Tompall Glaser: One of country music’s Outlaws

 

In the strict, disciplined world of country music, Tompall Glaser was a maverick.

He was included alongside Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson on the million-selling album Wanted! The Outlaws (1976), an LP that instigated a major shift in the genre. It helped to establish Jennings and Nelson as major stars, but Glaser did not benefit from the success, more or less because he wasn’t built that way.

Tompall Glaser came from a family of Nebraska ranchers. His parents, Louis and Marie Glaser, had a corn and cattle farm in Spalding, Nebraska, and they raised six children, the youngest being Tompall (1933), Chuck (1936) and Jim (1937). Once their voices had broken, the three brothers sounded good together and appeared on local radio. In 1957, they had national success on television by winning Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts.

The country singer Marty Robbins used them on his album Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs (1959). Their harmonies can be heard on his international hit “El Paso” – and Tompall and Jim wrote “Running Gun”. After Robbins, they sang with Johnny Cash on The Sound of Johnny Cash (1962) as well as his famed “Ring of Fire”. (1963). They also worked with Roy Orbison and Patsy Cline.

Known as Tompall and the Glaser Brothers, because Tompall took lead vocals and also had the drive, they made their own records from 1959; but it wasn’t until they joined MGM Records in 1965 that they had success. They had minor hits with “Gone, on the Other Hand” and “The Moods of Mary”, but a surefire winner, “Streets of Baltimore”, which Tompall had written with Harlan Howard, went to Bobby Bare. It has since been recorded by Charley Pride, Gram Parsons and the Little Willies. In Richard Thompson’s opinion, “‘Streets of Baltimore’ is one of the greatest country songs ever written. It has a wonderfully succinct story, told in three verses... every line is a killer.”

In 1971 the Glasers had a substantial country hit with “Rings” and opened their own Glaser Sound Studios in Nashville. They wanted to give up-and-coming artists a better deal, and they recorded such nonconformist talent as Kinky Friedman, Billy Joe Shaver and John Hartford. The studio, dubbed Hillbilly Central, became a 24/7 hangout for musicians – but the relationship between the prickly Tompall, who trusted no one, and his brothers, became strained.

The Glasers stopped performing together in 1973 and Tompall released The Songs of Shel Silverstein, which included his tongue-in-cheek anthem of male indolence, “Put Another Log on the Fire”. He produced Waylon Jennings’ Honky Tonk Heroes (1973), and the two had much in common with their disdain for the Nashville establishment, their love of alcohol, drugs and partying, and their obsession with pinball machines – sometimes playing 24-hour marathons. They could spend $1,000 in a day, a quarter at a time. When Jennings assigned his publishing to Glaser’s company, Johnny Cash warned him, “Never go into business with your friends.” A few years later, Jennings wanted an audit and Jennings and Glaser never spoke again.

In 1976, RCA – in a brilliant move – branded some rebellious country singers as outlaws, and marketed an album of previously released recordings as Wanted! The Outlaws. Nelson, Jennings and Waylon’s wife, Jessi Colter, performed together, but Glaser mostly worked independently of them, making the albums The Great Tompall and his Outlaw Band and The Wonder of It All. Tompall had moderate success with “T for Texas” and “It’ll Be Her”, but he was dropped by ABC Records, with a third album, poignantly titled Unwanted Outlaw, not being released until 1992.

The Glaser Brothers reformed in 1981 and had their most successful country record with Kris Kristofferson’s “Loving Her Was Easier”. They appeared at the Wembley Country Music Festival, showcasing intricate harmonies that enabled them to swap lead vocals during the individual lines of  a song.

Tompall’s voice became gruffer, and he released some quirky projects such as A Collection of Love Ballads from World War II (1987). A low-key tour of UK country music clubs was successful, but suggested his stock had fallen in the States. Around 1990 he dropped out of the business, but a gospel album, Outlaw to the Cross, was released in 2006.

Thomas Paul Glaser, singer: born Spalding, Nebraska 3 September 1933; married June; died Nashville 13 August 2013.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
News
people
News
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the iWatch for you? Well, it depends if you want for the fitness tech, or the style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own