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Picture yourself at Phoenix's Bank One Ballpark, taking in an Arizona Diamondbacks game last fall. During the seventh-inning stretch, the crowd sings "God Bless America," and right there along the third-base line, you spot icon Glen Campbell. And next to him - notorious shock-rocker Alice Cooper!
They may seem like an odd couple, but the two Phoenix-area residents have become friends. After all,they're both musicians, avid golfers - and fans of the Diamondbacks. In fact, Glen is one of the team's minority owners.
They have something else in common, too. When the D-Backs attendant brings Alice a large soda during the game, Alice points to midway up the side of the cup. Back during his drinking days, he admits, that cup would've been half full of vodka. He nods toward Glen's momentarily empty seat: "He's fought that battle, too."
The battle, it turns out, continues. In November, Glen was arrested and charged with drunk-driving, aggravated assault and leaving the scene of an accident. He pleaded not guilty to the charges at a December arraignment. He blames the incident on having two drinks while he was taking anxiety medication, but declines to address it further. "Even at my age, I learned a valuable lesson," he says in a prepared statement. "I apologize to my wife, my family, my friends and my fans."
The arrest stands as an unfortunate footnote to the 67-year-old Arkansas native's long, glorious career. From his days as an L.A. session guitarist for the likes of Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley to his time on the road with The Beach Boys to his own stellar four-decade solo career, Glen has done it all.
His smooth classics "Galveston," "Wichita Lineman," "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" and "Gentle on My Mind" were all recently named among country's 500 greatest singles in the book Heartaches by the Number. Those songs, along with his million-sellers "Rhinestone Cowboy" and "Southern Nights" and many other smash hits, are included on a new four-CD box set, The Legacy (1961-2002).
Glen testifies that his sure ear for a hit has always been instinctual. "When I pick a song, it's just my personal taste," he reasons. "I'm just so blessed that there's a lot of people who like my personal taste."
No one appreciates Glen's taste more than his wife, the former Kimberly Woollen. The two marked their 21st anniversary in October, an especially remarkable feat considering Glen's past relationships - a bumpy trail running through three broken marriages and a volatile roller coaster ride of a romance with Tanya Tucker that thrust him into the tabloids in the early '80s.
Why did this one work? Glen gives Kim much of the credit, though he also acknowledges the changes in himself. "She don't lie and cheat and bs," he declares. "And I don't, either."
The couple lives with their three kids - Glen has eight children altogether - on gated property alongside a golf course. A water fountain provides a gentle setting in the middle of a circular driveway at the home, which features a swimming pool, high ceilings and a recording studio.
Evidence of Glen's career decorates the home, where the family has lived for seven years. There's a framed copy of Look magazine when he graced the cover in 1970, gold records, awards from the Gospel Music Association and a pair of white-and-blue cowboy boots given to him by Gene Autry. In the kitchen, there's a poster for his classic movie True Grit and a bronze statue of co-star John Wayne.
Glen hopes to spend more time at home in the future - he's pondering taking a year away from the concert trail. He no longer needs to work, and says sometimes the only thing that keeps him performing is the knowledge that his crew and musicians depend on him for employment.
But the pull of home is strong. Glen says Kim is responsible for making their house so homey. "She really is a wonderful gal, and a great mother," he says.
Two of their children are musicians like Dad - son, Cal hopes his rock band, called Otis, will soon land a record deal. "Kim made all of 'em take piano and guitar lessons, which is great," observes Glen.
She also gave their children a strong sense of family structure, despite her diminutive size. "She don't take nothin' off of none of the kids!" he laughs. "It's amazing. They all can look down on her, but when it comes to discipline, they're more scared of her than they are me!"
For years, Glen's career came ahead of his family. He readily admits that between his dedication to his work and the troubled nature of his earlier relationships, the first children that he raised had a different experience with their father.
"My three kids with my ex-wife, Billie, they never had a chance," he confesses. "They really didn't. I haven't been no perfect gentleman on this earth. "I'll still make mistakes."
- Story by Tom Roland