Seven-decade Music Row veteran Jerry Crutchfield died on Jan. 11 at age 87.
Crutchfield had a multi-faceted career as a record producer, songwriter, label executive, vocalist and music publisher. He produced major hit country records for Tanya Tucker, Lee Greenwood, Tracy Byrd and many more. His gospel productions were nominated for Dove Awards. He ran MCA Publishing (now Universal) for 25 years. He headed Capitol Records’ Nashville office. He wrote several hit songs and sang backup for many Music City stars.
Born in Paducah, Kentucky in 1934, the future music executive cited his father’s big-band records as an early influence. In high school, he sang in teen doo-wop groups as well as gospel quartets. At age 18, he joined the Melody Masters gospel group in Princeton, Indiana. While attending Murray State College, he began making inroads in Nashville. He also worked as a local-radio disc jockey.
He and his brother Jan Crutchfield (1938-2012) were signed to RCA Records as members of the pop group The Country Gentlemen in 1956. The name led to confusion that they were a country act, so the billing was changed to The Escorts. Both brothers next embarked on careers as songwriters. Brother Jan’s catalog includes such country classics as “Statue of a Fool,” “Tear Time” and “It Turns Me Inside Out.”
Jerry Crutchfield’s songs were recorded by such country stars as George Jones, Ernest Tubb, Hank Williams Jr., Eddy Arnold, Bobby Bare, Roy Rogers, Jerry Lee Lewis, Porter Wagoner, Faron Young, Tammy Wynette, Connie Smith and Hank Thompson. His hits included Bobby Bare’s “Find Out What’s Happening,” Wanda Jackson’s “Fancy Satin Pillows,” Dottie West’s “Every Word I Write” and Charley Pride’s “Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger.”
He also placed songs with such R&B stars as Irma Thomas, Slim Harpo, Dee Dee Warwick and Arthur Alexander. Pop stars Ricky Nelson, Elvis Presley, Brenda Lee (“My Whole World Is Falling Down”) and Nick Lowe recorded Jerry Crutchfield’s tunes, too.
Both Chet Atkins and Owen Bradley hired him as a backup vocalist. During his early years on Music Row, Crutchfield sang on records by Hank Snow, Webb Pierce, Roger Miller, Jerry Reed, Bill Anderson, Hawkshaw Hawkins and more.
In 1962, he was hired to head the publishing division of Decca/MCA. Among the writers he nurtured there were Don Schlitz, Dave Loggins, Russell Smith, Gary Burr, Rob Crosby and Mark Nesler. Crutchfield took a break from MCA to serve as the head of Capitol Records in Nashville for four years in the 1980s, then returned to music publishing.
As a record producer, his big successes included Barbara Fairchild (“The Teddy Bear Song,” 1973), Dave Loggins (“Please Come to Boston,” 1974), Lee Greenwood (“God Bless the U.S.A.,” 1984), Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers (“Sure Feels Like Love,” 1982), Tracy Byrd (“The Keeper of the Stars,” 1995) and Tanya Tucker (more than 20 top-10 hits from 1986-94). Crutchfield has also produced Glen Campbell, Jody Miller, Chris LeDoux, Anne Murray, Ringo Starr, Sammy Kershaw, Shenandoah, Suzy Bogguss, Dan Seals, Cleve Francis, Brenda Lee, Delbert McClinton, Jason Ringenberg, Barbara Mandrell and Buck Owens, among others.
He also became prominent as a gospel producer. Crutchfield worked with The Hemphills, Doug Oldham, Cynthia Clawson and Terry Bradshaw in that genre.
In the 1990s, he began managing his own publishing companies, Crutchfield Music and Glitterfish Music. Tim McGraw, George Strait and Martina McBride are among the artists who recorded songs from these firms’ catalogs. Crutchfield also worked as a freelance producer for the next 20+ years.
This multi-talented Music Row figure produced Jimmy Dean’s nationally syndicated TV series in 1973-75. He wrote a series of children’s books, The Adventures of Dr. Raccoon. Crutchfield has served on the boards of the Country Music Association, the Gospel Music Association and the Nashville chapter of The Recording Academy. He was also a past national trustee of the Academy. There is a scholarship in his name at Murray State and an exhibit of his career memorabilia.
Jerry Crutchfield is survived by his wife of 62 years, Patsy, son Martin, daughter Christy Fields (husband James Fields), and three grandchildren, Adison, Chase, and Luke Fields.
A musical celebration of life will be announced and held at a later date.
Anyone wishing to make a memorial contribution in Jerry’s name may do so by donating via the American Federation of Musicians to either the Emergency Relief Fund or the Crisis Assistance Fund.
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