My first performance ever was in church, when I was about 10, and I did two songs. The first song I sang was “Life’s Railway to Heaven” (a gospel tune associated with Johnny Cash), and the second was “Try a Little Kindness” (a 1969 Campbell single that went to No. 1 on the Hot AC list and No. 2 on the country chart).
My parents had his records, and that was a major thing in the house. But I really found Glen through what were my current influences (in the ’80s), like Steve Wariner, who collaborated with Glen on the 1987 hit “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle.” That made me go rediscover the music that I had played as a kid. I did my homework and became really very influenced by him and Jimmy Webb.
For me, what was most eye-opening in going back to those records was realizing what a guitar player he was. He was so tasteful with it on something like “Wichita Lineman.” But when you would see him live — boom — he would ad-lib and go nuts and do something really fast.
It’s pretty hard to beat “Wichita Lineman” as (my) favorite Glen Campbell song, although “Try a Little Kindness” will always have a special place in my heart. I mean, that’s the first time I ever opened my mouth in church to sing.
I’m kind of proud to have sung a Johnny Cash standard and a Glen Campbell standard as my first two songs. … I saw a picture somebody already put online, altered to make it look like they’re standing in the same room — it’s Buck [Owens] and Merle [Haggard] and Johnny and Glen. What an era that was. He truly is a Mount Rushmore act for country music.
Brad Paisley is a three-time Grammy winner and 14-time CMA Award winner whose run of hits includes 19 No. 1 country singles.
— As told to Chris Willman