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Iconic artist manager, record promotion executive, creative advocate and innovator Eugene Ervine “Erv” Woolsey passed peacefully this morning in Clearwater, Florida. Under doctors’ care due to complications from surgery, the Texas-born, longtime Nashville resident changed the face of modern country music through his stewardship of Country Music Hall of Fame member George Strait’s career, as well as progressive traditionalists Lee Ann Womack, Dierks Bentley, classic Texan Clay Walker and groundbreaker/Country Music Hall of Famer Ronnie Milsap.

Born February 15, 1944 in Houston, Texas, Woolsey spent his entire professional life in the music business. After graduating from Southwest Texas State University in 1969 with a bachelor’s degree in business, Woolsey went to work in the promotion department at Decca Records. He spent time at several record labels before moving to Nashville in 1973 as the head of promotions for ABC Records’ newly-opened Country division where he elevated the careers of Johnny Rodriguez, Jimmy Buffett, Billy “Crash” Craddock, Donna Fargo, Freddy Fender and the Amazing Rhythm Aces.

At the same time, Woolsey and his then wife Connie owned The Prairie Rose, a club in San Marcos, Texas. It was there he first saw and met George Strait; recognizing something in the classic Texan’s approach that stood out, Woolsey booked Strait regularly to perform.

Woolsey followed a string of successes at ABC with an unprecedented run at MCA during the ‘80s. Creating ongoing radio success for future Country Music Hall of Fame members Barbara Mandrell, Don Williams, Loretta Lynn, Tanya Tucker, Conway Twitty and The Oak Ridge Boys, as well as powerhouse vocalist Lee Greenwood.

In 1981, in the wake of “Urban Cowboy” and on the verge of a new traditionalist movement, Woolsey convinced label head Jim Foglesong to sign Strait to a recording deal at MCA Records, his label home to this day. “Unwound,” Strait’s debut single, embraced a Texas swing undertow, went to #6 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, and a storied superstar career in music was underway.

In 1984, Woolsey left MCA to devote himself full-time to managing Strait’s career. Along the way, the elegant performer would win Entertainer of the Year Awards across four decades, as he and his manager broke ground with 1992’s Jerry Weintraub-produced major motion picture “Pure Country,” which captured Strait’s larger than life charisma, and the stadium-sized George Strait Country Festival Tours, starting in 1995, which showed that country music could attract Rolling Stones’ sized audiences across America and featured Alan Jackson, The Chicks, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, a young Kenny Chesney, Womack and Texas’ favorite Western swing band Asleep at the Wheel.

Woolsey passed peacefully under the care of physicians in Clearwater, Florida on Wednesday, March 20, 2024 following complications from surgery. He is survived by his son Clint, ex-wife Connie, brother David and sister Beth, and preceded in death by his parents, John and Mavis Woolsey, and brother Johnny Woolsey.

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