LOS ANGELES – As Glen Campbell (search), 69, happily chirps on his cell phone, the veteran country-pop superstar zooms down the Southern California freeway, looking for an exit sign to the Los Angeles Country Club, where he's scheduled to tee-off at 8 a.m.
But suddenly a whistle spouts in the background. "I'm still running with a blower in my car," he says, as an odd way of explanation.
Actually, he continues, it's an Intoxalock, a Breathalyzer-type device that Campbell has to blow into periodically to prove he's driving sober. The car won't start until he blows into it.
Campbell is performing in New York City this week with Jimmy Webb, the multi-Grammy songwriter responsible for many Campbell hits ("Galveston," "Witchita Lineman" and others), as well as pop hits like "Up, Up and Away."
In his car, Campbell is on the blower for three more weeks, as part of his sentencing after last year's guilty plea of extreme drunken driving and leaving the scene of an accident in Phoenix, where he lived for more than two decades.
He spent 10 days in jail "like a poor caged animal," and is now serving two years of probation. The device "almost wrecked me a bunch of times," he says, noting the difficulty of driving and using it at the same time.
Almost 40 years after his 1967 smash hit, "By the Time I Get To Phoenix (search)," Campbell and his family have left that town for Malibu, Calif., to be close to his daughter at Pepperdine University.
Campbell, who has sold more than 45 million albums and recorded 27 top-10 hits, also wanted to escape the heat -- the desert heat, that is, opting for the slightly cooler climate of Malibu.
Starting in the late '60s, the Arkansas-raised Campbell was red hot -- a fixture on the charts with hits such as "Rhinestone Cowboy (search)."
He was also burning up the tube as host of the "The Glen Campbell Good Time Hour" variety show.
But then the country crooner faced the heat of the tabloids as he wrecked his life with drugs and alcohol, and the papers had a field day with his torrid affair with country croonette Tanya Tucker.
"I went through hell for 10 years," he says. "Everything was always in turmoil." After he met his most recent wife, Kim, 23 years ago in New York, he cleaned up his act and turned to religion, but never lost his taste for Bible-sanctioned wine.
After his arrest, sentence and cell-block stint, however, he's off the juice completely.
"Alcohol is alcohol, no matter what form it is," he realizes. "I was an alcoholic for a long time and didn't know it. When you're on the inside you don't see how ugly it is."
Campbell hated being tabloid fodder again -- and was dismayed when Jay Leno, the "sorry bastard," made yucks about him.
"I thought he was above that," he says. "You don't want to kick somebody when they're down."
As he continues driving, he'tells old-man jokes, gets nostalgic and talks about how blessed he feels. He breaks into a Brian Wilson falsetto ("She's the Little Old Lady from Pasadena"), as he recalls touring with the Beach Boys -- in Brian's role, after Wilson had a breakdown.
He pulls out an Elvis growl, remembering when he first saw Presley perform in 1956 and when he recorded "Viva Las Vegas" with the star. ("He was awesome," he says), or will break into a verse of "Turn Around, Look At Me," Campbell's first hit.
It's hard to believe this hard-living man, a guitar protoge‚ who learned to strum as a tot using a $4 guitar from a Sears catalog, and recorded with the likes of Frank Sinatra and Ray Charles, outlived some of the folks he admired.
He's thankful for being clean and for his wife's support, and emphasizes, "There, but for the grace of God, go I."