Today in 1976, Glen Campbell and “Rhinestone Cowboy” scored four GRAMMY nominations, including Record of the Year.
“Rhinestone Cowboy” was written by Larry Weiss and it appeared on Weiss’ 1974 20th Century Records album Black and Blue Suite. It did not, however, have much of a commercial impact as a single. In late 1974, Campbell heard the song on the radio and, during a tour of Australia, decided to learn it. Soon after his return to the United States, Campbell went to Al Coury’s office at Capitol Records, where he was approached about “a great new song” – “Rhinestone Cowboy”.
Several music writers noted that Campbell identified with the subject matter of “Rhinestone Cowboy” – survival and making it, particularly when the chips are down – very strongly. As Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic put it, the song is about a veteran artist “who’s aware that he’s more than paid his dues during his career … but is still surviving, and someday, he’ll shine just like a rhinestone cowboy.”
Released in May 1975, “Rhinestone Cowboy” immediately caught on with both country and pop audiences. The song spent that summer climbing both the Billboard Hot Country Singles and Billboard Hot 100 charts before peaking at No. 1 by season’s end – three nonconsecutive weeks on the country chart, two weeks on the Hot 100. Billboard ranked it as the No. 2 for 1975. It also topped the charts in Canada and several other countries.
Here’s the 1974 original from Larry Weiss:
And the hit Glen Campbell version: