This 2018 panel discussion featuring Kinky Friedman, Kyle Lehning, and Marshall Chapman explores the halcyon days of Glaser Sound Studios, the funky and creative Nashville recording studio, publishing company, and musician hangout that became known as “Hillbilly Central.”
Located two blocks off the city’s Music Row, Glaser Sound Studio was a creative haven for wild-eyed outlaws who were drawn to the fierce creativity of owner Tompall Glaser, a rule-breaker who was scornful of structures, corporations, and homogeny. Glaser, who broke into the music business in the 1960s with sweet-singing brothers Chuck and Jim, was the force behind the building at 916 19th Ave. S.—the place where Kinky Friedman John Hartford, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, disc jockey Roger “Captain Midnight” Schutt, assistant and publicist Hazel Smith, and other glorious irregulars recorded and cavorted.
Friedman’s “Sold American” album was recorded at Hillbilly Central; producer and recording engineer Lehning spent hundreds of hours under Glaser’s adamant direction; and notable singer-songwriter Chapman hung out at Glaser Sound, befriended Tompall, and witnessed the recording of Jennings’s personal favorite album, “Dreaming My Dreams.”
Bolstered by audio and video footage and striking historical images, the conversation is by turns riotous, ribald, and emotional. Friedman sips from a glass of tequila and spins stories of the craziness of Hillbilly Central and the genius of Glaser. Lehning talks about the recording of Hartford’s groundbreaking “Aereo-Plain” album and the building’s frenzied, round-the-clock activities (“It could be eighteen hours a day for seven days a week”), and Chapman’s tales bring Hillbilly Central to life in front of a Ford Theater audience, relating stories about glorious music, amphetamine use, the grinding of teeth, and the throwing of knives.
The program also includes Chapman singing “Rode Hard and Put Up Wet,” her 1977 song about a long Nashville night, and Friedman singing “The Loneliest Man I Ever Met,” a character study about Tompall.
“These people were significant,” Friedman says, calling Hillbilly Central “a little Nashville Camelot.”
Presented in support of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s “Outlaws & Armadillos: Country’s Roaring ’70s” (May 25, 2018, through February 7, 2022).
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