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Jim Foglesong (1922-2013)
Born in West Virginia, Foglesong was a Country Music Hall of Fame inductee and a former Chairman of the CMA Board of Directors, and is widely remembered for his longtime body of executive work, which includes heading up some of the largest labels in Nashville and working with some of the most popular and grandest acts in Country Music history.
He went on to serve as President of Nashville labels including MCA, ABC/Dot and Capitol Records. His credits include working with some of Country’s top stars, including Donna Fargo, Freddy Fender, Roy Clark, Don Williams, Barbara Mandrell, Reba McEntire, the Oak Ridge Boys and many more. He signed both George Strait and Garth Brooks.
“The CMA and I, personally are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Mr. Foglesong,” said Ed Hardy, President of the CMA Board of Directors.
“He was not only a highly respected and loved record label executive and producer, a former Chair of the CMA Board of Directors, and a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, but he was also one of the kindest gentlemen I have had the honor of knowing in the music industry.
“I have served with him on the board of W.O. Smith Music School and he was among the founding members of that board with a passion for introducing music to young students who couldn’t otherwise afford lessons. He will be missed and our thoughts and prayers are with his family”
Those who worked closely with Foglesong recall his friendly, soft-spoken and gentle demeanor and an innate ability to work with and encourage young, up-and-coming music industry professionals and artists.
“Jim was a grand gentleman with a marvelously generous spirit,” said Blair School of Music Dean Mark Wait, of Vanderbilt University, where Foglesong taught “The Business of Music” from 1991-2012. Foglesong’s three-hour class was one of the school’s most popular course offerings. He also directed the music business program at Nashville’s Trevecca Nazarene University.
“He had a great ear for music of every kind, and he gave freely of his expertise to countless students and young professionals,” Wait said. “I was privileged to know him and to learn from him.”
The son of a coal miner, he entertained at USO shows during World War II and studied voice and music theory at the prestigious Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y. He performed in Arturo Toscanini’s New York Philharmonic and Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians, and on disc as a backup singer to Rosemary Clooney, Dion & the Belmonts and other hitmakers.
Foglesong went to work for Columbia Records in 1951, and later helped launch Columbia’s Epic imprint before switching to RCA in 1964. His production credits included Julie Andrews, Doris Day, Robert Goulet and Bobby Vinton, but as the ‘60s continued, he picked up more work in Country.
Foglesong moved to Nashville in 1970 to head Dot Records. He served from 1984 to 1989 as President of Capitol Records Nashville, where he played a pivotal role in launching Garth Brooks, Reba, George Strait and Tanya Tucker. Artists nurtured and produced by Foglesong included Roy Clark, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Barbara Mandrell, Tommy Overstreet and Hank Thompson, among many others.
Interviewed by CMA Close Up in Feb. 2012 after being selected CMA Member of the Month, Foglesong clarified that he derived a special satisfaction from those who had yet to achieve fame and yet appreciated his guidance.
“I think I was at Amerigo’s (restaurant in Nashville) with a party of four,” he said. “One of the waiters said, ‘Professor Foglesong! I just want to tell you I’ve been writing and demoing – and I got my first hold!’ All I need is to hear something like that. … I love watching young people grow.”
CMA Close Up Editor Bob Doerschuk contributed to this article.