CATCHING UP WITH: JIM GLASER
He found fame with his brothers, helped start country's "Outlaw" movement and had hit records - then disappeared for 20 years. But now Jim Glaser returns with new music and reunites with the wife he lost along the way.
Jim Glaser has learned a thing or two about second chances. After hitting it big with his brothers Tompall and Chuck as The Glaser Brothers in the 1960s, the trio split up, later reuniting for even greater success. And after the brothers finished for good, Jim found '80s solo stardom with hits like "You're Gettin' to Me Again" and "If I Could Only Dance With You."
Now, he's getting perhaps the greatest second chance of all - he and wife Jane, who broke up in 1970, have reunited. "She was always a very classy lady," he says. "Always very civil, and never showed any anger toward me. She's a great woman."
For Jim, this is a chance to put to rest the guilt and pain he has felt about focusing too much on his career as a young man. "Maybe I am finally growing up," says the 66-year-old singer. "I think back to those days, and I didn't have time for family. That wasn't right. The memories of me back then almost seem like someone else."
Jim's musical memories actually stretch back to childhood and his first harmonizings with brothers Tompall and Chuck in Spalding, Neb. "Tompall was really the driving force," he recalls. "Had it not been for him, I'm not sure I would have ever been in the business."
The brothers' big break came in 1957, when Marty Robbins made a tour stop in Nebraska and they sang for him backstage. He hired them as backup singers, and they went on to sing with Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline before having hits of their own.
The Glaser Brothers were also pioneers, establishing a recording studio that became a hangout for heroes of the Nashville-backlash movement, who would come to be called the "Outlaws," which included Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. The brothers themselves broke up in 1973, which Jim now feels could have been avoided. "Breaking up wasn't a good decision, and there's no way I can justify it," he says. "It was just brothers fighting."
The Glasers reunited in 1979, enjoying several more hits - including their biggest, "Lovin' Her Was Easier (Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again)" - but split again four years later. Jim is now on good terms with Chuck, but Tompall - recently hospitalized with a herniated disc - is another story. "I don't see Tompall," says Jim. "I really don't want to get into that too much. Some of that is family business."
After The Glaser Brothers broke up for good, Jim's solo career took off. His 1983 classic The Man in the Mirror still sells at a rapid clip today on his website, jimglaser.com. Subsequent albums didn't do as well, and Jim decided to hang it up. "I was not going to get back into the business," he says. "When I got to Nashville I was 20 years old, and I saw a lot of old dudes that were superstars that were performing past their prime. I said I wasn't going to do that. So in the late '80s, when I lost my record deal, I quit."
Jim wrote novels, studied astronomy and foreign languages, and took care of his pets - but nothing ever quite replaced music. "Music was how I identified myself those years, and suddenly it wasn't there anymore," he says. "I didn't know who the hell I was."
So now he's back with his first album in 19 years, Me and My Dream. "I had some new songs I felt good about, and some old ones I wanted to redo," he explains. "I tried to give myself something to keep my brain and my heart occupied."
Jim still rarely performs live, outside annual appearances he makes at Dollywood. "Working the road is something I'd like to do, but there's no opportunity," he says. "I don't have the name value where people will pay me to go on the road."
Certainly, he's physically able - he runs over three miles a day, and his voice has changed little since the 1960s. "If my voice gets worse, I won't do this anymore," he promises. "I'm really surprised that it's held up as well as it has. If I can hear my voice starting to sound shaky, that'll be the time to quit. This may well be the last CD. I don't know."
Me and My Dream is somewhat of a family affair. Jim's daughter, Lynn, sings harmonies on one song. He and Jane also have two sons, Jim and Jeff, and another daughter, Connie, all in their 40s.
Jim is now selling the secluded Nashville home where he has lived alone for 11 years, and he and Jane are moving together to a new house outside town, near their daughters.
"I finally realized that I want to be around my family again," he says, "and I'm very fortunate that they will allow me back into their lives. That's an amazing thing for me, and a wonderful thing."
-- Chris Neal