Roanoke Times
                 Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: THURSDAY, April 14, 1994                   TAG: 9404140305
SECTION: EXTRA                    PAGE: 1   EDITION: METRO 
DATELINE:                                 LENGTH: Long


WHAT demons have haunted that most famous rhinestone cowboy of all time, Glen Campbell?

Just ask. He is happy to tell you.

Campbell, a hard-core realist who is pushing 58, doesn't hesitate to spell out some surprising truths about himself - including a past addiction to cocaine.

When he speaks of ``druggin','' it is from the vantage of a conqueror who ultimately staged his own emotional realignment.

``Yup,'' he admits, ``I sure needed the stuff while I was going through divorces. Cocaine made me optimistic and alert. It helped me sweep things under the rug.

``Then the rug got, well, too full. So I free-based once. Once! I felt, well, like my heart was exploding in my chest. Exploding! It was terrifying.''

For a moment Campbell, who is speaking by phone from his 5-acre Phoenix estate, is silent. Perhaps the shrill memory of flirting with an unplanned suicide is just too painful.

``Later,'' he continues slowly, ``I realized I might have died. I decided to look, smack in the face, those awful things sitting under the rug. Confront them. But without the `stuff.'

``Facing the truth was easier than I thought. The truth - it's what sets you free.''

Airing the truth has been a serious undertaking for Campbell.

His stunningly candid autobiography, ``Rhinestone Cowboy'' (written with Tom Carter), has been published by Villard books.

In it, the country-music superstar paints bold word pictures of the overwhelming passions that fueled his unbridled penchant for alcohol, pills, pretty women and fame.

Campbell writes that many male entertainers ``take advantage'' of their road life.

When asked to explain, he is explicit.

``The public,'' he says, ``has no idea about the frequency with which groupies perform oral sex on stars in their dressing rooms, stars they don't know and may never see again.''

Then, in an ``aw, shucks'' tone, he adds, ``Hey, I was one of the really nice guys compared to some of those guys. I didn't do that.''

Now Campbell laughs out loud.

``I was no worse than Bill Clinton.''

Campbell has had four wives and has eight children. His marital history started at age 17, when he married his 15-year-old girlfriend, who was pregnant.

In 1980, during the headline-grabbing divorce proceedings from wife No. 3, Sarah Davis (a woman he reportedly lured from his then-best friend, singer Mac Davis), he and Tanya Tucker had a tumultuous affair that lasted 15 months. That liaison netted him more press than he'd had during his entire career.

In his book, Campbell labels Tucker ``a spitfire and a daredevil.'' Today he offers a contemplative view of his former love.

``Tanya was and is for Tanya,'' he says. ``Every sentence she utters begins in one of several selfish ways: `I am ... I think ... I will ... I want.'

``I was a light cocaine user. She was a heavy cocaine user. My time with Tanya was turbulent, the most chaotic period of my life.

``Tanya is a great talent. But, God, she won't be able to hold up. Poor thing, she will destroy herself and her career doing drugs and alcohol.''

In ``Rhinestone Cowboy,'' Campbell reveals that once, while in a cocaine-induced state, Tucker tried to slit her wrists with a knife. Another time she walked barefoot through a large plate-glass window.

Campbell says he hasn't talked with Tucker in a long time, though he recently went to one of her concerts - which didn't please his present wife, Kim Woollen, a former Radio City Music Hall dancer.

Suddenly defensive, Campbell says, ``Tanya is a great talent and I wish her well.''

Does that mean he is ready to forgive and forget? Not necessarily.

When he is asked to describe the essence of his liaison with Tucker, Campbell uses just three words: ``a poisoned relationship.''

Then, with regret etched in his voice, he adds, ``I wish I hadn't had that relationship.''

Campbell was born in Billstown, Ark., an out-of-the way place he describes as so tiny it was ``made up of a church and two stores.''

His father was a sharecropper. His mother gave birth to her babies, including Glen, at home. Two days after the delivery she was back in the fields, working.

Campbell describes his beginnings as ``just a step above the animals we ate to stay alive.'' He and his siblings caught and subsisted on turtles, squirrels and eels.

One of the big contradictions of Campbell's life is his view of the magic power of money.

A four-time Grammy winner and a TV star (``The Glen Campbell Good Time Hour,'' 1969-72), he became a multimillionaire with more than 10 gold albums and a slew of hit singles.

In the late 1960s he built a $1.75 million estate in California's fashionable Laurel Canyon.

Somewhat facetiously, he refers to those initial economic capabilities as ``sudden wealth.''

Yet this is how he describes his frustration, even his rage, at the bleak poorness of his childhood:

``I grew up so poor I could not buy anything. When I was 15 I saw a T-bird. I just stood there and cried, so deep-deep was my yearning for that car.

``I wanted money. No, I craved money. I felt like a nobody. Nobody should feel like a nobody. I began to see that money is power ...''

His voice trails off.

Yet Campbell says he knows now what he didn't know then - that it's impossible to find lasting peace through material things.

``Temporarily, there's the security of knowing you can buy what you once couldn't buy. But real peace is the peace of knowing where you're headed and that you can get there.

``That peace has to come from within.''

More Campbell-truisms tumble forth about living too high on money and drugs.

``I lolled around in the mud and thought I was happy in the lolling,'' he says. ``But deep inside I knew I wasn't happy. I was trying to forget my troubles.

``Then I'd wake up, after all the lolling, and my troubles were still there.''

What Campbell found onstage was unconditional acceptance. The applause, which escalated into adulation, gave him that needed feeling of self-esteem.

``It was just me and my guitar,'' he says. ``No one to depend upon but me.''

To this day nothing comes between Campbell and his guitar.

Once, when he was just starting out, he played in a Mexican bar where a horrendous brawl erupted between the Mexicans and the cowboys. Campbell hid under the bandstand, protecting his guitar with his body.

He laughs when reminded of that incident.

``I knew from the beginning,'' he says, ``that me and my music represented a no-bluff game of spontaneity. I loved the honesty of that. I guarded my guitar with my life. Still do.''

With age and experience Campbell has gained a new, heightened self-confidence and self-awareness.

He speaks of songs as poetry set to music. To make his point, he begins to sing snatches of emotional lines from some of his biggest hits: ``Gentle on My Mind,'' ``Wichita Lineman,'' ``By the Time I Get to Phoenix.''

``People are intertwined,'' he says. ``Everyone has soul. When I sing songs of the soul from my soul, I sing in everyone's voice.''

How did Campbell get to this deep, sensitive understanding from the near self-ruination from drugs?

His wife, Kim, dared to make a tape recording of his state of mind and language while he was ``stoned.'' Later she played it back to him.

It was a shock. The tape shattered Campbell and made him focus sharply on the desire for sobriety.

``I seemed possessed by demons,'' he says about hearing his drugged self on tape. ``I was foul-mouthed. I was ranting and raving.

``I heard the bottom-line truth about myself. It was terrible because I was terrible. I didn't know what I was doing or saying.

``Hearing the tape made me so angry that I wanted to get back my self-control.''

A good intention is one thing. The actual exorcism of demons is quite another.

``Yes, yes,'' he says evenly about one of the major turning points of his life.

``You have to want the quitting more than the wanting.''

Marian Christy is a Boston-based free-lance writer.

 by CNB