Country Music Hall of Fame member Fred Foster, who produced records for Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Roy Orbison and more, has passed away at the age of 87. Foster died on Wednesday, Feb. 20 in Nashville.
Foster, the founder of Monument Records, was born on July 26, 1931 in Rutherford County, North Carolina. At the age of 18, Foster moved to Washington, D.C. to begin a career in the record industry. He got his first job at J&F Distributors, where he worked on Jimmy Dean's 1953 hit "Bumming Around." Foster would go on to work for Mercury Records and ABC-Paramount before launching Monument Records in 1958.
Monument Records released Dolly Parton's very first single, "Dumb Blonde," in 1967. The label also released Kris Kristofferson's "Why Me" in 1973.
"I am heartbroken that my friend Fred Foster has passed on," Parton said in a statement. "Fred was one of the very first people to believe in me and gave me chances no one else would or could. We've stayed friends through the years and I will miss him. I will always love him."
In addition to the many country hits Foster produced, he also produced timeless Roy Orbison hits, such as "Only the Lonely," "Blue Bayou" and "Oh, Pretty Woman."
Foster also worked as a music publisher, founding Combine Music, where Kristofferson wrote "Me and Bobby McGee." Foster even has a writing credit on the song because he came up with the original idea for the tune. (Foster worked with a woman named Bobbie McKee.) Combine Music was also the publisher for Roy Orbison's "Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream" and Tony Joe White's "Polk Salad Annie."
Foster continued producing throughout his life, working with Willie Nelson on the 2006 album You Don't Know Me: The Songs of Cindy Walker and Ray Price on his final album Beauty Is.