Fred Foster, a legendary music producer who helped launch the careers of some of country’s most iconic artists, has died.
According to a press release, Foster died on Wednesday night (Feb. 20) after a short illness. His family was by his side. Foster was 87 years old. His exact cause of death has not been disclosed.
Born on July 26, 1931, in Rutherford County, North Carolina, Foster was the youngest of eight children. He founded and ran Monument Records, an independent label with a diverse roster that released classic recordings from Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Roy Orbison, Dolly Parton, Ray Stevens, Jeannie Seely and many more. He also founded Combine Music, an influential music publishing house that published classic hits from Kristofferson, Orbison and more, including Tony Joe White’s “Polk Salad Annie.”
As a producer, Foster had a knack for developing talented new artists who would go on to become legendary. He produced freshman singles for Parton and Jimmy Dean, as well as Kristofferson’s debut album and a string of records that propelled Orbison into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Foster also co-wrote one of Kristofferson’s most enduring hits, “Me and Bobby McGhee.”
In his later years Foster produced Willie Nelson’s Grammy-nominated You Don’t Know Me: The Songs of Cindy Walker in 2006, and he also helmed Last of the Breed, a collaboration between Nelson, Merle Haggard and Ray Price, in 2007, which won a Grammy for Best Country Collaboration for a track titled “Lost Highway.” Foster also directed Price’s final album, 2014’s Beauty Is.
Fred Foster was a recipient of the Leadership Music Dale Franklin award, and he was inducted into the North Carolina Hall of Fame, the Musicians Hall of Fame and the Country Music Hall of Fame.
“I revere Fred Foster, the legend who brought us the gritty genius of Kris Kristofferson, the enduring hits of Roy Orbison and the abiding talent of Dolly Parton,” Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum CEO Kyle Young says in a statement. “But today, I’m also mourning Fred Foster, the legend who brought me laughter, goodwill and fried pies. ‘Foster’ was the only fitting surname for this man, who fostered artistry, individuality and broad-minded decency.”
Foster was preceded in death by his parents, Vance Hampton and Clara Marcella (Weaste) Foster, and siblings Albert Glen, Estelle, Charles Vance, Ray, Pauline, Ethel Lou, and Ann. He is survived by his son Vance Foster and daughters Micki Foster (Greg) Koenig, Leah Foster (Dillon) Alderman, Brit Foster (Judd) Rothstein and Kristen Foster and grandchildren Rachel DiGregorio, Rhys and Tess Rothstein and Penelope Kirschner, as well as many nieces and nephews.
A memorial service is being planned for March, and details are to be announced.
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