Country music executive Roy Wunsch passed away in Nashville on Friday, following a decade-long battle with Alzheimer's disease. He was 75.
Over 30 years in the music industry, Wunsch worked mostly at CBS/Sony Music — beginning his career as a college student working a summer at a CBS Records distribution center. After that experience, he decided to leave his journalism studies at St. Louis University to pursue a career in the music business.
In 1975, he took a role as national promotion and sales manager for Epic Records, working with Tammy Wynette, George Jones, David Houston and other notable country acts. By 1981, he was elevated to vice president overseeing Columbia, Epic and CBS Associated labels, making him the first in Nashville to hold that title. During that time, he helped advance the careers Johnny Cash, Sonny James, Willie Nelson, Ray Price, Ricky Skaggs and more.
In 1985, Wunsch became second-in-command at Columbia's Nashville fice and when Sony Music completed its acquisition CBS Records in 1988 he was appointed to senior vice president Nashville operations. Under this expanded role, his purview grew to include supporting the careers Chet Atkins, Bobby Bare, Rosanne Cash, the Highwaymen, Dolly Parton, The Charlie Daniels Band, Earl Scruggs, Marty Stuart and more. In the late 1989s, he signed Mary Chapin Carpenter to a country recording contract. A surprise CMA Awards appearance let to her country breakthrough. Her multi-platinum album, Come On, Come On yielded seven hit singles. In 1990, Wunsch was promoted to president the Nashville division, making him the first person to ever hold that post.
A number artists and executive commemorated his passing on Twitter, including Charlie Daniels.
During his life, Wunsch chaired the boards the Country Music Association and the Country Music Hall Fame. He was also an early and ongoing supporter Nashville's W.O. Smith School Music, which makes affordable, quality music instruction available to children from low-income families.
In 2008 Wunsch was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, but still continued to play tennis — a lifelong passion — until three months ago. He also began spending time painting and doing pottery, selling out his first art show in 2015 with proceeds going to charity.
Wunsch is survived by his wife almost 30 years, Flood, Bumstead & McCarthy co-founder Mary Ann McCready, daughter Cynthia Wunsch Bowen (Jay) and son Roy Christopher Wunsch.
Services will be at the Cathedral the Incarnation, 2015 West End Ave. in Nashville ficiated by Rev. Father Steiner on Thursday, Sept. 6, at 3:30 p.m. followed by a Celebration Life at the Fleming Center next door. A private family burial will be held the following day.
In lieu flowers, the family requests donations to the W.O. Smith School, P.O. Box 121348, Nashville, TN 37212, Attn: The Roy Wunsch "Stardust" Scholarship, wosmith.org; or to Feed My People, 171 Kingston Drive, St. Louis, MO 63125, feed-my-people.org.