LifeNotes: Veteran Music Row Personality Ruth White Passes

Ruth White (Front row, far left), along with her fellow SOURCE Honorees in 2010, Frances W. Preston, Carol Phillips, Liz Thiels, Celia Froehlig, and Sherytha Scaife. Photo: Denise Fussell

Ruth White (front row, far left), along with her fellow SOURCE Honorees in 2010, including Frances W. Preston, Carol Phillips, Liz Thiels, Celia Froehlig, and Sherytha Scaife. Photo: Denise Fussell

Ruth B. White has passed away at age 87.

A 2010 SOURCE honoree, White spent her life involved in the music business, working in publishing, office management, record label operations and music retailing. Late in life, she became a country historian with several published books.

She began her career as a teenager playing piano in a Nashville dance band led by Bill Wiseman. She graduated from East Nashville High School in 1947 and majored in music at Ward-Belmont College. She then played piano to sell sheet music at Strobel’s Music Shop in the Arcade downtown. At the time, this was Nashville’s leading music emporium.

She next managed Zibarts’ record store. By the 1960s, she was employed at WSM radio’s Music Library. Steel guitarist Howard White (1926-2008) approached her to run his publishing company, Locomotive Music, in 1964. She married him a year later.

Ruth White spent the bulk of her career as a copyright administrator. Among the songwriters she aided were Carmol Taylor, Norro Wilson, Sonny James, Gary Gentry, Joe Stampley and the Nashville Superpickers.

But her odyssey also includes stints with Hickory Records, October Records, Sounds of Nashville, Reed Music, Inc. and Sound Factory Records. By the mid-1980s, Ruth White was running Porter Wagoner Enterprises, handling the star’s publishing, booking and production operations. Next, she worked at Country International Records, an independent label owned by Sherman Ford.

Husband Howard White yearned to tell the story of his life in country music as a picker for Country Music Hall of Fame greats Hank Snow, Don Gibson, Minnie Pearl, Jim Reeves, Ferlin Husky, Jean Shepard, Grandpa Jones, Mel Tillis and others. So Ruth co-wrote Every Highway Out of Nashville with him. In 1990, it was published as her first book.

Her subsequent music-history books included The Original Goober (with Goober Buchanan, 2004), You Can Make It If You Try (with Ted Jarrett, 2005), Nashville Steeler (with Don Davis, 2012), Every Highway Out of Nashville Volume Two (2014) and Knoxville’s Merry-Go-Round (2016).

She was honored by SOURCE as one of the behind-the-scenes women who built Music City. Her fellow 2010 honorees of that organization were Liz Thiels, Celia Froehlig, Sherytha Scaife, Frances Preston and Carol Phillips.

Ruth Carolyn Bland White died on Dec. 30, 2016. She is survived by son Robert C. Kirkham and by daughter Kathleen E. White. Per her wishes, no services will be held. Contributions to any local animal shelter in her name are welcomed.

 

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

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