Guitarist Leroy Glazier of Sauk Rapids, Minn., entertained fans of classic country-western music in the St. Cloud area for 40 years.

Glazier, who had played gigs in the Midwest, the Southwest and Canada, died of pancreatic cancer on July 24 in St. Cloud. He was 66.

The Bathurst, New Brunswick, native jammed with the likes of George Jones, Tommy Cash and Ray Pryce when their tours came to Minnesota.

Before making Minnesota home, he and fellow Canadian Art Essery, who is now a Nashville singer and recording artist, performed together. After being invited to perform in the St. Cloud area around 1970, Glazier and Essery both settled there.

After marrying, Glazier chose family life over life on the road and Nashville, where he could have worked, Essery said.

"His playing was so unique, clean and professional," he said, adding that Glazier fashioned his playing after Chet Atkins.

"On the other hand, he had his own style," Essery said.

In 1974, Glazier settled in the United States for good. His wife, Cindy, is a DJ at WVAL Radio in Sauk Rapids, where Glazier's music could be heard on the air.

With the house band at the Midwest Country Music Theater in Sandstone, his guitar licks were heard around the world via satellite television.

"Leroy was one of the finest musicians we will ever have on the stage," said Kathy Jensen, manager of the Music Theater, where Glazier also served as music director.

'He had a presence'

"He related to the audience, and he had a presence," she said, adding he would greet theater-goers as they arrived.

"He added a lot of warmth to the theater," Jensen said.

Joe Savage of St. Paul, a pedal steel guitarist in the theater's house band, said: "He could do things that I have never seen anybody do, on the guitar. His fingers would just fly."

Glazier was most at home with traditional country-western, but could play jazz with the best of them, Savage said.

"And he was a really sweet guy," he added.

Glazier took the time to help young guitarists, even when he was a young man, playing town to town.

He played with several groups over the years, such as with Kevin Lange and the Mississippi Drifters in Minnesota, Wisconsin and South Dakota. Lange recalled Glazier's kindness when he sought advice on playing as a 16-year-old.

Advice to young players

"He told me to play for the singer, but 'when it's your turn to play, let them know you are there,'" Lange said.

"He was a stylist, a monster player," Lange said. "Beyond that, he was the nicest person you could talk to."

For more than 20 years, Glazier worked as a carpenter. If someone was in need of help, he volunteered, and he played a lot of benefits, said his daughter, Erin Knutson of Becker. "He was one of a kind," she said.

In addition to his wife and daughter Erin, he is survived by another daughter, Tanya Meyer of Lonsdale, and four grandchildren. Services have been held.