NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Nashville producer Fred Foster, who produced some of Roy Orbison’s most popular records and was the first to produce records from Kris Kristofferson and Dolly Parton, has died. He was 87.

His publicist said Foster died Wednesday in Nashville.

Born in 1931 in North Carolina, Foster helped launch the careers of many hit country artists and was a major supporter of some of Nashville’s biggest songwriters. Foster was the first to see the potential in a young singer-songwriter from East Tennessee named Dolly and got her songs cut by other artists, as well as recording and releasing her own material.

“I am heartbroken that my friend Fred Foster has passed on,” Parton said in a statement Thursday. “Fred was one of the very first people to believe in me and gave me chances no one else would or could. We’ve stayed friends through the years and I will miss him. I will always love him.”

“It’s a gift, being able to sense something unique in somebody, and that’s what I aimed for, always,” Foster said in 2007. “Anybody that dropped a needle on a groove of a Monument record, I wanted them to immediately know, ‘Oh, that’s Dolly Parton,’ or ‘That’s Roy Orbison.’ It had to be unique.”

Foster also owned a publishing company, Combine Music, and Kristofferson was one of his hires, a Texas-born athlete and Army veteran who loved William Blake. He had been trying to break through as a songwriter, even working as a janitor in a Music Row recording studio. After hearing some of his songs, Foster said he would only hire Kristofferson as a songwriter if he also signed a record deal.

“He was so intelligent, so gifted, so talented and he didn’t sound like anybody I had ever heard,” Foster said in 2016, the same year he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Foster is credited as co-writer on Kristofferson’s hit song, “Me and Bobby McGee.” Foster came up with the idea to name a song after a female secretary in his building, whose name was Bobbie McKee. Kristofferson told the magazine “Performing Songwriter” that he was inspired to write the lyrics about a man and woman on the road together after watching the Frederico Fellini film, “La Strada.”

Janis Joplin, who had a close relationship with Kristofferson, changed the lyrics to make Bobby McGee a man and cut her version just days before she died in 1970 from a drug overdose.

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