Not being raised in the world of country music, I missed out on knowing about a lot of key players who are part of the foundation of what Nashville has become. Radney Foster is one such person.
While writing my column for the past six years, Radney Foster’s kept coming up, but I was unfamiliar with his work. Then I saw an interview where Darius Rucker credits Foster for the reason he is in country music.
Rucker told Rolling Stone magazine, “I can say for sure that the reason I’m having any success in country is because of Radney Foster. In 1992 he came out with Del Rio, TX 1959 and that record, it was the first time I started saying, ‘I’m going to make a country record someday.’”
A day after learning this, I got invited to do an interview and see a show by this country music icon.
Radney Foster grew up in Del Rio, Texas, and had quite the following in the world of Texas Country Music. His songs like “Godspeed” and “Greatest Show on Earth” have left a memorable mark in the music world.
In his youth, he listened to music from the Beatles, Buck Owens, and the Everly Brothers. He reported, “We heard both country music and rock and roll and we're playing both growing up. We always knew that we wanted to play the music with the rock and roll attitude.”
However, during the lengthy drives in between tour stops, he read the likes of John Steinbeck, Larry McMurtry, and Harper Lee. The love of literature would have a profound effect on the singer/songwriter.
Foster moved to Nashville at the age of 20 after abandoning his studies at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. Initially, the songwriter wanted to write songs that would become hits. But he was mentored by some guys who advised that the “storytelling and the songwriting are the important part and if it's a hit that's just a byproduct -- the icing on the cake.”
Eventually, Foster completed his degree and got a publishing deal with MTM. While working there, in 1986 he partnered with Bill Lloyd to form the duo, Foster and Lloyd. Foster described their style as a "country garage band.” The pair recorded three albums for RCA Nashville and wrote many more including “Since I Found You” for Sweethearts of the Rodeo. Their biggest hit as a duet was a rockabilly, rollicking tune, “Crazy Over You” which is as fun to listen to today as it was then.
Though they briefly reunited in 2010 to release a fourth album, Foster and Lloyd have continued their solo careers while Foster honed his writing skills. After 30 years of artist cuts later, there is no question that Radney Foster is an established storyteller.
I wanted to know more about his lyric writing process. He told me, “Well, you write what, you know. And then you personalize it to hide the bodies. You know, my grandfather said, ‘Don’t, let the truth get in the way of a good story.’”
In late Fall 2015, the legendary songwriter got the diagnosis every musician fears-- a severe case of pneumonia and laryngitis. However, for someone who’s been producing songs for almost 40 years, the desire to write doesn’t fade along with the voice. During a grueling six-week period of vocal constraint, Foster’s creative side emerged in the form of a short story inspired by the song, titled “Sycamore Creek,” and the idea for Foster’s newest endeavor was born.
For You To See The Stars is a project comprised of two parts – a book and a CD. The book is a collection of short stories published by Working Title Farm. Though the stories are fiction, they are informed by Foster’s upbringing on the Mexican border in Del Rio, Texas.
For You To See The Stars is Radney Foster’s eleventh album. Foster has written eight number-one hit singles, including his own “Nobody Wins,” and “Just Call Me Lonesome”. His discography contains countless cuts by artists ranging anywhere from country (Keith Urban, The Dixie Chicks, Luke Bryan, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) to contemporary (Marc Broussard, Hootie & The Blowfish, Kenny Loggins, Los Lonely Boys). Keith Urban has cut three of his songs and names Foster as a huge influence stating that “he was ahead of his time.”
Although highly recognized and accomplished in the music world, Foster is a true Renaissance man. In addition to For You To See The Stars being his first book, Foster recently starred in the world premiere of "Troubadour,” at Atlanta’s Tony Award-winning Alliance Theatre. He also appeared in the feature film, Beauty Mark.
This summer he is crisscrossing America with a tour stop at Columbia, Tennessee’s famed Mulehouse on August 5th. Since this is the 30th anniversary of this amazing album, Foster will play Del Rio, TX 1959 in its entirety, plus much more!
After 30 years in the business, Radney Foster knows his way around the stage. He has an uncanny knack for connecting with the audience, and with numerous #1 hits to choose from, his shows are a perfect blend of new treasures and beloved classics!
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