Forgotten Artists: Tommy Overstreet

Paul W. Dennis | June 24th, 2009

fa_tommy-overstreet

During the early 1970s the airwaves of country radio electrified listeners with the sound of “Gwen (Congratulations)” and “I Don’t Know You Anymore,” records that did not sound like anything else playing on radio at the time.

Tommy Overstreet was born September 10, 1937, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, but raised in Houston and Abilene, Texas. While growing up, he was always around music and was hugely influenced by a relative of his, Gene Austin, who was a major pop star during the 1920s, with one of his hits, “My Blue Heaven,” selling over 5 million copies. Austin, sometimes reported as being Overstreet’s uncle but was actually his third cousin, encouraged him in his musical endeavors.

During his teen years, he began performing pop music on radio stations in the Houston, TX area and appeared in a musical titled Hit the Road. While studying broadcasting at the University of Texas, he began playing in local clubs under the name Tommy Dean and toured frequently with Austin.

After time in the US Army, Overstreet moved to Los Angeles in the early ’60s to begin his songwriting (he has written over 500 songs) and recording career. He then returned to Texas and began appearing on the Abilene TV program The Slim Willet Show and formed his own group to play club dates and venues throughout western Texas.

His big break came in 1967 when he was hired to manage Dot Records in Nashville, TN. His connections at Dot enabled him to pursue his recording career. His first two Dot singles, issued in late 1969 and late 1970, barely made a dent, reaching #73 and #56, but in 1971 the third and fourth singles “Gwen (Congratulations)” and “I Don’t Know You Anymore” exploded on the scene both reaching #1 on Record World’s country charts (and becoming Top 5 records on Billboard and Cashbox). In 1972 Overstreet continued his streak with his biggest record “Ann (Don’t Go Runnin’)” (#2 Billboard/#1 Cashbox), “A Seed Before The Rose” only reached #16, then back into the Top 10 with 7 consecutive Top 10 singles, topped by “Heaven Is My Woman’s Love” (#3 Billboard/#1 Cashbox). Tommy’s last Top 10 occurred in 1977 when “Don’t Go City Girl on Me” reached #5; however, he continued to chart records until 1986.

Other Top 20 Records

  • “Send Me No Roses” (#7 in 1973)
  • “I’ll Never Break These Chains” (#7 in 1973)
  • “(Jeannie Marie) You Were a Lady” (#7 in 1974)
  • “If I Miss You Again Tonight” (#8 in 1974)
  • “I’m a Believer” (#9 in 1975)
  • “That’s When My Woman Begins” (#6 in 1976)
  • “If Love was a Bottle of Wine” (#11 in 1976)
  • “Yes, Ma’am” (#12 in 1978)
  • “Fadin’ In, Fadin’ Out” (#11 in 1978)

Overstreet remains active as a concert performer and is still an occasional recording artist, including recording gospel music. His popularity in Europe continued long past his American success and he toured Europe many times over the years.

Discography

Vinyl
There were 12 Tommy Overstreet Albums issued by Dot/ABC and three on the Elektra label. All of these albums find Tommy in good voice; however, the albums seem to become less country as time progresses. I consider the Dot albums issued through 1975 as being substantially better than those that came later. After his runs with Dot and Elektra, Overstreet landed on minor labels where he either remade his earlier hits, or dipped back into the days of vaudeville for material such as his 1984 album Memories Old and New (Deja Vu DJV-137 1984).

CD
Like many country artists of the 1970s, Tommy Overstreet is poorly represented on CD. In 1998 Varese issued The Best of Tommy Overstreet, which collects Tomnmy’s 16 biggest hits, in their original versions. Unfortunately, this CD has gone out of print and has been replaced with another, and inferior Varese CD Twenty Classic Hits, issued in 2008 and consisting of remakes.

The Ernest Tubb Record Shop has two other CDs available of Tommy’s secular material and a three CD set of religious songs. I do not know the sources of any of these discs–they may well be remakes.

  1. Hubba
    June 24, 2009 at 10:01 am

    I love these articles, but you were perhaps a little remiss in not telling us whether or not Tommy was related to Paul Overstreet. (‘Cause those of us who don’t know are all wondering.
    And unlike the other forgotten artists who have been profiled, I don’t believe I’ve ever heard a Tommy Overstreet song.

  2. Paul W Dennis
    June 24, 2009 at 10:16 am

    No kin to Paul Overstreet, at least neither of them has claimed kinship

  3. peppersprout
    June 24, 2009 at 10:26 am

    If T.O. is related to Paul, it’s very distant … he’s not part of the South Mississippi bunch!

  4. Hubba
    June 25, 2009 at 12:31 am

    Thanks Paul.
    Is it just me or does he look just like Kenny Rogers used to look?

  5. Jammin' Jamey
    June 29, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    Tommy Overstreet “Smoky Mountain Lullabye” is a treasure and regional classic.

  6. linda
    July 9, 2009 at 10:31 am

    tommy overstreet was one of the best in the 70′s. he had some really great songs. we stll enjoy his songs. tommys songs was played on the radiio alot. those that havent had the opprtunity to hear him or the other great artist of the seventies would see what they missed. his songs are timeless. he is still one of the country music treasures. i thank my parents for playing the radio and for playing the seventies country music. tommy was and is still the best.

