The Internet and social media — at least among those with Indiana roots — was alight with the news last weekend of the passing of a pioneering Hoosier television icon who happened to be a Culver Military Academy graduate.
“Cowboy” Bob Glaze ’60 entertained generations of children in central Indiana via his “Cowboy Bob’s Corral” television show (WTTV, Channel 4). He died Sept. 16 at age 73.
The Rev. Dr. John Wm. Houghton `71, detailed Glaze’s Culver and post-Culver career In his It’s Still the Lake Water column in the Sept. 9, 2009 Culver Citizen newspaper, noting that the Glaze family first moved to Culver from Oklahoma in 1955, and Bob, at age 13, delighted in his proximity to the waters of Lake Maxinkuckee.
Glaze’s musical and theatrical bent came naturally. His uncle, Claude Zetty, was CMA choir director from 1951-61. In fact, the family moved to Culver when Bob’s mother (sister to Zetty’s wife), Helen Glaze – widely known as “Herbie” – took a secretarial position in the Academy Business Office. “Herbie” Glaze was active in Culver’s theater program, as was Bob’s sister, Tommye Lou.
Tommye Lou Glaze gained her own widespread notoriety as the 1960 Miss Indiana and fourth runner-up in that year’s “Miss America” pageant (The Citizen at the time paid homage to Tommye Lou’s “God-given beauty, magnificent mezzo soprano voice, erudite mind, and radiant personality”). She won the Miss Indiana competition as Miss Plymouth.
Bob Glaze participated in choir and played the trombone in the band, along with roles in CMA theater performances. He attended Indiana University after graduating from Culver.
In the summer of 1961, he had the lead role in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “Flower Drum Song,” the last production at the storied Maxinkuckee Playhouse. He worked as a Woodcraft Camp Counselor and sang at Honor Assemblies throughout the Woodcraft Camp’s 50th anniversary year in 1962.
FROM CULVER TO THE COWBOY TRAIL
Glaze’s higher-profile entertainment career began with his singing. As Houghton noted, “In the summer of ’62, the 45 (RPM record) of Bobby Glaze singing Moon River (with Plaisir d’Amour on the flip side) could be heard in the (Culver) Shack jukebox,” among others far and wide, and the success of that record led to Glaze’s regular live performances on Chicago’s WBBM radio weekday mornings.
On weekends, he sang on that station as a warm-up act with performers like the Chad Mitchell Trio (narrowly edged out for a place in the trio itself by John Denver) and Connie Stevens.
Glaze made his first appearance on WTTV television as a guest on Jack Noel’s Happy Valley Show in 1963, while still a college student. After moving to Indianapolis, he next appeared sporadically on the children’s program, Popeye’s Diner, hosted by Mary Ellen Reed (whose boyfriend Glaze played on the show).
By 1969, Glaze developed the cowboy persona for which he would become best known, first appearing in January, 1970 as “Cowboy Bob” on the Chuckwagon Theater TV show, which later took on the title, Cowboy Bob’s Corral.
Glaze’s program featured a host of iconic regular characters, from Sourdough the singing biscuit to Happy the Helping Hand, Tumbleweed the dog to horses Windjammer and Skye. The center of the show, of course, was guitar-playing “Cowboy” Bob, who focused particularly on educating children about safety (especially fire-related) and animals, between introductions to various syndicated cartoons.
(In his column, Houghton noted that his own childhood icons were centered more in the Chicago TV market, which included the Ray Rayner and his Friends show. “In one of those coincidences that Culver seems to attract,” wrote Houghton, “I discovered that Mr. Rayner was a prisoner of war in Stalag Luft III at the same time as Col. Delmar T. Spivey, who would later, as a Major General, be Superintendent of CMA.” Houghton’s full article on Glaze can be found on page 4 of this publication.)
‘COWBOY BOB’ TO THE END
When new owners took over WTTV in 1989 and locally-produced programming came to an end, Cowboy Bob’s Corral took its final bows after two decades with Glaze in the saddle.
Along the way, in 1976, Glaze wed his wife Gail. The couple shared their wooded Morgan County home with an assortment of pets, which Gail described in The Indianapolis Star as being among Bob Glaze’s greatest joys (among other charity work, he raised funds for the Morgan County Humane Society).
Glaze continued through the post-“Cowboy Bob” years to make frequent personal appearances related to the character, most recently performing at the 2016 Indiana State Fair.
“Most of the ‘kids’ that come to my appearances are 40 something now,” Glaze told the Greencastle (Ind.) Banner-Graphic in 2014. “They’ll say, ‘We grew up with this guy,’ and I respond, ‘That’s good because I never grew up.'”
CULVER OARS BACK IN THE WATER
Interestingly, Bob Glaze’s Culver connections had something of a renaissance within the past two decades.
Glaze had enjoyed his years rowing with the Culver crew team, pursuing a number of aquatic activities in his adult life but missing his crew years.
He told the Senior Life newspaper in 2012 that rowing “teaches you how to synchronize your movements with those of your teammates” and is “the kind of sport that allows you to develop both physically and emotionally.”
In 1996, fellow Culver alum Bob Evans `55 ran into Glaze using an indoor rowing machine at the YMCA in Martinsville, Ind., and asked if Glaze was interested in forming a Culver alum-based rowing crew, something Glaze described as “a dream come true.”
Along with fellow alum Don Nixon `60 and Glaze’s wife Gail, they solicited involvement from other area alums and began practicing in Indianapolis, where they regularly rowed on Eagle Creek Reservoir (Glaze documented several years’ worth of the Culver Club of Indy Rowing Team on his Cowboy Bob website.
A tribute event dedicated to Glaze is slated for Nov. 1 at McCormick’s Creek State Park in Spencer, Ind., according to the official Cowboy Bob’s Corral website, which features photos, video, stories, and memorabilia related to Glaze and his character (there is also a Cowboy Bob Facebook page).