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Artist Details

Tompall Glaser
Date Born/Group Began: September 3, 1933 (I B Emerson) 
Date Died/Group Ended:
Also Known As:
Of all the "outlaw" singers of the mid-'70s, Tompall Glaser was the one who most exploited his newfound moniker. He even titled one album The Great Tompall and His Outlaw Band, which brazenly featured a huge picture of him, shirt unbuttoned halfway down his chest, on the cover. It's ironic, then, that even though he had numerous chart records alone and with his brothers, Chuck and Jim, into the 1980s, he's the least remembered of the four artists — Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter, and himself — who were packaged together on the immensely popular 1976 album Wanted! The Outlaws.

Tompall, however, deserves far more recognition for his achievements. Over the course of four decades he wrote and recorded a wealth of excellent folk- and rock-influenced country songs, and his rich, husky-sweet tenor voice is immediately distinct. He's at home with a tender love ballad or a playful novelty number as he is with a bottomed-out cowboy lament like the Kinky Friedman classic "Sold American."

Tompall and his brothers, Chuck and Jim, hailed from Spaulding, NE, and started singing together as the folk trio Tompall & the Glaser Brothers in the late '50s. Their tight harmony singing impressed Marty Robbins, who signed them to his label. Their debut single was "Five Penny Nickel." They then moved to Nashville in 1958 and signed with Decca in 1959, worked also as session players, toured with Johnny Cash, and then joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1962. In 1965 they hooked up with producer Jack Clement and a year later signed with MGM, which released several excellent albums. Songs like "Gone, on the Other Hand," "Through the Eyes of Love," and "California Girl (And the Tennessee Square)" made the charts, and the brothers remained a popular group throughout the decade. Tompall's "Streets of Baltimore" (co-written with Harlan Howard) also became a hit for Bobby Bare in 1966.

In 1969 the brothers opened their own recording studio in Nashville, which soon became known as Hillbilly Central and a focal point of the burgeoning outlaw movement. By this time they also had their own group of music publishing companies; Nashville's old-boy network was shaken up when one of their discoveries, John Hartford's "Gentle on My Mind" — which had been turned down by nearly every publishing house in town — became a smash hit for Glen Campbell.

In 1973 the group split up, Tompall began recording as a solo artist, and outlaw became his badge of honor. But his intentions were true, and his 1973 album, Charlie, stands as one of the finest of that genre. It includes a stunning version of "Sold American" as well as the Tompall originals "Big Jim Colson" (about an unwed mother) and the excellent title track. The novelty song "Put Another Log on the Fire," from his 1975 album Tompall (Sings the Songs of Shel Silverstein), became a chart hit, and it was one of two Tompall songs included on Wanted! The Outlaws a year later. Further Tompall's hits from that decade include "T for Texas" and "Drinking Them Beers," though these are by no means his best material. Tompall had also become a close friend and business associate with Jennings, but the two eventually had a major falling out.

The brothers reunited and signed with Elektra Records in 1980, and again they met success, especially with the Kris Kristofferson song "Lovin' Her Was Easier (Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again)." The group split again in 1983, and Tompall returned to his Nashville recording studio. He released the solo album Nights on the Borderline for MCA Dot in 1986.

(I B Emerson)

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