Best-known for authoring the children's classic "On Top of Spaghetti," folksinger and songwriter Tom Glazer was born in Philadelphia on September 2, 1914. After the death of his carpenter father four years later, he and his siblings were raised by their mother and assorted relatives, sometimes living in an orphanage. At school, Glazer studied a variety of musical traditions and instruments (among them guitar, bass, and tuba) before relocating at 17 to New York City, where he worked at Macy's department store while finishing high school at night. After three years at New York City College, he relocated to Washington, D.C., accepting a job at the Library of Congress and befriending the legendary musicologist Alan Lomax. Upon learning a handful of folk songs from Lomax, Glazer soon began a performing career, even appearing at a small White House function organized by Eleanor Roosevelt before making his formal public debut in early 1943 at Manhattan's Town Hall. Two years later, he launched the ABC radio series "Tom Glazer's Ballad Box," which aired through 1947; he also appeared on radio programs including "We the People," "Listening Post," "True Story," and "Theatre Guild on the Air." Glazer used his radio broadcasts not only to expand his audience, but also to disseminate his political beliefs -- songs like "Because All Men Are Brothers," "When the Country Is Broke," "Talking Inflation Blues" (sometimes covered by the young Bob Dylan), and "Citizen C.I.O." plainly articulated the populist leanings at the heart of much of his music.
Although he didn't enjoy the enduring fame and notoriety of some of his contemporaries, Glazer was widely credited alongside Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, Burl Ives, and Josh White as the chief catalysts behind the postwar folk boom; although he first set out to court adult audiences, he quickly began writing and adapting material for children as well, and in 1947 won the Annual Record Music Award for his recordings geared for young audiences. For NBC radio, he also hosted "Tom, Timmie and Mae," a children's program that also featured actress Mae Questrel (the voice of cartoon icon Betty Boop) as well as an imaginary character named Timmie. In 1957, Glazer composed a series of songs and incidental music for the Elia Kazan film A Face in the Crowd; however, his greatest commercial success followed in 1963 with the novelty number "On Top of Spaghetti," a major radio hit sung to the melody of the traditional folk song "On Top of Old Smoky." Although most of Glazer's recordings fell out of print, his music remained represented by a handful of popular songbooks, among them Tom Glazer's Treasury of Songs for Children, The Mother Goose Songbook, and Eye Winker, Tom Tinker, Chin Chopper: A Collection of Musical Finger Plays. He also authored songs covered by the likes of Frank Sinatra ("Melody of Love") and Perry Como ("More"). Glazer died at his home in Philadelphia on February 21, 2003, at the age of 88. ~ Jason Ankeny