LifeNotes: Country Producer Brien Fisher Dies At 82

Brien Fisher

Brien Fisher

Country record producer Brien Fisher has died at age 82.

Among his best-known productions is “Heaven’s Just a Sin Away” by The Kendalls. It was named the CMA Single of the Year in 1978 and earned the father-daughter duo a Grammy Award.

The producer was born Frank O’Brien Fisher in 1933 in Kyles Ford, Tennessee. He was a Marine Corps veteran who served in Southeast Asia. Fisher was awarded a National Defense Service medal, a Korea Service medal, a China Service medal and the United Nations Medal. He received Sharpshooter Sniper status.

He was also a guitarist and a singer. After his discharge, Brien Fisher gained record label and producing experience in Ohio and Illinois, before heading to Music City.

In 1976, he was made the head of the country division of the Illinois-based independent label Ovation Records. The Kendalls’ debut LP for the company came out in 1977.

A disc jockey in Paducah, Kentucky, began playing “Heaven’s Just a Sin Away” as an album track and called to say he was getting tremendous audience response to it. Fisher put it out as a single, and Ovation record promoter Joe Sun turned it into a chart-topping hit.

In 1978, Fisher produced promo man Sun singing “Old Flames Can’t Hold a Candle to You.” It also became a hit on Ovation. Further Fisher productions for The Kendalls in 1978-80 included “It Don’t Feel Like Sinnin’ to Me,” “Pittsburgh Stealers,” “Sweet Desire,” “You’d Make an Angel Want to Cheat,” “I’m Already Blue” and “Put It Off Until Tomorrow.”

Vern Gosdin signed with Ovation in 1981. Fisher produced such Gosdin hits as “Dream of Me” and “Too Long Gone” for the company. Other Ovation artists produced by Fisher included Max D. Barnes (“Cowboys Are Common as Sin”), The Cates (“Make Love to Me”), Jim Rushing (“I’ve Loved Enough to Know”) and Sheila Andrews (“Too Fast for Rapid City”).

Fisher continued to produce both Gosdin and The Kendalls after they left Ovation for other labels. Among the records were Gosdin’s “Today My World Slipped Away” and The Kendalls’ “Two Heart Harmony.”

He formed Brien Fisher Productions in Hendersonville in 1983. Later artists produced by him included DeAnna Cox, Glen Bonham, Ben Wasson and Jeannie Kendall as a solo artist.

In 1998, he produced the album Old Dogs, starring Waylon Jennings, Bobby Bare, Mel Tillis and Jerry Reed singing songs written by Shel Silverstein. The good-natured collection was well received by both fans and critics.

During his career, Fisher produced more than 20 Top 10 hit records. His productions resulted in some five million in sales. His works appeared on A.M.I.,Warner Bros., Mercury, Atlantic, Rustic and several other labels, in addition to Ovation.

In addition to record production, Fisher worked as the European TV music director for Johnny Cash, Hank Williams Jr., Ray Stevens, Emmylou Harris, B.J. Thomas, Jeannie C. Riley and Larry Gatlin.

The producer’s death was reported by The R.O.P.E. Reporter last week. Brien Fisher passed away on March 11, and his memorial service took place on March 19. Burial was in Nashville’s National Cemetery.

He is survived by his sons Kevin, Rufus and Dwayne Fisher, by brother Jack Fisher and by six grandchildren.

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About the Author

Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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