(USA TODAY) Jim Foglesong, a Country Music Hall of Famer and groundbreaking music executive who signed Garth Brooks, George Strait, The Oak Ridge Boys and others, died Tuesday in Nashville.
Foglesong was 90 and retired last year from teaching at Vanderbilt University's Blair School of Music.
"It's a changing business, and I've been through so many of those changes," Foglesong told The Tennessean in 2012. "My attitude is that the fundamentals are going to be the same: You make good music, and you sell it to people. You still need to find your core audience and hit them hard, and you've still got to record good songs."
Foglesong got his start in the music industry in 1951, transferring 78 RPM discs to new formats at Columbia Records. He soon joined the Artists & Repertoire team at RCA Victor. In 1970, he moved to Nashville to serve as head of A&R at Dot Records, and was named president of the label in 1973 -- becoming the only president of a major label in Nashville.
When ABC Records bought Dot and formed ABC/Dot Records, Foglesong headed the combined label. There, he signed Don Williams, Barbara Mandrell, The Oak Ridge Boys, John Conlee and others. MCA purchased the ABC labels in 1979, handing Foglesong Hall of Fame talents Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty, and he soon signed Strait, Reba McEntire, Lee Greenwood and more.
Then, in 1985, Foglesong took over as chief at Capitol Records' Nashville division, where he signed Garth Brooks, who had been roundly rejected by every major label in Nashville and went on to become the biggest-selling artist in country music history.
"Country music lost its greatest diplomat for kindness, tolerance, faith, and sincerity," says Brooks. "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."
Mandrell says she and her family are "deeply saddened" by Foglesong's passing and explains that their two families "shared many wonderful times together as dear friends for so many years."
"He was such an important influence on my career as my record company president for most of the years I spent recording," she says. "He was a loving and caring friend who provided thoughtful wisdom and guidance."
The Oak Ridge Boys' Duane Allen says he recently spent several hours with Foglesong in his hospital room and explained that The Oak Ridge Boys owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude.
"He's the first person that ever gave The Oak Ridge Boys a chance in country music," Allen says. "Every other record executive in Nashville that we went to said, 'We already have a group in country music.' Jim Foglesong was the first person who said, 'We have room for The Oak Ridge Boys.'"
Allen says they became great friends and eventually traveled the world together. When asked to describe Foglesong, Allen says: "I have always called Jim Foglesong the gentle man of country music, and I separate gentle and man, it's two words.
"He was the man. No other man even compares."