bale of hay," said one critic of Campbell's "beefcake physique".

He found religion after being married four times

Campbell met his fourth wife, dancer Kimberly "Kim" Woollen, in 1981, the year he became a born-again Christian after three failed marriages. She helped him clean up his life after years of cocaine and alcohol addiction and is the mother of three of his eight children. Prior to meeting Woollen, Campbell made headlines with his high-profile relationship with country singer Tanya Tucker, who was 22 years his junior, reports Rolling Stone.

He was convicted for drink driving

In 2003, the then 67-year-old Campbell crashed his BMW in Phoenix, Arizona, but left the scene before police came. When he was arrested, he kneed one of the officers in the thigh and spent the night in a jail cell. He pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and was sentenced to ten days in prison.

He said it was his only relapse since 1981. In 2011, shortly after Campbell revealed he was suffering from Alzheimer's, Woollen told the Daily Telegraph she believed his actions that night were really the beginning of his illness.

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