`Mr. Record Man’ to Recall Music Career

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 26, 2005

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – No, the walls at RCA Studio B can’t talk, but Fred Foster can. As a publisher, label chief and producer, Foster directed many recording sessions at the historic studio.

He’s the subject of a program Saturday at the Country Music Hall of Fame, “Mr. Record Man: A Conversation With Fred Foster.”

The program is part of the hall’s celebration of RCA Studio B, where Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Willie Nelson and many other greats cut their hits.

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Foster, 75, owned the independent label Monument Records, whose roster included Orbison, Dolly Parton and Kris Kristofferson.

“It’s a gift, being able to sense something unique in somebody, and that’s what I aimed for, always,” said Foster. “Anybody that dropped a needle on a groove of a Monument record, I wanted them to immediately know, `Oh, that’s Dolly Parton,’ or `That’s Roy Orbison.’ It had to be unique.”

That was the reason Foster pushed Kristofferson _ who sought a career as a songwriter _ to record his own work.

“I asked him to sing me four songs,” Foster said. “By the second one, I thought, `My God, I must be hallucinating. There’s no way anyone can write songs like this.’ After the fourth song, I said, `I’ll agree to this on one condition: You have to make an album for Monument.'”

When Kristofferson pointed out that he sang “like a frog,” Foster said he replied, “Yeah, but a frog that can communicate.”

Foster sold Monument in the 1980s, selling the label’s catalog of country and pop to CBS.

Today, he’s regarded as one of Nashville music’s visionaries.

“I was a fan, of course,” he said. “Being in on the birth of something. … I can’t begin to describe the thrill.”

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A service of the Associated Press(AP)