Two major players in country music passed away recently. Two key outlaw artists, and two of my favorite country artists, both of whom were involved in creating some of the finest music to come out of Nashville–or anywhere–in the last several decades.
Last week, we lost “Cowboy” Jack Clement. Recently elected into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Cowboy was someone who wrote songs for Johnny Cash; worked at Sun Studios and helped jumpstart the career of Jerry Lee Lewis; produced records for such artists as Townes Van Zandt, Charley Pride, and Don Williams; and was a key ‘outlaw’ innovator, producing what is arguably Waylon Jennings’ finest album, Dreaming My Dreams.
This week, we lost another musical giant, Tompall Glaser. A Nebraska native, Tompall and his brothers Jim and Chuck found fame in the 60s as the Glaser Brothers. They also opened a studio and ran publishing companies, two additional moves that ruffled feathers in Music City. Their studio was known as Hillbilly Central (there’s a great writeup on this studio, with more photos, on Saving Country Music), and it became a regular outlaw hangout, attracting the likes of Billy Joe Shaver, Kris Kristofferson, Shel Silverstein, and Mickey Newbury. And, of course, Waylon Jennings–it’s where Cowboy Jack recorded Waylon’s classic album Dreaming My Dreams.
Tompall had a beautiful voice, both on his solo albums and with his brothers. He wrote some classic material (aka “Streets of Baltimore”), and cut others that still are among the most unique, and stellar, of their time. Check out this version of Kinky Friedman’s “Sold American,” for instance:
Or his take on Bobby Charles’ beautiful “Tennessee Blues”:
Tompall’s name wasn’t as famous as his colleagues and friends Waylon, Willie Nelson, and Jessi Colter (all four of them featured on the album Wanted! The Outlaws), but his influence was significant.
Both will be deeply missed.