TOMPALL GLASER - COUNTRY OUTLAW DIES AT 79 AFTER LONG ILLNESS
I don't really enjoy writing on the sudden deaths of country singers whose music I've enjoyed over the years and whose albums & cd's I still play a lot, but earlier today I came across the death of Tompall Glaser who died just a week ago. It took me way back to the International Festivals of Country Music held in the UK over the Easter weekend at Wembley. It was the 2nd festival held on 28th March 1970. That was the 2nd time the fan club had a stand. The first year it was free. We shared the stand with the Johnny Cash Appreciation Society. Mary Reeves didn't like this, so she paid the £20 fee for our own. At this point she had not begun to attend the festivals on a yearly basis.
I watched the concert from the audience. I knew nothing about Tompall & the Glaser Brothers, but their performance was absolutely mind blowing. The trio sang songs like "Release me", each member diving towards the mike & continuing each others part mid- words while still playing their instruments and the vocal was seamless. Must have taken an age to perfect. I have never seen it done since. They were back again for the 5th festival on 21st April 1973 and I was privileged to talk to them backstage just before they were due to perform. Tompall had a terrible throat & was concerned if his voice would last. Mary's husband Terry Davis took a photo of us. Sadly, I've never seen it.
Thomas Paul "Tompall" Glaser was born in Spalding, Nebraska on 3rd September 1933. Active since the 50's, he recorded as a solo artist & with his brothers Chuck & Jim as Tompall & the Glaser Brothers. In the late fifties they moved to Nashville & success initially eluded them. They worked as session players, recorded as a folk music act for Decca Records (produced by Owen Bradley), toured with Marty Robbins & Johnny Cash, played the Grand Ole Opry & eventually signed with MGM Records in 1966. They had modest country charts hits on that label with producer Jack Clement & were named CMA's Vocal Group of the Year in 1970. They broke up after their Wembley appearance in 1973, re-formed in 1980, had a no.2 hit with the Kristofferson song "Lovin' her was easier" in 1981 & finally called it a day in 1982.
The brothers made their mark with their successful publishing companies & Tompall recorded several solo albums at his "Hillbilly Central" studio which became the headquarters of the Outlaw movement. Among the outlaws who hung out there were Waylon Jennings, Bobby Bare, Kris Kristofferson, Kinky Friedman & Billy Joe Shaver. Most of Tompall's solo material is available on 4 excellent Bear Family cd's. But Tompall saved his best until last. His 2006 cd "Outlaw to the Cross" on Miller Music MM 101-2 is a beautiful collection of religious/inspirational material sung in that soulful voice which sounded as good as ever.
Some might be wondering exactly what this posting has to do with Jim Reeves. There is no doubt that the two artists would see each other in Nashville & meet up on the road. Tompall, like all the budding songwriters of the
early sixties, hung around Tootsies & drank with the rest of the gang, each hoping to feed off the other & write another hit song. Like Roger Miller, Willie Nelson, Harlan Howard, Hank Cochran & Big Jeff Bess (husband of the bar's owner), Tompall Glaser's reputation became legendary.
Can I recommend the 2005 paperback by Lyle E Style entitled "Ain't got no cigarettes" (Memories of Music Legend Roger Miller) published by Great Plains Publications? Pages 67 - 73 are his interview with Tompall. It makes enthralling reading with his tales of his musical life. You wonder just how he managed to record anything.
He tells the story of how a guy called Bill Hall who owned a small record company, came to town, calling at Tootsies to collect willing singers & whisked them down to Starday where as unknown names they would reproduce the hits of the day for $25 a song which were released on budget albums "Top Hits of the day". Other accounts detail Roger Miller, Donny Young & Darren McCall as well as Tompall, taking on these 'scab' (non-union) sessions recording sound-alike versions of current hits for only $10 a song. They were all broke, facing desperate times.
Tompall confesses to going down this road 4 or 5 times. You'll never believe it. He had to mimic Jim Reeves, but admits he sounded nothing like him!! Wonder if Jim ever found out about this??
The man may be gone, but his music & legend will keep his name alive.
Tompall Glaser 3rd September 1933 - 13th August 2013