NASHVILLE – Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member Jerry Foster will take a seat at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on Saturday, Sept. 10, as the latest subject of the quarterly series Poets and Prophets: Legendary Country Songwriters.
The 1:30 p.m. in-depth interview and performance, held in the Museum's Ford Theater, is included with Museum admission and free to Museum members. The program will be streamed live at www.countrymusichalloffame.org.
The 90-minute program, hosted by Museum Editor Michael Gray, will include recordings, photos and film clips from the Museum's Frist Library and Archive. Immediately following, Foster will sign autographs in the Museum Store. (Visit the Museum’s website for signing details.)
As one-half of the acclaimed songwriting duo Jerry Foster and Bill Rice, Foster wrote songs for some of country music’s biggest stars of the 1960s and ’70s, including Mickey Gilley (“Here Comes the Hurt Again”), Jerry Lee Lewis (“Would You Take Another Chance on Me”), Johnny Paycheck (“Someone to Give My Love To”), Charley Pride (“The Day the World Stood Still”) and Conway Twitty (“Ain’t She Something Else”). The duo is one of the most honored songwriting teams in history.
Jerry Gaylon Foster was born on November 19, 1935, in Tallapoosa, Mo. His sharecropper father bought Foster a guitar and taught him to play when he was five years old. An enterprising youth, Jerry made extra money in school by selling original poems to upperclassmen. While a marine, he began putting melodies to his poetry and formed a band, which led to a recording contract in 1957 with the Backbeat label in Houston. After a stint hosting a TV series on WSAV in Savannah, Ga., Foster moved back to Missouri and hosted a similar show on KFVS-TV in Cape Girardeau.
Foster met Bill Rice while playing the Missouri honky-tonk circuit. Rice joined Foster at KFVS as the leader of the staff band, and the duo began sharing song ideas. At the insistence of guitarist Roland Janes, the men went to Memphis and recorded demos of their songs. The recordings found their way to Jack Clement and Bill Hall at Jack and Bill Music in Beaumont, Texas. Hall encouraged Foster and Rice to move to Nashville, where the men worked as DJs and took odd jobs while they pitched their songs.
Foster and Rice’s first success was Charley Pride’s 1968 Top Five hit “The Day the World Stood Still.” The follow-up was another Pride cut: The No. 3 “The Easy Part’s Over” earned the songwriters a BMI award. Foster and Rice found loyalty in the artists who recorded their songs. Pride would go on to record a total of 19 Foster and Rice tunes. Narvel Felts, Lewis, Paycheck and Nat Stuckey are also among those who had multiple hits with Foster and Rice songs.
When composing songs, Foster typically provided the lyrics; Rice supplied the music and arrangements. The formula worked. After setting a record for the most ASCAP songwriting awards in one year with five in 1971, the men doubled their own record the next year with 10 awards—presented to them in a golden wheelbarrow.
In 1973, Foster made his chart debut as a recording artist for Cinnamon Records with “Copperhead.” Another release, Foster’s version of Nat King Cole’s “Looking Back,” was a minor chart hit.
Meanwhile, Foster’s songwriting success continued. With the help of songs like “My Part of Forever” (Paycheck) and “I’ll Think of Something” (Hank Williams Jr.), Foster and Rice in 1974 again broke their own ASCAP record, taking home 11 songwriting awards and four production awards for their production company Farah (Foster And Rice And Hall).
Chart success for Foster and Rice continued into the 1980s with hits such as Jerry Lee Lewis’s “Thirty Nine and Holding.” The duo earned a Grammy nomination in 1981 for Gilley’s “Here Comes the Hurt Again,” which was featured in the blockbuster film Urban Cowboy.
In 1992, Mark Chesnutt went to No. 1 with a remake of “I’ll Think of Something.” During their 19-year run, the duo wrote more than 2,000 songs together. They received dozens of ASCAP awards and were nominated for multiple Grammys. They also hold the distinction of having 10 songs on the Billboard country music chart in the same week. The two were named Composers of the Year by Cashbox Magazine in 1979 and were inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1994.
Foster found success in the mid-90s with other co-writers. Randy Travis charted “An Old Pair of Shoes,” co-written with Art Masters and Johnny Morris, in 1993; “It Wouldn’t Hurt to Have Wings,” co-written with Roger Lavoie and Morris, cracked the Top 10 for Chesnutt in 1995.
In recent years, Foster has occasionally put down his pen and stepped in front of a camera, appearing in movies including Hannah Montana: The Movie and music videos for artists like Trace Adkins, Diamond Rio, Emerson Drive, Carrie Underwood and Gretchen Wilson.
Foster continues to write, record and perform new material.
The Poets and Prophets series honors songwriters who have made significant contributions to country music history. Previous Poets and Prophets honorees include Bill Anderson, Matraca Berg, Bobby Braddock, Jerry Chesnut, Hank Cochran, Dean Dillon, Dallas Frazier, Red Lane, John D. Loudermilk, Bob McDill, Roger Murrah, Dan Penn, Curly Putman, Don Schlitz, Whitey Shafer, Jeffrey Steele, Norro Wilson and Craig Wiseman.
The Poets and Prophets series is made possible, in part, by grants from the Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission and by an agreement between the Tennessee Arts Commission and National Endowment for the Arts.
Accredited by the American Association of Museums, the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum is operated by the Country Music Foundation, a nonprofit educational organization chartered by the state of Tennessee in 1964. The Museum's mission is the preservation of the history of country and related vernacular music rooted in southern culture. With the same educational mission, the Foundation also operates CMF Records, the Museum's Frist Library and Archive, CMF Press, Historic RCA Studio B, and Hatch Show Print®.
More information about the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum is available at www.countrymusichalloffame.org or by calling (615) 416-2001.