Rhinestone Cowboy – Glen Campbell

THIS DAY IN MUSIC………………………………………..on August 23rd of 1975 Glen Campbell’s “Rhinestone Cowboy” rides to #1 on the Billboard country chart. This was written and originally recorded by Larry Weiss, a Brooklyn songwriter whose credits include “Bend Me, Shape Me” by The American Breed, “Help Me Girl” by The Animals and The Outsiders (both with Scott English). This song originated when Weiss overheard the phrase, “Rhinestone Cowboy” in a conversation. He told American Songwriter magazine September/October 1984: “I heard the phrase and thought, ‘Boy, I like that title’. I put my own meaning to it and wrote the song. I’ll always be a kid at heart, and ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ was sort of a summation of all my childhood cowboy movie heroes – particularly Hopalong Cassidy.” Campbell was on tour in Australia when he first heard the song. He bought a cassette copy and listened to it over an over. When he returned to America, he told Al Khoury, an A&R man, at his record label, that he found a perfect song to record. Khoury replied that he also had a great song for Campbell – it was “Rhinestone Cowboy.” Campbell took this bit of serendipity as a sign that he was destined to record it. The tune ended up becoming Campbell’s signature song and a centerpiece of his live shows. Campbell could relate to the lyric about a country singer who has seen it all. In the ’50s, he spent several years playing honkey tonks in Albuquerque, and after moving to Los Angeles in 1960, he worked as a demo singer, a staff writer and a session musician before hitting it big in the late ’60s after he turned 30. For Campbell, this was a very important song, and one he would call “maybe the best song I’ve ever sung.” It came at a time when his career had gone flat: His popular TV show had been canceled, acting gigs dried up, and he hadn’t had a hit since 1971. The story of the faded star who perseveres in the song held a lot of meaning for Campbell. This sold over 4 million units and hit #1 on the Hot 100, Country, and Adult Contemporary charts in the summer of 1975, becoming the first song since “Big Bad John” by Jimmy Dean to reach the apex of all three charts. “Rhinestone Cowboy” gained three Grammy nominations and was the Country Music Association’s Song of the Year for 1976. In 1977, the song earned Weiss the Nashville Songwriters’ Association International’s Songwriter of the Year award. The country song managed to reach #4 on the UK Pop Chart.