Country Outlaw Tompall Glaser Dead at 79

Tompall Glaser

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

If you were to look at just his chart statistics as a solo artist, the career of Tompall Glaser might not seem particularly legendary. He only placed eight singles on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart between 1973 and 1978, with only two rising to the top 40. However, Glaser -- who passed away Tuesday morning at age 79 after battling an undisclosed illness -- was one of the true revolutionaries of the business, bucking the Nashville system at many turns throughout his career, and being a key part of one of the format's most successful albums of all time, "Wanted: The Outlaws," along with Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Jessi Colter.

Tompall Glaser: 1933-2013

Gram Parsons' cover of Glaser's
"Streets of Baltimore"

Born Thomas Paul Glaser on September 3, 1933 in Spalding, Nebraska, Glaser began his musical career performing with his brothers Chuck and Jim in the 1950s. They were persuaded to move to Nashville by Marty Robbins, who hired them to sing backup for him. They were signed to Decca and began recording as early as 1959, but didn't make their chart bow until 1966, when "Gone, On The Other Hand," hit No. 24. It would become the first of a dozen top 40 records through 1972, with the biggest of that string being 1971's "Rings," which peaked at No. 7. During that period, they became members of the Grand Ole Opry, and were the winners of the 1970 Vocal Group of the Year trophy from the Country Music Association.

Glaser also achieved success as as a songwriter during this period, co-penning Bobby Bare's hit "The Streets Of Baltimore" with Harlan Howard. Other artists who've covered the song about losing a woman to the charms of "Charm City" include Gram Parsons, The Little Willies and The Lemonheads.

Feeling restrained artistically by the Nashville business system, the brothers went their separate ways in the mid 1970s. Tompall began to chart with solo releases, with the biggest being 1975's Shel Silverstein-written "Put Another Log On The Fire (Male Chauvinist National Anthem)," which peaked at No. 21. The song would see new life a year later as one of two Glaser cuts on "Wanted." 

While Glaser was part of the legendary album that seemed to cement Jennings, Nelson. Colter, and himself as rebels in Music City, he had arguably had more of an impact behind the scenes than he did with his own recordings.

Glaser opened – along with Chuck and Jim – their own publishing company and recording studio, known affectionately as "Hillbilly Central." Their publishing company had success with songs such as "Gentle On My Mind" and "Woman, Woman." Many artists began to use the studios for their own recordings – much to the ire of the powers-that-be in Nashville. One of the many notable albums that was recorded there was Jennings' "Dreaming My Dreams" – produced by "Cowboy" Jack Clement, who passed away last week. It was Jennings' first No. 1 album, and also his first to be certified Gold.

Recording-wise, Tompall reunited with his brothers as Tompall and The Glaser Brothers in the early 1980s, scoring their biggest success with 1981's "Lovin' Her Was Easier Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again," which climbed all the way to number two. They hit the charts together for the final time in 1982 with "Maria Consuela." 

A private family memorial is being planned, according to a family spokesman.