Retired Nashville booking agent Ron Baird, former head of Creative Artists Agency's Nashville office and one of the genre's most successful agents of the 1990s and early 2000s, died in Nashville on February 3, of complications from Parkinson's disease. He was 60.
Baird joined CAA in 1991 to open the company's Nashville office. The one-man operation that started in his garage grew into the 55-person team it is today. In his 13 years as a CAA agent, Baird handled the touring for such artists as Clint Black, Billy Dean, Jennifer Hanson, Alan Jackson, Toby Keith, Barbara Mandrell, Martina McBride, Reba McEntire, Joe Nichols, Olivia Newton John, Little Texas, Jamie O'Neal, Julie Roberts and Shania Twain, among many others. Ron retired in 2004 after wrapping Twain's tour of 2003-2004, which at that time was the highest-grossing tour ever by a female country artist at about $90 million, according to Billboard Boxscore.
"Ron was an extraordinary man whose dedication to and passion for his clients and colleagues alike have long inspired us. He had great love of music, a heart of gold and a generous spirit, and it is those qualities that will be the legacy of this wonderful soul. Ron will always be the cornerstone of CAA Nashville. It was an honor to know him and we extend our deepest sympathies to Ron's beloved family," said Rob Light, managing partner and head of the music department at CAA, in a statement.
A Montana native, Baird formed his first band when he was in the second grade, and played his first paid gig when he was in the fourth grade. He toured the Western U.S. before pursuing higher education, graduating from the University of Montana with a degree in Philosophy.
In 1975, began working as an agent at the Good Music Agency, a small rock-and-roll agency based in Missoula, Montana. He accepted a job in 1977 at Jim Halsey Co. in Tulsa, Okla., at the time the top country music agency. At Halsey Baird booked Roy Clark, Donna Fargo, Merle Haggard, George Jones, the Judds, Brenda Lee, Ronnie Milsap, Rick Nelson, the Oak Ridge Boys, Mel Tillis, Conway Twitty, Don Williams, Tammy Wynette and Dottie West, among others.
By 1987, Jim Halsey Co. had moved its headquarters to Nashville and Baird was elevated to senior vice president and general sales manager. A year later, the firm was acquired by the William Morris Agency. Ron accepted a position with CAA in 1991.
Ron served as Chairman of the Board for the Country Music Association in 2003, and was President of the Country Music Association in 2002. He was also an associate board member of W.O. Smith and an alumnus of Leadership Music.
Baird is survived by his wife Cheryl, their sons John (and wife Jenny) and Marc (and wife Kennon); and four grandchildren, James, Kate, Finley and Cooper.
A memorial service is planned for Feb. 9 from 5 - 7 p.m. at Hillwood Country Club (6201 Hickory Valley Road, Nashville, TN). In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Lewy Body Dementia Association (www.lbda.org); The Salvation Army (www.Salarmy-Nashville.org); and the Glacier National Park Fund (www.glaciernationalparkfund.org).