John Fry, the founder of Ardent Studios and producer who worked frequently with power-pop cult heroes Big Star, has died, according to a report in Memphis Commercial Appeal. He was 69 years old. Fry passed away in a local hospital after suffering from cardiac arrest.
Fry started Ardent as a small record label in the 1950s,but he didn’t open Ardent Studios until 1966. In their heyday, Ardent was the home base of Stax Records: artists like Isaac Hayes and Mavis Staples recorded hits in Ardent’s halls. However, Fry himself became most associated with Big Star, the Memphis rock band whose members were given lessons in recording by Fry. He served as the producer on the band’s three albums, and he returned to the producer’s chair after a long hiatus to remix songs on the band’s 2009 retrospective Keep An Eye on Sky. Big Star’s drummer, Jody Stephens, still works at Ardent Studios as general manager.
Fry kept his Ardent music label active under many guises over the years, releasing everything from soul to garage rock and contemporary Christian music. His studio became a sought-after spot for bands to record, with Led Zeppelin, The Replacements and The White Stripes all recording at Ardent. Fry and Big Star were inducted into the Memphis Music Hall Of Fame this year.