Loving husband, father, grandfather, singer-songwriter and former Vice President of A&R at Capitol Records, Larry Willoughby, died at the age of 70 after battling Alzheimer’s and having contracted COVID-19.
Larry was born on Feb 24th, 1950 in Houston, TX. He married his highschool sweetheart, Janet Howard Willoughby in 1969. After a few years as a firefighter, they moved to Nashville, with a passion and dream of being in the music industry and that they did. Last year they celebrated 50 years of marriage.
Larry is the former Vice President of A&R for Capitol Records Nashville, where he helped shape the careers of many country stars, among them Keith Urban, Trace Adkins, Eric Church, Dierks Bentley and Luke Bryan.
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He got his big break in the music business when he earned a spot in country singer-songwriter Guy Clark’s band. Under Clark’s guidance, Willoughby honed his own songwriting and performing skills. Soon after, he landed a recording contract with Atlantic Records.
His debut album, Building Bridges, rose to No 47 on the Billboard charts in 1984. The title track from the album reached No. 55 as a single—but 12 years later took him to new heights. In 2006, Brooks & Dunn turned “Building Bridges” into a Grammy-nominated, Top 5 single. It featured guest vocals from Vince Gill and Sheryl Crow and was nominated for Musical Event of the Year at the CMA Awards and Best Country Collaboration With Vocals at The Grammys.
Willoughby spent several years on tour after the release of his Building Bridges album, then found himself drawn to the business side of country music. He signed on as tour manager for country stars Rodney Crowell, his cousin and so-called brother, and Rosanne Cash before moving in the direction of artist development. After a stint as director of membership with ASCAP, he was recognized for his talent for listening, pitching and placement of songs by renowned producer, Tony Brown and hired as Director of A&R at MCA/Universal Records. During Willoughby’s tenure, MCA became known as the “Golden” label recognized as the industry leader throughout the 90’s with major successes of recording artists, George Strait, Reba McEntire, Vince Gill, Wynonna, Trisha Yearwood, and The Mavericks.
Even with his move to Capitol as VP of A&R, he kept a hand in songwriting. His songs have been recorded by such artists as Waylon Jennings, Rodney Crowell, Eddy Raven, Big House, the Amazing Rhythm Aces, Nicolette Larson and the Oak Ridge Boys.
Larry is survived by wife, Janet; two sons, Kobalt Nashvile’s Jesse Willoughby (Bonnie) and Cody (Laurin), and two granddaughters, Livia and Lailee Willoughby.
If desired, family and friends may make memorial contributions to an incredible non-profit Alzheimer’s Care and Event center in Memphis, Tennessee, Page Robbins.
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