By Luke Voogt
After touring with late country legend Glenn Campbell in 1997, Wagga musician Darren Coggan knows the ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ better than most.
“From a very early age he was the reason I wanted to be a country singer,” the 45-year-old told the Indy.
“My parents have still got cassette tapes of me singing Rhinestone Cowboy as a three-year-old boy.”
Coggan will remember touring with Campbell when he brings his tribute Like A Rhinestone Cowboy to Geelong this month.
“I don’t come out and pretend to be Glenn Campbell,” he said.
“The show is about that personal connection that I had with him and honouring his musical legacy.”
The then-23-year-old Coggan had just released his debut album Hometown when he joined the country legend on the dozen-show tour.
“To meet this guy who had been such an inspiration for my musical upbringing was a huge thrill,” he said.
“He’d stand in the wings of the theatre, watch my set and give me constructive feedback of how I could better connect with the audience.”
One of Coggan’s most treasured possessions is a photo of him and Campbell, then 61, backstage.
“What I used to love about his show was his guitar playing,” he said.
“He had all these old school tricks. You know, he’d play it up behind his head.
“He was a true showman.”
Campbell won world fame for his hits throughout the ’60s and ’70s and died at age 81 in 2017 following a battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
But few people knew he was an “in-demand” guitarist who featured in Elvis Presley’s Viva Las Vegas and played bass for The Beach Boys, Coggan said.
“I had the honour (hearing) first-hand some of the many stories and anecdotes that we share with our audience.”
On the tour Campbell shared a story backstage about staring at Frank Sinatra “a little too much” when he was playing guitar for him at a recording session, Coggan said.
“He was a huge Sinatra fan and he couldn’t believe he was playing guitar for him.”
But Sinatra rushed from the studio after the session and his producer later told Campbell that Sinatra thought “he had fancied him”, Coggan said.
Campbell came across his greatest hit Rhinestone Cowboy while on tour in Australia in 1974.
“He had been given this demo of this song and kept playing it as he drove across the country in his car,“ Coggan said.
He described Campbell as a lover of “dad jokes” and “incredibly approachable“.
“He was a very funny man and he had a great way of making his audience part of the show.”
Campbell had “his demons” with alcohol and drug addiction during his career, Coggan said.
“But he had cleaned himself up and was in a really great place when I worked with him.”
Coggan said he liked to think Campbell would be thrilled he was continuing his musical legacy.
He will play Campbell’s songs alongside an eight-piece band at Geelong Performing Arts Centre’s Drama Theatre on 17 March.
“I think the audience will walk away from our show having learnt something about him,” he said.