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Country Music Hall of Famer Jim Foglesong Dead at 90

Jim Foglesong
Beth Gwinn, Getty Images

Reba McEntire, George Strait, Garth Brooks, the Oak Ridge Boys … these four acts and many, many more found their big break when they met Jim Foglesong. The longtime music executive and record label head died on Tuesday (July 9) at the age of 90.

Foglesong began working for Columbia Records in 1951 after a lifetime spent singing. The Charleston, W.V. man served in the Army during World War II and graduated from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y. before his 40-year career in the music business began. His last job was teaching the music industry to students at Vanderbilt University. The Tennessean profiled Foglesong before his retirement in April 2012.

Roy Clark and Donna Fargo were among the first artists he worked with after becoming the head of Dot Records in the early ’70s. This followed a lengthy career in A&R. Foglesong’s taste in music would continue to be a spot-on match to the interests of the country music-loving public. Don Williams, Barbara Mandrell and the Oak Ridge Boys all signed while he was at Dot.

Later, the label would be sold to MCA, but Foglesong continued to preside over a roster that — with his urging — included Strait, McEntire and Lee Greenwood.

In 1985 he took a chance on an artist every major label had turned down. By the time he left Capitol Records in 1989, Garth Brooks had proved him right. Sawyer Brown and Tanya Tucker were other artists he signed at Capitol.

In addition to being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Foglesong earned the Nashville Entertainment Association’s Master Award, presented to those who bring international acclaim to Nashville. He was the chairman of the board at the Country Music Association and Country Music Foundation at different times in his life and an adjunct professor at Vanderbilt since 1991. Perhaps most notable is that the dedicated team player was known as a gentleman in the music industry.

Details about Foglesong’s cause of death have not been made available. He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Toni, four children and 16 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“The music industry lost its greatest diplomat for kindness, tolerance, faith and sincerity,” Garth Brooks said upon learning the news. Adds the singer profoundly, “I have never met a man with a stronger faith; anyone who knew Jim knows where he is now. Instead, weep for those of us who are left here without him … truly, a great, great man.”

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