The Nashville business legend known as country music’s matriarch has died at the age of 93.
As the director of the Country Music Association for nearly three decades, Jo Walker-Meador was critical in the founding of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the creation of the CMA Music Festival and the CMA awards show, and an overall broadening in the genre’s fan base.
Under her direction, CMA saw the number of country radio stations in the U.S. grow from 100 when she started in 1962 to 2,400 in when she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1995.
During her induction ceremony on a telecast that she helped make possible, Walker-Meador thanked the hundreds who helped her along the way.
“We have seen our world of country music emerge from a regional art form to the international acceptance of today," Walker-Meador said. "I am proud to have played a part, however small, in that success.”
Despite her deflections of praise and humble demeanor, longtime friend and former Gaylord CEO Bud Wendell said when the CMA began, Walker-Meador was a one-woman army.
“In the early years, I think the CMA was Jo Walker," he says. "She ran the ship. She made the decisions. She hired. She fired. Probably ran the sweeper and cleaned the rugs over there, I don’t know. But she was it.”
Walker-Meador died Wednesday morning of a stroke. There have been no announcements yet about funeral services.