Country Music Matriarch Jo Walker-Meador Passes Away

Long before Dolly, Tammy, or Loretta became influential leading ladies of the country music format, there was Jo Walker-Meador, who became one of the key figures for the growth of the genre. As a longtime Executive Director at the Country Music Association, Meador became one of Nashville’s greatest musical ambassadors. Her passing on Wednesday, August 16 at the age of 93 leaves a huge void in the industry that will never be filled.

Meador was born on February 16, 1924 in Robertson County, Tenneseee. After gaining her education at Peabody College in Nashville and Lambuth in Jackson, she was hired in 1958 in the new offices of the CMA, which was formed that year. Within one year, she organized a yearly banquet, one that served as the blueprint for what became what we now know as the CMA Awards show in 1967. In 1961, Meador became the Executive Director of the organization, a role that she would hold until the early 1990s.

The numbers under Meador’s leadership at the CMA speak for themselves. When she was hired as the CMA’s first full-time employee, there were less than one hundred radio stations programming Country Music on a full-time basis. By the mid-1990’s, that number had risen to over 2,400. She spearheaded a fund-raising drive to create the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, which officially opened to the public in 1967, the same year of the first awards show. The CMA Awards began to be broadcast nationally on television for the first time in 1968, and the CMA as a whole flourished under Meador’s watchful eye, as did Fan Fair – now the CMA Music Festival – which began in 1972.

At the time her employment began with the company, there were only two employees in house at the CMA. That number has risen throughout the years, due in large part to the work of Meador. The number of members rose from 200 to 7,000, thanks largely to her work as well. She retired from the CMA in 1991, but remained a key figure in Music Row until her passing. For her substantial career efforts, she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1995.

Funeral arrangements for Walker-Meador have not been released at this time.