The Lost Voice of Tommy Overstreet
March 5, 2012
I met the snowy-haired country singer, Tommy Overstreet, in Branson when songwrier/producer Bob Millsap introduced him to me. This was an instant friendship and the formation of a long brotherhood bewween us.
Tommy had been invited to Branson by Bob Millsap who had produced Tommy’s first two albums. Bob had a fit for attracting musicians, singers, and songwriters to Branson and always gave each of them a helping hand.
Not long after that, Tommy performed at the Starlight Theater and brought Legends of Country Music onstage there. Many of the top country artists came there and performed.
Tommy’s singing career began when he was a young protégé’ of Gene Austin, who wrote, among other songs, “My Blue Heaven.” Austin was a father figure to Tommy and T.O. has many fond memories of being onstage with the great singing star.
Overstreet himself is a fine songwriter and his melodic and sonorous baritone voice has brought him some 21 hit records. At Millsap’s urging, Rodney Dillard signed Tommy to perform at Silver Dollar City. Tommy and I judged several musical contests while we both lived in Forsyth, the county seat of Taneycomo County, which includes Branson.
At one point, Tommy’s son, whom we all called Tommy Three, came to stay with his father and new bride, Diane. Tommy Three came over to our house a lot to talk. He was a very troubled young man in his mid-20s, but a fine artist. He brought his drawings and pastels over and I was impressed with his strange, but powerful depictions of people and strange, other-worldly objects.
Tommy Three left Branson and later died in his locked room. He was epileptic and had experienced a seizure that took his life.
Tommy held a memorial near his home on Table Rock Lake. It was very moving. Rodney Dillard and his wife, Beverly Cotton, motored over in his pontoon boat with Shoji Tabuchi and some other songwriters and musicians. We all went out in Rodney’s boat and Tommy sprinkled his son’s ashes and others threw flowers into the lake.
Tommy and I did so many things together, I could not list all the details here. But, we were celebrity judges at the Jack Daniels refinery in Lynchburg, TN, along with Janet Dailey, Rex Reed, and several others. We hunted in both the Celebrity Dove Hunt and Quail Hunt in Abilene, with such luminaries as Chuck Yeager, Steve Kanaly, Gary Morris, Larry Hagman and many others.
One day he bought the old recording studio once owned by Red Foley. The studio was in Springfield. Tommy refurbished it and installed a board that his friend, Merle Haggard sent him. I attended several recording sessions, including the one he did for his Christmas Album.
Tommy’s voice and delivery are superb. He doesn’t add a lot of grace notes, and there is no twang. Rather, he has wonderful breath control and can shade and color a phrase with perfection. We have most, if not all, of his CDs and he sends me new songs whenever he cuts a side. He lost his main lyricist, Dale Vest, a couple of years ago, so many of his recent songs are penned by him.
One night he came over to my home in Forsyth and I told him I had tried to write songs but when I showed them to Bob Millsap, he didn’t like them. So, Tommy and I got out my recorder; he brought in his guitar and we stayed up all night and wrote 3 songs. I wrote the lyrics and T.O. put music to them and sang them for the recording machine. I have since lost the songs. The only one I can remember was one called “Fault Line” which used the earthquake metaphor in a love affair between a man and a woman.
Tommy’s emblem is the American Eagle and he has several statues, paintings and other items in his home. He also wears an Eagle’s head on his shirt or jacket when he performs.
He is working on a memoir for which I gave him the title: “The Road Less Taken” from a Robert Frost poem. He recounts his first meetings with Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Marlene Dietrich and other celebrities.
Tommy calls me “brother.” And, I do the same, for he is as close as a brother. He’s a singer for the ages and I am blessed to have him as a friend. For a friend is one of the great treasures in life.