Skip to main content

Passings: Tompall Glaser (1933 - 2013)

Influential country singer/songwriter Tompall Glaser has died in Nashville on Tuesday of an undisclosed cause at the age of 79.

Glaser grew up on Spaulding, NE and taught his brothers, Jim and Chuck, how to sing harmony. They formed the Glaser Brothers and, in 1957, were noticed by Marty Robbins when they appeared on the Arthur Godfrey show. Robbins signed them to his own label and later sold their contract to Dot. Unfortunately, the label didn't know how to market the group and the brothers spent more time in the studio singing on others records rather than their own.

In 1959, Johnny Cash hired the brothers as a support group for tours. Over the next couple of years, their reputation grew to the point where, in 1966, Jack Clement signed them to MGM Records. Their first record was Streets of Baltimore, written by Tompall and Harland Howard which went on to be recorded by Bobby Bare.

The continued to work through the rest of the 60's with Clement eventually scoring four top forty country hits including California Girl (And the Tennessee Square) (1969 / #11). The brothers also began branching out including their own publishing company, who signed John Hartford, a studio and, for Jim, a successful songwriting career including writing Gary Puckett and the Union Gap's hit Woman, Woman. Jim also started his own solo recording career on the side that peaked in 1984 with the number 1 country song You're Gettin' to Me Again.

Tompall & the Glaser Brothers finally reached the country top ten in 1971 with Rings, a cover of the pop hit by Cymarron along with a second top twenty hit (Ain't It All Worth Living For) the next year, but Tompall was also looking towards a solo career. He began cutting records that would be the germination of the Outlaw sound and, with each brother having different interests, the group broke up in 1973.

The brother's recording studio, now owned by Tompall, became a key facility for artists like Waylon Jennings and Billy Joe Shaver, singers who were sitting firmly on the fringe of country music. Glaser also recorded there, turning out a series of albums that were not overly successful at the time but are now considered classics.

In 1976, Glaser, Jennings, Willie Nelson and Jessi Colter released Wanted! The Outlaws, a compilation of songs by the artists that set a new course for country music, highlighting the progressive movement and becoming the first country album to sell one million copies. For Tompall, the success was bittersweet as it didn't propel his career to any extent and, in 1978, he and his brothers reformed the Glaser Brothers. Three years later, they scored the biggest hit of their career with a cover of Kris Kristofferson's Lovin' Her Was Easier (Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again) which went to number 2.

The brothers split again in 1986 and Tompall released his last solo album, Nights on the Borderline after which he retired from music.