At 65, Glen Campbell can still please a crowd. Last weekend at Rock Crusher Canyon he did just that, singing most of his hit songs from the past 30 years along with some personal favorites. His show was lively, funny and wholesome.
"I'm happy to be here," Campbell said when he walked on stage. "I'm happy to be anywhere."
That comment held more meaning than a reference to the singer's age.
Campbell's stardom in the 1960s and '70s led him into a life of liquor and drugs that nearly destroyed his career and could have ended his life. It took its toll on his family life and ostracized some of his friends.
During the concert he told the audience that he can yodel once again because he no longer smokes or drinks hard liquor, and he jokingly made reference to his fourth wife, Kim, as his "current wife." But there was a time when his habits were no joking matter.
In his autobiography, Rhinestone Cowboy, Campbell chronicles his life and its near-destruction. The star whose photos appeared regularly on the front of tabloids in the '70s and early '80s was changed by God, he says.
"I simply am the new Glen Campbell," he wrote.
Campbell made public his commitment to Christianity nearly 20 years ago. Since, he has appeared on numerous religious television programs, such as The 700 Club and Hour of Power, to talk about his life-changing faith.
He has recorded a couple of Christian albums and has sung at Christian conventions and conferences. He is active in his home church, North Phoenix Baptist Church.
"I thank God for where I am right now," Campbell said in a recent interview, "because I'm not smart enough to get here. I had to have divine guidance."
In the autobiography, which was co-authored with Tom Carter and published in 1994, Campbell says, "When I appear at Christian services today, I don't speak from a prepared text. I instead testify about my deliverance from alcohol, drugs and tobacco, without the need of a detoxification or rehabilitation center. I sing. I tell jokes. I share."
He chose not to share his faith at the concert here. His only reference to God was when he said "God bless" as he left the stage. But he has said God is the focus of his concerts.
"I have a ministry in my music, much of which is focused on God and all of which is performed for God," he said in his book. "Parts of my show include the secular songs I've sung for 25 years, and I'm singing them better today than ever before. (I quit smoking on March 15, 1992.)
"I once performed with a band, but today it's the band and the Holy Spirit. I can feel it when I'm onstage, I can hear it in recorded playbacks, and I can sense it in audience responses."
Campbell was one of 12 children born of poor sharecroppers in Billstown, Ark., in 1936. Music was an important part of his family life, and his father managed to scrape together enough money to buy him his first guitar when he was 6. Ten years later he left home to begin a musical career. He started in a three-piece combo with his uncle but was soon touring with his own band.
His early career had ups and downs, but by the late '60s the talented guitar-playing singer had his own hit television show and numerous hits, and was in the movie True Grit with John Wayne. He was the first country crossover star, the first to win a Grammy in both the pop and country categories, and the first to have a No. 1 song in both of those categories.
But Campbell tells in his book how success and wealth can open the door to alcoholism and drugs that are all too easily obtained. Cocaine almost ended his life.
"I didn't know what freebasing was," Campbell said in a 1999 interview with National Public Radio about an experience with cocaine that left him unconscious on the floor in a Las Vegas hotel.
"I really praise God for letting me do that one time, because that's what stopped me from doing cocaine."
Meeting Kimberly Woollen, whom he married in 1982, also helped. A Christian, Woollen began praying for Campbell to stop his self-destruction. Over the next few difficult years, Campbell began to surrender his life to God, he said.
"Some of my strongest resistance to things good and Godly came in my final days of living purely for carnal pleasure," Campbell wrote. "I continued to ignore the teachings of Christ after accepting him as my personal savior. I wore the garment of salvation but not the cloak of righteousness. I was a carnal Christian.
"I eventually lowered my guard and opened my heart. He changed me in ways in which I would have never changed myself. Kim was praying toward that end the whole time. Her prayers just might have saved my life."
Campbell has now sold more than 40-million records. Saturday's concert, with nearly 6,000 in attendance, is evidence that his career is also still very much alive.