Glen Campbell Museum and Rhinestone Stage Celebrates Grand Opening

A treasure trove of guitars, fascinating photos and more highlight Campbell's Hall of Fame career.

Written by Bob Paxman
Glen Campbell Museum and Rhinestone Stage Celebrates Grand Opening
American country & western singer Glen Campbell, circa 1967. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The Glen Campbell Museum and Rhinestone Stage is the latest jewel on Nashville’s Lower Broadway landscape, with more than four thousand square feet of memorabilia, artifacts and rare photos highlighting Campbell’s life and career. On Thursday, February 13, Campbell’s family, local dignitaries and other invited guests celebrated the grand opening of the new Museum with a ribbon-cutting and a special performance from Campbell’s daughter Ashley.

Glen Campbell, who died in 2017 from complications of Alzheimer’s, was one of country’s most versatile entertainers, an artist who crossed over into multiple genres. His No. 1 country singles “Wichita Lineman” and “Galveston” became hits on the pop charts, while “Rhinestone Cowboy” topped both the country and pop charts in 1975. He blossomed into a multi-media star when he hosted his own television variety show, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, on CBS from 1968-1972. The series often featured country favorites like Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and Mel Tillis, artists who were not generally given national television exposure. Among his honors, Campbell won the CMA awards for Male Vocalist of the Year and Entertainer of the Year in 1968. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005, and received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – FEBRUARY 13: Ashley Campbell, Nashville Mayor John Cooper, Kimberly Woolen and Cal Campbell attend the Glen Campbell Museum and Rhinestone Stage opening on February 13, 2020 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

The Museum presents a dazzling look into Campbell’s Hall of Fame career with a variety of exhibits. Particularly fascinating is the display marking his early life in the tiny town of Delight, Arkansas, where he was born on April 22, 1936. Fans can see rare photos of Campbell’s family, a Red Ryder BB Gun he owned as a kid (which obviously did not result in permanent eye damage), and his first guitar, a Sears & Roebuck model that his father bought for him.

Proficiency on the guitar would prove the youngster’s ticket out of Arkansas. After moving to Los Angeles, Campbell was skilled enough to land session work in the LA recording studios. During the early part of the 1960s, prior to becoming a solo artist, Campbell was part of an elite group of studio musicians known later as the Wrecking Crew. He played on recordings by a diverse group of acts, from the Beach Boys (Campbell became a touring member of the band in 1964 and 1965) to Frank Sinatra, Merle Haggard, and Elvis Presley. He helped record the soundtrack for Presley’s movie Viva Las Vegas and the two developed a long friendship. That portion of Campbell’s career is well-documented in a Museum exhibit fittingly titled The Wrecking Crew. Along with a list of Campbell’s multiple credits, the exhibit features photographs of Campbell with some of the artists he recorded with and the many guitars he used on various sessions.

It wouldn’t be a true Glen Campbell Museum without guitars, and plenty are on display in a separate case. You don’t have to be a guitar geek to marvel at the array of axes Campbell collected in his time, including a Fender Custom Stratocaster, Ovation acoustic guitars, and especially for you surf-rock buffs, a special Mosrite Ventures Model.

One section of the Museum is devoted to Campbell’s numerous awards, featuring trophies from the CMA, Grammys and ACM. Adjacent to that, a video wall spotlights interviews and comments from Keith Urban, Steve Martin (who wrote for Campbell’s TV show, along with Rob Reiner), Blake Shelton and others. Urban has always considered Campbell one of the major influences on his career.

Visitors will also get a glimpse of other fascinating objects: stage clothes designed by the legendary designer Nudie Cohen, the sparkly suit Campbell sported for the cover of his Rhinestone Cowboy album, handwritten letters from U.S. Presidents, and a detailed look at Campbell’s role in the beloved Western film, True Grit. A particularly poignant exhibit delves into the documentary film, Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me, which followed Campbell on his farewell tour and candidly touched on his battle with Alzheimer’s and its effects on his wife Kim and his children.

The grand opening of the Museum took on a family aspect as Campbell’s wife Kim addressed the crowd, explaining the genesis of the project and sharing a few touching anecdotes, including her first date with her future husband (a blind date, at that, to a James Taylor concert). Later, Glen and Kim’s daughter Ashley, a budding recording artist herself, performed on the Rhinestone Stage, with backing from her brother Cal. Ashley reprised her dad’s hits “Gentle on My Mind,” the song she stated inspired her interest in music, “Southern Nights,” and “Wichita Lineman,” and sang a tender ballad she wrote for her father, “Remembering.”

Ashley Campbell told Sounds Like Nashville that the Museum will give visitors a deeper appreciation of her father. “A lot of times when you mention my dad, people will say like ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’, or something like that,” Campbell noted. “But he was so much more than that, with his history with the Wrecking Crew and just how great a guitar player he was. I was so glad that his work with the Wrecking Crew was spotlighted here.” Campbell added that she was especially excited by the concept of a performing stage within the Museum. “My dream is to have at least a monthly writers’ round here.” she beamed. “Kind of a Bluebird [Cafe] style show. Having this venue was what really sold me on the idea for a museum honoring dad.”