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Tompall Glaser Dead at 79

Tompall Glaser
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Country music has lost one of its most unconventional figures. Tompall Glaser — one of the leading lights of the Outlaw country movement that swept Nashville in the ’70s — has passed away at the age of 79.

He was born Thomas Paul Glaser on Sept. 3, 1933 in Spalding, Neb. Glaser formed a vocal group with his brothers, Chuck and Jim, singing at local venues and on local radio. According to Nashville’s Tennessean newspaper, the brothers also performed on Arthur Godfrey’s national television show.

In 1959 the brothers moved to Nashville at the request of Marty Robbins, who hired them to sing backup in his live shows and signed them to his record label. They also toured with Johnny Cash and sang on his recording of ‘Ring of Fire,’ as well as Roy Orbison‘s ‘Leah’ and Robbins’ ‘El Paso.’

The brothers also started a song publishing company in 1962, and in 1966 Bobby Bare scored a huge hit with ‘Streets Of Baltimore,’ a song Tompall Glaser wrote with Harlan Howard. The success of their various ventures enabled them to build Glaser Sound Studios. They opened the studio in 1970, at the height of their success; that same year, they were voted Vocal Group of the Year in the CMA Awards. The group disbanded in 1973.

Tompall Glaser became close friends with Waylon Jennings, a like-minded country performer who shared his disdain for the Nashville studio system and much of the music it created. They co-produced Jennings’ landmark 1973 ‘Honky Tonk Heroes’ album at Hillbilly Central — a colorful nickname for Glaser Sound Studios.

Hillbilly Central became the hub of a burgeoning new scene of disaffected Nashville writers and musicians who were trying to operate outside of the straitlaced Nashville establishment. It was the scene of several other seminal works, including John Hartford‘s ‘Aero-Plain’ and Jennings’ ‘Dreaming My Dreams.’

That scene reached its zenith with the 1976 release of ‘Wanted! The Outlaws,’ a compilation album featuring previously released tracks by Glaser, Jennings, Jessi Colter and Willie Nelson. It became the first million-selling album in country music history, touching off a Nashville revolution that heralded a paradigm shift away from the lush, string-laden Nashville Sound and toward grittier, harder-hitting material.

Glaser also saw solo success with the Shel Silverstein-penned ‘Put Another Log on the Fire (Male Chauvinist National Anthem)’ in 1975, but unlike Jennings and Nelson — who would go on to enormous careers — his commercial success as a solo artist was short-lived. He and Jennings had a falling out over a publishing agreement, ending their partnership and friendship, and a brief reunion with his brothers in the early ’80s produced a No. 2 hit, ‘Lovin’ Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again),’ before ending in 1982.

In 1986 Glaser released a solo album, then sold Hillbilly Central and largely withdrew from public life. He spent the ensuing decades mostly out of the public eye. He passed away Tuesday (Aug. 13) at his home in Nashville after a long illness.

A private family memorial is being planned.

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