Country music lost one of its “gentle giants” this week when Jim Foglesong passed away at the age of 90.
Most of you probably never heard of him. He wasn’t a country star. He didn’t sing or appear on television or go on concert tours. But behind the scenes of our business, he was as big a star as they come. And as fine a human being as I have ever been privileged to know.
He and I, however, weren’t always on the same page. He was a gigantic Cincinnati Reds baseball fan, and while the Reds have always been high on my list of favorites, my hometown Atlanta Braves are at the top. Ironically, this weekend the two are playing each other in Atlanta.
Jim and I were also competitors of the highest order on the softball fields of Nashville. When he was heading up the office of Dot Records, his label formed a team to compete in what was then the Fan Fair Softball Tournament. I had a team called the “Po’ Boys,” and to say that Dot Records was our bitterest rival would be a vast understatement.
After a few years of slugging it out at Fan Fair….I think they won the tourney once and we won it once….somebody decided we needed to take our little war to the next level. So we each entered our teams in one of the city softball leagues. And, along with a team sponsored and captained by Canadian singer/songwriter, Ray Griff, we left a lot of pride, skinned knees, and deflated egos on the ball fields of Music City.
Jim was at least fifteen years older than the other players that he played with and played against, but you’d have never known it. He took to the pitching rubber every single night, and there weren’t many of us who could connect solidly with his high, arching delivery. He made me look like a fool in the batter’s box on more than one occasion.
And he could hit, run, and field as well. As he was in the recording studio, he was a competitor of the highest order on the ball field. But in both arenas, he always competed with class.
I won’t bore you with a lot of details that you can find by looking him up on the internet (and I hope you will), but I will say that Jim Foglesong discovered some of the biggest artists of our time and produced some of our format’s best-selling hit recordings. Ever heard of a guy named Garth Brooks? You might not have had it not been for Jim.
It is also to Jim’s eternal credit that he never denied once producing a couple of single records for a guy named Bill Anderson. He brought me a hit song called “Mr. Peepers,” and oversaw my final sessions for MCA Records in the early 80’s at the end of my 23-year run with that label. I only wish we’d have had longer to work together.
In his later years, Jim continued to spread the country music gospel through his teaching at various schools and colleges around town, including at Vanderbilt University. He once told me that one of his star students was a lanky left-handed kid from nearby Murfreesboro named David Price. If you’re not a baseball fan and don’t recognize that name, look under American League Cy Young Award Winner 2012. You’ll see him wearing the uniform of the Tampa Bay Rays.
My deepest sympathy and condolences go out to Jim’s incredible wife, Toni, and to the rest of his family. Nashville has lost a good one.
I’m just glad I got to know him.