Roy Wunsch, Pioneering Country Music Executive, Dies at 75

Courtesy of the Roy Wunsch Family
Roy Wunsch

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 of Johnny Cash, Sonny James, Willie Nelson, Ray Price, Ricky Skaggs and more. 

In 1985, Wunsch became second-in-command at Columbia's Nashville office and when Sony Music completed its acquisition of CBS Records in 1988 he was appointed to senior vice president of Nashville operations. Under this expanded role, his purview grew to include supporting the careers of 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 of the Nashville division, making him the first person to ever hold that post. 

A number of artists and executive  commemorated his passing on Twitter, including Charlie Daniels.   

 

During his life, Wunsch chaired the boards of the Country Music Association and the Country Music Hall of Fame. He was also an early and ongoing supporter of Nashville's W.O. Smith School of 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 of 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 of the Incarnation, 2015 West End Ave. in Nashville officiated by Rev. Father Steiner on Thursday, Sept. 6, at 3:30 p.m. followed by a Celebration of Life at the Fleming Center next door. A private family burial will be held the following day. 

In lieu of 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.