John Fry, the founder of Ardent Studios and a producer for Big Star, has died, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reports. He was 69 years old.
Born on New Year’s Eve, 1944, Fry first conceived of Ardent as a kid in his grandmother’s sewing room. Between 1959 to 1965, he released singles on behalf of his tiny label until opening Ardent’s first commercial studio on National Street in 1966.
Over 48 years, artists ranging from ZZ Top, R.E.M., and Led Zeppelin to James Taylor, the White Stripes, and Three 6 Mafia recorded dozens of gold and platinum records there. In addition to operating a contemporary Christian and a Stax-affiliated rock/pop version of the Ardent label, Fry also recorded and mixed the first three Big Star albums, 1971’s #1 Record, 1974’s Radio City, and 1978’s Third. Last month he was inducted alongside Big Star into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame.
“There was no other studio in Memphis that remotely approximated the longevity and importance of Ardent and what it’s meant to the city over the last 40-plus years,” the president of the Memphis Grammy chapter, Jon Hornyak, told the Appeal, “John Fry was, without doubt, one of the most significant figures in Memphis music.”
In addition to his work with Ardent, Fry helped create a curriculum for the Music Industry program at the University of Memphis.
Fry passed away at Methodist East hospital after suffering a cardiac arrest. He is survived by his wife Betty.
(article by Molly Beauchemin)