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August 21

In Memory: Country Music Bids Farewell to Jo-Walker-Meador

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One of today’s chief architects of Country music industry, died early Wednesday morning after suffering a stroke in Nashville, Tennessee.  Jo Walker-Meador passed away at 93 years old.

Michelle Walker confirmed the death of her mother through a spokeswoman.

She was born as Edith Josephine Denning on February 16, 192,4 in Orlinda, Tennessee. She was raised in a family farm and grew up with 11 siblings. Her father played piano and sang in church, but her family was not interested in music.

Country Music Association, the new organization assigned her as an office manager in the 1950s, an era where rock ‘n’ roll dominated the music industry. She was the first full time employee the organization ever hired.

After executive director Harry Stone departed, she functionally filled in as the CMA chief. Joe Galante, the Sony Nashville CEO, recalled her skill at navigating the unwieldy board of directors which was composed mostly of men. He said the number of Music Row executives whose careers were mentored by Walker-Meador is too many to count. Applying her impeccable attention to detail and memory, up until the days before her death, she continued to meet and have lunch with music industry leaders.

Mary Ann McCready, is one of the executives mentored by Walker-Meador. She said:

“I’ve treasured her guidance and example for over 40 years. What a force of grace, drive, and intelligence. I love Jo with all my heart and I will miss her for the rest of my life.”

In 1991, after 29 years she retired as the CMA’s executive director. During that time country music dominated the charts.

Image result for jo walker meador getty images

Under her tenure as executive director, the genre flourished, as she spearheaded the establishment of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, CMA Awards and Fan Fair, which became CMA Fest.

Even after her retirement, Walker-Meador devoted time to the CMA.

In her distinguished reputation, Country Music Association in ’94 created the Jo Walker-Meador Award. It was given to individuals or organization to recognize their outstanding achievements in supporting and advocating for country music outside of the United States.

In 1995, Walker-Meador was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, the highest honor in the country music industry. . “Jo Walker-Meador looked at a mid-sized Southern town and envisioned something grander,” museum CEO Kyle Young said in a statement Wednesday morning.

In 2013, CMA hired Sarah Trahern to the top post.  She regularly called Walker-Meador for advice, particularly about how to work with the board of directors, and that Walker-Meador would visit the office and talk about her career with the CMA staff.

She is survived by her brother Pete Denning, daughter Michelle Walker and step-children Rob and Karen Meador.

Visitation will take place 4-7 p.m. Tuesday at Woodlawn-Roesch-Patton Funeral Home and Memorial Park (660 Thompson Lane). After a private burial on Wednesday, an 11 a.m. memorial service will be held at Christ Presbyterian Church (2323 Old Hickory Blvd.).

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations be made to the Sarah Cannon Fund at PearlPoint Cancer Support.

Thank you, Jo, for taking Country Music to new heights and for where it is right now.


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