Tompall Glaser dies at 79; 'outlaw' country musician

Country singer and songwriter Tompall Glaser, a member of country's "outlaw" movement of the 1970s, died Tuesday in Nashville after a long illness, his nephew Louis Glaser told the Associated Press. He was 79.

An associate of Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson, Glaser never achieved the stardom accorded his fellow outlaws but was a part of country music history for his role on the 1976 album "Wanted! The Outlaws," which featured tracks by Glaser, Nelson, Jennings and Jessi Colter.

The compilation released to capitalize on the rising outlaw movement became the first country music album certified platinum by the Recording Industry Assn. of America for sales of more than 1 million copies. It held the No. 1 spot on the country album chart for six weeks and reached No. 10 on the overall pop album chart on its way to surpassing the double platinum mark.

Born Thomas Paul Glaser on Sept. 3, 1933, in Spalding, Neb., Tompall emerged in a family act with siblings Chuck and Jim, who recorded together as the Glaser Brothers. They gained national attention by winning Arthur Godfrey's talent show on television in 1957, which led country star Marty Robbins to hire them to back him in concert. He also signed them to his Robbins Record label, which prompted their move from Nebraska to Nashville.

In the early '60s, the Glasers toured with Cash and sang on his 1962 album "The Sound of Johnny Cash," including his hit single "Ring of Fire." On their own, the Glaser Brothers first hit the charts in 1966 with the single "Gone, On the Other Hand." The Country Music Assn. named the Glaser Brothers vocal group of the year for 1970. In 1971, the Glasers reached the country Top 10 for the first time with the hit single "Rings."

They had a broader effect in country after opening their own publishing company and the Nashville recording studio that came to be known as Hillbilly Central, a popular hangout for Jennings, Nelson and others who didn't fit the mold of the conservative Nashville establishment of the time. Among the other acts that used Hillbilly Central were Bobby Bare, Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys and Billy Joe Shaver.

After the Glaser Brothers disbanded for the first time in 1973, Glaser started his own group, which he called the Outlaw Band. He reunited briefly with his brothers in 1979, but they called it quits again in 1982.

Tompall Glaser's biggest hit, reaching No. 2 on Billboard's country singles chart, was his 1981 release of Kristofferson's song "Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again)," to which Glaser applied his elegant, honeyed tenor.

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