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Long Shadows
Tompall And The
Glaser Brothers

The last media reference I've seen to TP&TheGBs was that a reunion opportunity for them to sing at Hank Snow's funeral was declined. Their contributions have been too numerous to let a negative tone dominate. Personal relationships aside, Tompall, Jim, and Chuck Glaser individually and collectively brought energy and innovation into the Nashville music community that will reverberate far longer than many of the current crescendos.

To start with, they were born in Nebraska, not exactly a hot spot for spawning country stars. Their midwestern vocal timbre brought a flavor to the family harmony tradition that was refreshing, immediately identifiable, and rather amazing in its texture. There were no slam bang hit records that turned the music business upside down like a "Four Walls" or "Send Me The Pillow You Dream On," but their recordings were solid -- my strongest "first career" memories include "A Girl Like You," "Gone On The Other Hand," "Rings," and "Through The Eyes Of Love." The momentum allowed them to develop a stage show that stands out in the memory of anyone who got to see it.

Considering that the Glasers won CMA's Vocal Group Of The Year in 1970, the calibre of recordings with such legendary producers as Owen Bradley and Jack Clement, and the massive presence they maintained for a long time, it's amazing that their only number one single was 1981's "Loving Her Was Easier," recorded and released after their high profile split and low-key reunion over the few previous years.

So much for the authenticity of the charts' commentary on a career -- another chart oddity: the highest position attained by Glen Campbell's cut of "Gentle On My Mind" (another facet of the Glaser story) was number eight. Try to figure that out!!

Well, there is a monster hit record that the brothers are associated with vocally. "El Paso," of course, but what you see in print about that association is not always entirely accurate. Here's the story as per Jim: early, early on the Marty Robbins hired the Glaser Brothers as part of his show and they traveled in two or three station wagons, three people per vehicle.

Marty, Jim, and Bobby Sikes rode together and Marty's big passion was for cowboy songs, so the three of them sang a lot of cowboy songs on the road, including an occasional new one that Marty wrote. It ttok a while to learn "El Paso," but there had been so much time put into it on the road that there was no question of changing the harmony structure, which was Jim Glaser and Bobby Sykes -- not Tompall and the Glaser Brothers. Within a similar context, a lifetime or two later, I got my first visit to The Internet; my sister-in-law, Nancy, thought I would enjoy a country music-themed chat room. The first question that popped up was "Who had the record, 'Put Another Log On The Fire'?" I stayed out of it, but an answer came quickly: "Tompall and the Glaser Brothers." Actually, of course, it was just Tompall, on the Wanted: The Outlaws album with the Nelson guy and Shooter Jennings' folks, but legends do have a way of establishing their own statistics.

As much as I have loved the music of the Glaser Brothers for a huge chunk of my life, their even-bigger impact on me and the industry took place between road trips in that office upstairs from where the Wilburn Brothers were at that time.

My best show and tell for Nashville in the '60s 101: I ran into Luther Perkins one day in the alley and asked if I could show him some songs, hoping for a Johnny Cash cut. He invited me to his office, listened to my stuff, and asked if I knew Chuck Glaser. At the moment, I didn't, but on Luther's suggestion, I did before the day was over. The songs responsible for the referral never developed into cuts, but a crazy little thing called "Yellow" got on the second Leroy Pullins album and my hanging out with Uncle Chuck, Jim, Jimmy Payne, John Hartford, Bobby Thompson, Paul Craft, Sammi Smith, and the proverbial many others was the kind of music business graduate school Harvard MBAs would love to have access to.

The success of "Gentle On My Mind" was a mixed blessing for me as a writer for Glaser Publications -- the incredible activity was educational, yet it unquestionably channeled energy away from some of us. Would I do it again, knowing that my "big hit" wouldn't happen? Absolutely, and I'd bring all of my best friends along for the ride -- that was one of the truly unique situations in the history of the entertainment industry, and I got to watch every bit, with free coffee. Mac Wiseman has often preached the need of putting something back as we take and there are many who share that philosophy and practice. Among them, I feel a special depth of gratitude for Tompall, Chuck, and Jim Glaser, who provided me a place to be and a role to play when I had no idea of where I was going.

copyright 2000 Bill Littleton -- from thebridgeworks for July, 2000
billandconnie@juno.com