NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Jim Foglesong, a record label executive and music producer who helped launch Garth Brooks' career and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, died Tuesday. He was 90.
Kristin Whittlesey, a spokeswoman at Vanderbilt University's Blair School of Music, where Foglesong had been a faculty member since 1991, said the native of the West Virginia's Southern coalfields died Tuesday morning. A statement from his family released through the Country Music Hall of Fame said Foglesong died at a Nashville hospital after a brief illness.
Foglesong was born in Logan County, W.Va., and grew up in South Charleston. In a 2004 interview with The Charleston Gazette, he said his family was musically inclined for as long as he could remember.
"When we traveled to Logan or Fayette County to visit relatives, we'd start singing from the time we got in the car until we got there, always in harmony," he said. "It was great training."
Despite his love of music, he considered a career as a baseball player, he told the Gazette, but a scholarship to Morris Harvey College (now the University of Charleston) kept him in West Virginia, and he turned down a contract offer from the Cleveland Indians.
"I knew in my heart I wasn't good enough for the Major Leagues," he said, "and I knew it would kill my parents if I went off. They all had me ticketed for a career in music."
Foglesong began his career in New York as a session singer, producer and record executive and moved to Nashville in 1970 after helping Columbia Records launch subsidiary label Epic.
He began as the head of independent label Dot Records in Nashville and, after a series of mergers, took over as president of Capitol Records' Nashville division from 1984-89, where he helped launch the career of Brooks, country music's best-selling artist.
"Today, the music industry lost its greatest diplomat for kindness, tolerance, faith and sincerity," Brooks said in an emailed 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."
Brooks wasn't the only musician whose career was touched by Foglesong before he turned to academics later in life. Late in his career, he oversaw label rosters that included Brooks, George Strait, Reba McEntire, Barbara Mandrell, Don Williams, Roy Clark, Loretta Lynn, Merle Haggard and Conway Twitty.
All have joined him as members of the Country Music Hall of Fame. He was inducted in 2004.
As president of Dot, ABC, Capitol Records and MCA, Foglesong signed such artists as Donna Fargo, the Oak Ridge Boys, Con Hunley, Tanya Tucker, Sawyer Brown, Suzy Bogguss and Kevin Morris.
"He was such an important influence on my career as my record company president for most of the years I spent recording," Mandrell said in an email statement. "He was a loving and caring friend who provided thoughtful wisdom and guidance."
After retiring from the business, Foglesong taught at Trevecca Nazarene University and Vanderbilt, where one of his students was future country music star Dierks Bentley.