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Jim Foglesong, famed country music exec, dead at 90

By Todd Leopold, CNN
updated 9:57 AM EDT, Wed July 10, 2013
Music executive Jim Foglesong helped launch many careers and later taught at Vanderbilt University's Blair School of Music.
Music executive Jim Foglesong helped launch many careers and later taught at Vanderbilt University's Blair School of Music.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jim Foglesong was executive who helped guide careers of Garth Brooks, others
  • Foglesong was Nashville legend, heading record labels, producing artists
  • Executive was also popular professor at Vanderbilt for many years

(CNN) -- Jim Foglesong, a famed Nashville music executive and producer who played a key role in launching the careers of such notables as Garth Brooks, George Strait and Suzy Bogguss, has died. He was 90.

His death on Tuesday morning was confirmed by a statement from Vanderbilt University's Blair School of Music, where Foglesong taught for more than 20 years.

"Jim was a grand gentleman with a marvelously generous spirit," said Mark Wait, dean of the school. "He had a great ear for music of every kind, and he gave freely of his expertise to countless students and young professionals."

Foglesong's career spanned more than a half-century and included stints as a performer, producer, record company president and industry eminence.

"Jim was one of the first people I met when I came to Nashville," recalled George Strait in a statement to CNN. "I would wish that for every newcomer. His kind and gentle demeanor is rare today. He signed me to my first record deal, and his support and friendship was something I treasured. We will all miss you, old friend."

The onetime vocalist -- who "worked in a bank and sang in a Baptist church and a Jewish temple to pay for rent, food, and voice lessons," according to his biography on the Country Music Hall of Fame's website -- eventually worked under Arturo Toscanini, produced recordings by Julie Andrews, oversaw a variety of labels and helped make hits of songs by Barbara Mandrell, Freddy Fender, the Oak Ridge Boys, Merle Haggard and Reba McEntire.

He was one of the people who helped launch Epic Records in the 1950s, then and now one of Columbia's primary labels.

After stints at Epic, RCA, Dot and MCA, Foglesong joined Capitol Records' Nashville division. It was there he helped guide Brooks, who released his first album in 1989 and became country music's best-selling artist of all time.

"Today, the music industry lost its greatest diplomat for kindness, tolerance, faith, and sincerity," said Brooks in an e-mailed statement. "But do not weep for Jim, 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."

After leaving Capitol, Foglesong became an educator. A statement from the Blair School notes that his "Business of Music" course, a weekly three-hour seminar, was one of the school's most popular offerings.

He also oversaw the music business program at Nashville's Trevecca Nazarene University.

Foglesong chaired the boards of directors of the Country Music Association and the Country Music Foundation, and was active in a variety of other local organizations.

He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2004.

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