Charlie Monk, a country music industry VIP and radio personality known affectionately by those who knew him as the “Mayor of Music Row,” died at his Nashville home on Monday (Dec. 19), according to a report from Music Row. He was 84 years old.
Born in the small Southern Alabama town of Geneva in 1938, Monk grew up poor but quickly gained an affinity for the bright lights and big cities of the music industry. “I sat there in the dark and fantasized,” Monk once said, according to an in-depth retrospective on his life published by the Tennessean. “I always wanted to be a star. I wanted to have a big fancy car.”
His first job in the music business was at his hometown radio station, where he got a janitorial gig that he subsequently parlayed into a weekend on-air shift. After a stint in the Army, Monk returned to his passion for radio, eventually moving to Middle Tennessee and arriving at Nashville’s Music Row. There, he began working his way up the music industry ladder — and getting to know the stars. Over the course of his life, everyone from Dolly Parton to Garth Brooks to Keith Urban to Reba McEntire counted Monk as a friend, describing him as an indelible part of the fabric of the country music business.
“Whatever it is, you’ve been all over it like a rash that won’t go away,” Parton once quipped in a tribute video celebrating an honor Monk received from the Nashville Association of Talent Directors.
In 1971, a year after joining ASCAP’s staff, Monk helped form the Country Radio Seminar, a multi-day country radio conference that continues to be one of the city’s most important annual events for music professionals. For four decades, he was at the head of the Seminar’s New Faces show — one of the highlights of CRS — and in his capacity leading that program, he helped launch the careers of Taylor Swift, Alabama, Dwight Yoakam, Patty Loveless, Faith Hill, Miranda Lambert, Jason Aldean and scores of other stars.
Ascending to the role of chief of CBS Songs in 1977, Monk both formed his own publishing arm, Monk Family Music Group, and refurbished the legendary publisher Acuff-Rose Music Group over the course of the 1980s. He was also an accomplished songwriter who wrote songs for Charley Pride, Randy Travis and many others.
During his life, Monk was inducted into the Country Radio Hall of Fame, the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and the University of Alabama College of Communication and Information Sciences Hall of Fame. He also won a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame.
Monk is survived by Royce Walton Monk, his wife of 63 years, as well as their four children and a host of other family members. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that those wishing to honor Monk’s memory make a donation to one of the causes that he championed — MusiCares, Community Care Fellowship, Calvary United Methodist Church, Rochelle Center or CreatiVets.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.
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