|By Kevin Passon - Special to TimeOut||
March 20, 2014
OCONOMOWOC - Tompall Glaser was a rebel and a Nashville outlaw before it was the cool persona marketed by many of today’s hottest country music singers. Glaser was the type of person who knew what he wanted and he made it happen - consequences be damned.
That’s the premise behind the biography “The Great Tompall: Forgotten Country Music Outlaw,” written and recently published by his nephew, Kevin Glaser of Oconomowoc, who spent more than two years researching, interviewing, writing and editing the book.
“Tompall was a one-of-a-kind musical genius and business entrepreneur,” Glaser said. “He looked at things in a different light than many others and was ahead of his time in many areas.
“For instance, he wasn’t afraid to experiment in the recording studio and was one of the first Nashville performers to include black musicians in his band. Tompall was a renowned singer and songwriter, he was a good musician (guitar and ukulele), and he was an astute song publisher.”
Glaser Publications published “Gentle On My Mind,” which was the top BMI song in the world for two years in a row - 1968 and 1969.
Thomas Paul “Tompall” Glaser was born in 1933 in Nebraska and moved to Nashville in the early 1950s. He died Aug. 13, 2013, in Nashville after a long illness. But he filled those years in between with some of the best music of the time.
He recorded as a solo artist, as well as with his brothers, Chuck and Jim, in Tompall & the Glaser Brothers. His highest charting solo single was “Put Another Log on the Fire,” which peaked at No. 21 in 1975. He also appeared with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter on the album “Wanted: The Outlaws.”
Glaser never became a household-name recording artist like some of his compatriots, but as a result of what he accomplished, he was well known within the Nashville music establishment. In fact, Keith Urban tweeted “RIP Tompall” upon learning of Glaser’s death.
“Tompall was a Nashville recording industry outsider who recognized that record company executives were stifling artist creativity and their freedom to put out records that they could call their own. It was completely one-sided and a ‘my way or the highway’ mentality,” Kevin Glaser said. “I liken it to working for a large company in any business sector where you have ideas about ways to improve things, but management won’t listen to you. Those who are confident in their own abilities start their own companies and implement their ideas. That’s what Tompall did with Glaser Sound Studios.
“It cannot be over-emphasized that Tompall was concerned about country music as a whole rather than only his career. He enjoyed seeing people blossom in their chosen careers whether singer, songwriter, musician or sound engineer. He wasn’t afraid of whom he upset at record companies, and some of his interactions and the methods he employed did just that.”
In addition to Tompall Glaser’s unique personality, the other characters involved also make this an interesting story, his nephew said.
“Tompall spent a lot of time at Glaser Sound Studios and the people who hung out there were really something,” he said. “Captain Midnight threw steel tipped darts in the hallway - regardless of who else might be walking in the hallway - and tossed knives in the parking lot. Waylon Jennings spent considerable time there fine-tuning his sound. Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Jimmy Buffett, Kris Kristofferson and so many other recognizable names were all part of the experience at Glaser Sound Studios. In addition, there are stories about the studios being haunted.”
Several well-known artists were influenced by Glaser.
“Marty Stuart openly talks about Tompall’s influence,” Kevin Glaser said. “Others have mentioned that Waylon Jennings was influenced by Tompall. Kinky Friedman, Willis David Hoover, Clint Miller, Gary Vincent and many others have acknowledged Tompall’s influences in their careers.”
The book is not just about praising Glaser or tossing around names of more well-known musicians. It’s also about his personal life, and you can’t be called an outlaw and a rebel without having some flaws.
Glaser was known for having a short temper and doing things his way.
Kevin Glaser recalls one story about his uncle from the days of his youth.
“When I was about 10 years old, my family and I were vacationing in Nashville. I remember being in the car with my dad and my uncle Jim. We were going to Tompall’s house after stopping at a store at a strip mall,” he said. “Suddenly, this car started following us and acting crazy - tailgating, etc. The car followed us all the way to Tompall’s house. When we stopped, a couple of burly guys jumped out and accused Jim, who was driving, of cutting them off. They were shouting and waiving their hands around and looked like they were ready to fight.
“At that time, Tompall came walking up calmly and asked what the problem was. Not 10 seconds later, they turned around, retreated quickly to their car and drove away. I asked Tompall what he said to them, and he smiled and showed me what he had showed them - a shiny revolver.”
June Glaser was one of many family sources used in writing her husband’s biography.
“It’s an accurate book; I think it’s a good book,” she said from her home in Nashville. “At times, it seems like it barely scratched the surface of the man, because he never let anyone in real close.”
June Glaser said it was love at first sight the first she saw her future husband. He was performing at the Grand Ole Opry then, but it would be another six years before they became a couple.
“He was always there in the back of my mind,” she said. “We became good friends first. Every minute I spent with him was special.”
“I’ve learned that
he was a confident, intelligent, colorful man who lived his life the
way he wanted to,” Kevin Glaser said. “He was a driven musical
artist and businessman who accomplished some amazing things in his
life. It really is remarkable that a farm lad from Nebraska who had
no more than an eighth-grade education put Nashville on notice that
the status quo was no longer acceptable, and he was instrumental in
helping recording artists achieve freedom in the studio to create
music that they wanted to record.”
At a glance
Title: “The Great Tompall: Forgotten Country Music Outlaw”
Author: Kevin Glaser
Pages: 364 pages, hardcover
Available: Books & Company in the Whitman Shopping Center in Oconomowoc, through Glaser’s website at www.rtsidecreations.com, and on several other online book markets, such as Amazon.com.