Known as a consummate “song man,” Terry D. Choate died yesterday (Sept. 14) in North Carolina.
During his career on Music Row, Choate was a song plugger, record producer, label executive, music publisher, instrumentalist, audio engineer and a music supervisor for television.
In recent years, he has been noted as the producer of a string of albums by Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers. These include Pilgrimage (2009), Sing Their Family Gospel Favorites (2004), A Christmas Celebration (2003) and A Gatlin Brothers Christmas (2002). Choate also produced and championed traditionalist Teea Goans, helming her 2010 release The Way I Remember It, 2015’s Memories to Burn, 2017’s Swing, Shuffle & Sway and other recordings.
Terry Choate produced 2007’s Jumpin’ Time for Nashville’s acclaimed western-swing ensemble The Time Jumpers. The group has since been nominated for several Grammy and Americana awards.
Other production clients have included Del Reeves, Simon & Verity, Jay Booker, The Osmonds, Tammy Cline and Gene Stroman. In addition, he was a steel guitarist who appeared on records by John Conlee, Marie Osmond and others.
A native North Carolinian, Terry Choate began his show-business career by working as a radio announcer in 1968-75. He was at Tree International in 1975-84. Initially, the publishing company hired him as a song plugger. He rose to become a music manager and an in-house demo producer. He was an audio engineer on 1980 albums by Rafe Van Hoy, Bobby Braddock and Rock Killough, all of whom were Tree writers.
In 1984, new Capitol Records chief Jim Foglesong hired Terry Choate as the label’s A&R manager. The label moved into its new office at 1111 16th Ave. S. and dramatically increased the size of its staff and roster.
The artist roster included Mel McDaniel, Sawyer Brown, Michael Martin Murphey, Thom Schuyler, Lane Brody, Becky Hobbs and Anne Murray. The last-named won Single and Album of the Year CMA honors in 1984 with “A Little Good News.” Murray and Dave Loggins won Duo of the Year in 1985, the same year that Sawyer Brown won the CMA Horizon Award.
By 1987, Choate had been promoted to Director of A&R for both Capitol and its EMI America imprint. Under his leadership, the roster expanded with the additions of New Grass Revival, Tanya Tucker, Dobie Gray, Dan Seals, Barbara Mandrell, Kix Brooks, Tom Wopat, Suzy Bogguss, T. Graham Brown, Don Williams, The Osmonds and Johnny Rodriguez.
Seals won a CMA Single of the Year award for “Bop” in 1986, as well as the Duo of the Year award with Marie Osmond. Meanwhile, Capitol’s Nashville office moved into rock music in 1985-89 by signing Jason & The Scorchers, Walk the West, The Questionaires and The Thieves. In 1989, the label introduced Garth Brooks.
In addition to his label duties, Terry Choate was highly active in a number of Music Row organizations. He served as vice president of the Nashville chapter of The Recording Academy, was a board member of the NSAI and organized the annual Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inductions. He became the board chair of the Nashville Songwriters Foundation. He was also a member of the AFM, the ACM and the Nashville Entertainment Association.
When Jimmy Bowen replaced Jim Foglesong, he replaced all of the latter’s Capitol executives in 1990. Choate formed his Crosswind Corporation and began to prosper as an independent record producer.
Choate had type 1 diabetes. In 2020, he was found unresponsive in a diabetic coma at his Nashville apartment. Paramedics saved his life.
In May, he developed a sepsis infection in his left foot, which had to be partially amputated the following month. Since that surgery, Choate has remained in the hospital and in hospice. He has been unconscious the majority of the time. Doctors were unable to explain why he couldn’t wake up.
His wife, Cheri, retired early from her teaching profession to care for him. Last month, a GoFundMe account was established to raise funds to help pay for the family’s mounting medical bills.
According to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame’s executive director Mark Ford, Terry Choate died Wednesday morning while in hospice care. He was 68 years old.
Funeral arrangements have not been announced.