OPEN YOUR EARS AND LISTEN (Fred Foster, R.I.P.)

Country Music Hall of Famer Fred Foster had a long and varied career as a producer, talent scout, and label owner. His main labels, Monument and Sound Stage 7 (a rare Nashville-based soul label), were among the most successful and important of their era, the era when independent labels had more success and importance than ever before or since. His contributions to American music included jump-starting the careers of Jimmy Dean, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson (with whom he co-wrote “Me and Bobby McGee”) while his labels gave a home to the likes of Tony Joe White and Joe Simon.

But his greatest moment came when he head something in Roy Orbison’s voice which had escaped the ears of record men as formidable as Sam Phillips and Chet Atkins. By the time Orbison signed with Foster’s Monument label in Nashville in 1960, he had, as the saying goes, been kicked out of all the best places in town and was scraping by as a contract songwriter for the country publishing giant Acuff-Rose. With Foster (and songwriter Joe Melson) Roy was able to fashion this:

It got just enough attention to allow a little experimenting on the next record, which was only this…

…which set Roy Orbison on the path to being one of the biggest stars of the era and gave him a grip on the souls of the lonely that will last until the day we’re officially outlawed.

Elvis had been offered the demo of “Only the Lonely” and took a pass. When he heard Oribson’s finished product on the radio he immediately ordered boxes of the 45 and began handing them out to anyone who would listen.

That’s how much difference Fred  Foster made. He passed away on Feb. 20, at age 87.

2 thoughts on “OPEN YOUR EARS AND LISTEN (Fred Foster, R.I.P.)

  1. Fred Foster RIP…….Cool bit of Elvis Trivia too! Elvis considered Roy Orbeson’s voice the Best! TCB Johnny!

    • TYVM Clementine….Burt Sugarman told a story about Roy appearing on the Midnight Special in the 70s. Roy was nervous before the show and, to give him some confidence, Sugarman told him that he had just run into Elvis and Elvis told him Roy was his favorite singer…Instead of giving him a boost of confidence it shook Roy up so bad he had to go into another room and “process” the moment. Of course, he gave a great performance….but there’s probably no pressure quite like being told you’re Elvis’s favorite singer!

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