Pat Rolfe, Trailblazer Who Became One of the First Women to Lead a Major Music Publisher, Dies at 77

Pat Rolfe, Trailblazer Who Became One of the First Women to Lead a Major Music Publisher, Dies at 77

Nashville music publishing executive Linda Patterson “Pat” Rolfe, who became one of the first women to lead a major music publishing company in the early 1970s, died of cancer on Friday (May 24) at age 77.

Rolfe, a Waverly, Tenn., native, was born July 27, 1946. She graduated from Waverly Central High School in 1964 and moved to Nashville, launching her music industry career in 1966 at music publishing company Hill & Range. While at the company — which became a dominant music publishing player in country music in the 1950s and 1960s — she joined Lamar Fike, a member of Elvis Presley‘s entourage who worked in lighting and helped oversee Presley’s music publishing. She also worked on hit songs by Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins, Eddy Arnold and bluegrass pioneer Bill Monroe.

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Rolfe was elevated to a leadership role at Hill & Range — rare for a woman executive in that era — when she was named GM at Hill & Range in 1972. She also brought Celia Froehlig into the company fold, with both staying on until Chappell Music acquired the Hill & Range companies in 1975. Froehlig would go on to hold senior roles at EMI Music Publishing and Black River Entertainment.

Following the acquisition, Rolfe continued at Chappell Music, which was named ASCAP publisher of the year seven times during her tenure. She rose to the role of vp and held that role until 1987, when Warner Bros. Music acquired the company.

That same year, longtime ASCAP Nashville head Connie Bradley offered Rolfe a position as director of membership relations. While at the performing rights organization, Rolfe rose to the role of vp, bringing such songwriters and singer-songwriters as Dierks Bentley

, Brad Paisley, Wynonna Judd, Tony Mullins, Trevor Rosen, Hillary Lindsey, Gerry House, Josh Kear, Michael Knox and Chris Tompkins into the fold. She retired in 2010.

In 1991, seeking to further elevate women in the music industry, Rolfe teamed with Judy Harris and Shelia Shipley Biddy to co-found SOURCE, a nonprofit organization that supports women professionals in the Nashville music industry. She was inducted into the SOURCE Hall of Fame in 2012.

“We are heartbroken over the loss of one of our beloved Founding SOURCE members Pat Rolfe,” said SOURCE Nashville president Kari Barnhart in a statement. “Pat’s heart for recognizing and elevating the Women Behind the Music is a legacy that will continue to live on through the organization she lovingly helped build with our other founding members Judy Harris and Shelia Shipley-Biddy over 33 years ago. Pat remained dedicated to the organization as a member of the Source Awards Committee through the years.”

Rolfe also served on the boards of organizations including the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI), Nashville Music Association and Copyright Society of the South.

Rolfe is survived by her husband of 54 years, Mack, as well as stepchildren John (Vanessa), Jim (Mary K) and Dick (Michelle); seven grandchildren; brothers Jim, Mike, Joe and Charlie Patterson; and sister Margaret Simmons. She was preceded in death by her parents, Marie and George Patterson, her brother Jerry Patterson and sister-in-law Ann Patterson.

A visitation with the family will be held on Wednesday (May 29) from 9:30 a.m. until 11:00 a.m. at Green Hills Community Church in Nashville, with the funeral service set to begin at 11:00 a.m. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations go to the Bonaparte’s Retreat Dog Rescue, the Green Hills Community Church or a charity of your choosing.


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