Aug 11th 2016 at 86 from complications of dementia.
Missed this one last fall. CBS Sunday Morning must have been playing a rerun of his retrospective on one of the digital sub-channels I watch cuz I just found out about his passing yesterday.
Unlike all his Limeliters and etc followers - or those who heard of him because of his label-mate Rouvaun - I only ever heard of him as The Balladeer in The (Original) Hobbit. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_n9IpG2PEI
He was on tour when it came out on TV for Thanksgiving in 1977 but the closest he would get to Michigan was Chicago. My uncle took a six hour drive to take his two boys, his brother in law and me to the show for a Christmas present.
Three weeks earlier my other uncle Hick (Hiram) the journalist was in Hollywood and found a practice acetate for the songs on The Hobbit - produced as many are so that the performer can rehearse their vocal and/or guitar before committing to the final recording - being thrown out by the studio along with lots of other rehearsal discs with only the accompaniment.
It's a good thing we had our reel to reel deck and another good thing that Hick made us tape it and save the acetates, a cassette copy of which we brought along for listening, as well as the original acetate for being autographed as we would surely have worn it out by the day of the concert.
I had just turned 13 that December, my cousins were eight and eleven, their father Bill was 34 and their Uncle Nick was 38. We all crammed into Nick's teal-blue Chevy Vega station wagon, got to Chicago about 3PM in a driving snow, found a record shop and bought two copies of the 2LP story album and 2 copies of the soundtrack album - one for their family and one for my brothers and me.
We had an early dinner and got to the theatre about 6:30. They were still doing their soundcheck but let us sit in the back by the wall to watch. He ran through a handful of numbers on the guitar, the full versions of which we would hear later that night and a handful of others he wouldn't officially record until years later - and some not at all.
The show was supposed to be 8 to 11, so they took a break about 7: and came back out about a half hour later before the curtains were lowered. There's only the bare stage bulbs on, so he could see there was somebody sitting near the back wall. Squinting, he motions for us to come forward, even up on the stage and have a little chat.
Bill and Nick talk to him for a couple minutes waxing on about The Limeliters and some of his more obscure work and then he asks us why we're here and we say it in unison `The Hobbit! You know from TV after Thanksgiving!' and we break into our terrible off-key rendition of the theme. He gives all three of us a hug - and - being over 400 lbs by then - it felt like getting a hug from Santa.
My cousin Bobby runs out to the car in the parking lot to get all the records, the original acetate without the vocals and guitar and the reel we made. He autographs the acetate and the records and then asks if he can borrow the reel for later. We shrug and say OK having no idea what's about to transpire.
Ten after eight the show starts, he runs through all his Limeliters and early RCA catalog and a couple of obscure numbers and then intermission comes at about 9:30 or so. They come back a little after ten and he tells the stage manager to lower the backdrop scrim and tells the musicians to hang tight for a little bit.
He shuffles around on his stool a little bit, takes out his guitar and says `For those of you who weren't near a TV set the Sunday after Thanksgiving, I recorded some songs last year for a new animated production of The Hobbit and I'd like to sing a couple of them for you now'. It sounded as if there was 500 kids cheering
He told everybody `I wasn't originally going to do any of these songs, but some boys and their fathers drove 6 hours from Michigan in the snow to be here tonight. When I heard I was supposed to be their Christmas present from Santa Claus' (titters from the audience) I said (patting his ample girth) `Well I'd have fit the costume if there had been one. Woundn't need any padding either. So that's close enough for me.' (Roars of laughter from the audience) So here we go, special for Bobby Timmy and Davey from Michigan.
A couple seconds later we hear OUR TAPE of the instrumental tracks for the movie played over the PA and he launches into the opening The Greatest Adventure, Roads and Old Fat Spider. The acetate had the speeded up vocals of the dwarves on Down In the Valley Ha Ha in addition to the music, as well as the slowed down voices of the Lakemen singing Rollin' Down the Hole so he just sang along to those two and added a guitar part along with it, and then closed the segment with the closing-credits version of The Greatest Adventure.
At the end of the segment, he thanks all the kids, holds up the records we had him autograph, and says to pick `em up on your way home tonight - and then tells all the kids to stick around, we might like some of the other songs too.
Which we did. The show ended about 11:30 or so and about 30 kids get invited backstage afterwards, during which he shakes everybody's hand and gives `em a big Santa hug. We stay til the end, collect the records and the acetate, and he asks if he can keep the reel for awhile. Since we can make another one off the acetate when we get home we shrug and say OK since our address is written in marker on the back.
We get our coats and get ready to leave, and Glenn tells Nick, `You're not driving back to Michigan at this hour in that kind of storm are you?' and Nick tells him we spent all our money on tickets, dinner and gas for the trip. He collars the stage manager and says `Can they sleep in the greenroom tonight? They just drove six hours from Michigan to give their kids this Christmas present.'
The hard-boiled stage director gruffly takes us on a metal spiral staircase upstairs to a small torm room built into the side of the wall with about a 4x4 foot door. Inside was the hugest pile of futons and linens and pillows and comforters you ever saw - intended to be props for shows.
He shook Uncle Bill's and Uncle Nick's hand, patted us three on the head and bid us goodnight. The torm room was heated - but only barely so it might have been 50 degrees against a temperature in the high teens outside. We snuggled down and went right to sleep.
Glenn himself opened the door in the morning, beating the stage manager by several minutes as we ran into him on the way out of the theatre coming to get us up. He bought us breakfast in Denny's and waited until the traffic died down about 9AM before sending us on our way. We got home about 5 PM because of the snow.
Four months later we get the reel back in the mail with a note saying `Guess I need to put these songs in the show officially. Thanks for a great evening. Yours, Glenn.'
I still have it.