  7. Bob McCance
    August 28, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    Just watched a live performance by 73 yr old Tommy Overstreet last night. He stated that Paul Overstreed IS his brother. His voice isn’t what it used to be but his songs are still timeless. Injoyed his performance.

  8. Tommy Overstreet
    January 3, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    The comment by Mr. Bob McCance listed here on August 28, 2010 said I told the audience Paul Overstreet is my brother. He must have misunderstood what I said. Paul and I visited and it was his, his family and my family’s statement – if your name is Overstreet, you’re bound to be related. Paul grew up in Mississippi and I grew up in Oklahoma and Texas. We’re not closely related…could be distantly related. I respect his talent very much. I appreciate those who have taken the time to make comments…good or not so good! Thank you one and all.

  9. Tommy Overstreet
    January 3, 2011 at 6:59 pm

    By the way…I’m really not “Forgotten”…I still record, do concerts and I’m very active. Thank God for good health. HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone.

  10. Barry Mazor
    January 3, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    It’s good to see Tommy recognized here –and showing up here, too.

    We spent some time together when I was working on a large article on his cousin/mentor, the crooner Gene Austin, for No Depression (it’s archived on their site). He was very helpful, and s a swell, unique guy, as well as a talent.

  11. Stan Knowles
    January 11, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    Tommy…

    My name is Stan Knowles and I used to be the Producer
    and one of the one-the-air interviewers for the
    Country Crossroads radio show which co-starred
    Jerry Clower and Bill Mack. It was syndicated world-
    wide on approx. 1500 radio stations every week.

    It was my pleasure to interview you for Country
    Crossroads and play your music on the show….

    I am retired now…but have always sung country music
    and played guitar, bass, steel, etc….and now I still sing…but I play pedal steel a lot.

    Tommy…you have always been and always will be…
    one of my very favorite country singers of all time.

    God bless you and your family…and E-mail me some-
    time when you have time!

    Stan…

  12. Chris N.
    January 11, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    I wonder if Paul ever regrets naming this series “Forgotten Artists.” Half of all the comments about it are arguments over whether the artist has really been “forgotten,” and now apparently the artists themselves are going to weigh in on it.

  13. AMS
    February 13, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    hey ya’ll. good article. I work for Paul Overstreets publishing . I had a client call in our publishing and ask that same question a while back, insisting they were related, but I asked Paul Overstreet if there was a relation, and he said no. Paul says he is not related to Tommy, but although he doesn’t know him very well , said he met him a few years back and respects him as a fellow artist.

  14. luckyoldsun
    February 13, 2011 at 11:14 pm

    I’m not really familiar with Tommy Overstreet. Sounds like he had a good voice, but his producer tried to drown it out with every instrument and background noise he could throw into the mix.

  15. Vicki
    March 24, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    Recently bought a cd by Tommy Overstreet at the Ernest Tubb Record Shop in Pigeon Forge,Tn., I really enjoy all of the songs that are on the cd. ,it made me realize how much I have missed listening to his music.

  16. Frans van Zijst
    April 28, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    I still charish the album Tommy Overstreet I’ll never let you down where he wrote on it: To Frans My good friend. 11.18.79. where I had the chance to met Tommy and spoke to him and saw his concert in The Netherlands where I live. Forever in blue jeans Tommy.
    Frans van Zijst

  17. Herbert Langill
    May 27, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    Tommy would not remember me but he would remember the Newton Inn and it’s “Bootlegger Cabaret” in Surrey B.C. some of the best times of my life…thank you Tommy, for all the great memories…

  18. Patti Foster
    August 25, 2011 at 10:03 pm

    I LOVE Your music!! I was raised on country music, and still love it:) I have to say the olies are still the best!! Best wishes to u Tommy, and God Bless:)

  19. Vixen
    September 28, 2011 at 2:31 am

    Funny what led me here– saw a kid named “Chord Overstreet” who is an actor on Glee (which I’ve never seen), and the Overstreet name made me wonder if Chord was related to Tommy Overstreet. Nope, it’s Paul Overstreet who is related (father). I remember when I was 11 or 12 Tommy performed at a huge home improvement show in Kansas City. Stella Parton performed on a different night. Way cool.

    BTW, I miss REAL country music like this. Nowadays it’s more like rock songs with twangy accents. Tommy doesn’t seem to have any trace of a southern or twang. Interesting.

  20. Vixen
    September 28, 2011 at 2:32 am

    I meant it’s Paul Overstreet who is Chord’s father. Didn’t mean to imply any relation between Tommy and Paul!

  21. MrsThud
    February 19, 2012 at 3:59 am

    I saw Tommy perform circa 1972-74 at the NCO/EM Club in Baumholder Germany. Tommy told the crowd that if Conway Twitty had married Kitty Wells, she would have been Kitty Twitty. To this day, that makes me laugh out loud. Thanks for the music, and the laughter.

  22. Marsha Blades
    April 14, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    Tommy, You were so kind to me during a tough time in my life and I don’t think I ever said ‘thank you’, so I am hoping this reaches you! I worked at the Pancake Pantry in the late 60′s. Thank you for just being a friend. Am wishing only the best for you and yours.

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