You’ve heard it said before that Las Vegas is kind of a crossroads of the universe. Somehow, everything connects with the city never sleeps. Glen Campbell brings that to mind.
Campbell died recently at age 81. He had been very open about his battle with Alzheimer’s. He even did a farewell tour where he talked about it. Sometimes the disease made it hard for him to remember the words to songs. He dealt with it, and audiences loved him even more for his honesty.
Part of that tour brought him to Las Vegas. He last performed on the Hilton stage in 2012. But we thought it would be interesting to point out some other connections.
First, for all of the records and the television shows, he started out in the business as an important guitarist. He did a lot of sessions in southern California and in Nashville. On one of them, he took the guitar part on the song What’d I Say? Ray Charles recorded it originally, but Campbell played on the version by Elvis Presley. He did it in … you guessed it, Viva Las Vegas.
There would be other connections to Elvis. Campbell did demo records for him, and one night the two of them and Tom Jones held a jam session in Elvis’s suite. Also, Campbell’s showroom debut here was at The International Hotel in 1970, about a year after it opened. That was where Elvis sold out 837 straight shows. Campbell did well in his own right at the International and, as it soon became, the Hilton. The fact that his performances at that hotel spanned more than 42 years says something about his longevity.
He also played on a 21-year-old singer’s recording of a song called Danke Schoen. Yes, Wayne Newton. And Campbell was the guitarist on Frank Sinatra’s recording of Strangers in the Night. If you were a Las Vegas singing icon of the 1960s, there’s a chance that Glen Campbell did some guitar work for you.
Besides performing here and working with famous Las Vegas performers, Glen Campbell had another connection to this area. He might not have wanted to talk about it too much, when all was said and done.
In the early 1980s, he had a stormy relationship with Tanya Tucker, another country singer with some pop hits. Their names were all over the tabloids. Tucker moved to southern Nevada as an eighth grader and attended Henderson Junior High, now Burkholder Junior High. Then she hit it big and moved on. But she has returned to perform here many times and just released a single to honor him, with some of the proceeds going toward Alzheimer’s research.
Las Vegas has a lot of country music connections … Johnny Cash playing the Showboat lounge in the late 1950s … Country stars on the Strip during National Finals Rodeo and at plenty of other times too …. Bakersfield legends like Wynn Stewart and Buck Owens performing at clubs on Boulder Highway and downtown …
Glen Campbell came from Delight, Arkansas. But he had a lot to do with Las Vegas—to our delight.