Liz Thiels, Public Relations Professional & Former Country Music Hall of Fame Executive, Has Died

photo from Country Music Hall of Fame/Donn Jones

Liz Thiels, influential public relations professional and former Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum executive, has passed away. The family confirmed that she died yesterday morning, March 19, after an extended illness. She was 78 years old.

“Liz Thiels elevated and enhanced the profile of country music in countless ways,” said Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. “She was the consummate music business publicist — heading her own firm (Nashville’s first to concentrate on music), and also expertly guiding public relations for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, first as a PR consultant and then as a staff member, for a total of more than three decades. A vital figure in the museum’s successful move in 2001 to downtown Nashville, she was instrumental in strategizing for our growth and crucial in positioning the museum as both a key fixture in Nashville’s music community and an institution of national stature. I can’t imagine where the museum would be without her many years of wise counsel.”

About Liz Thiels

Thiels contributed to Nashville’s international reputation by helping launch the famed Exit/In, one of the city’s historic music venues; she created Nashville’s first PR firm specific to the city’s music industry; and she helped shape the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s worldwide reputation as a respected cultural institution.

Thiels joined the museum in 2002 as vice president for public relations, and retired as a key member of its executive team in 2015. During her tenure, she helped raise the institution’s profile and deepen the public’s understanding of its educational mission. She also served as a guiding vision for dozens of key museum events, including its annual Medallion Ceremony, which formally inducts new members of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Thiels was a fixture in the entertainment community for more than two decades before joining the museum. She moved to Nashville in the late 1960s and worked as an account executive for Holder, Kennedy & Co. Public Relations, then the city’s top agency. During the early 1970s, she was a partner in Nashville’s legendary Exit/In, which showcased such rising stars as John Hiatt, Billy Joel, Steve Martin and Linda Ronstadt, as well as music icons like Jerry Lee Lewis and Muddy Waters. In 1974, she was appointed director of public relations for Sound Seventy Corporation, where she was instrumental in accelerating and broadening the career of Charlie Daniels and elevating his annual “Volunteer Jam” concerts.

In 1979, Thiels co-founded Network Ink, the first company to mesh full-service public relations with Nashville’s music industry. She became the company’s sole owner in 1985, representing artists such as Clint Black, Brooks & Dunn, Guy Clark, Kathy Mattea, Reba McEntire, Dolly Parton, Ricky Skaggs, Wynonna Judd and many others. Her public relations efforts for the museum began in 1981, and she was instrumental in the capital campaign that partially financed the museum’s downtown home. In December 2001, Thiels closed Network Ink to join the museum and spearhead its new public relations department.

In November 2008, Thiels was recognized at the museum’s annual Louise Scruggs Memorial Forum, which honors music industry leaders who represent the legacy of music business manager Louise Scruggs. Thiels was born in Alexandria, Louisiana, in 1944. She attended the University of Southwest Louisiana in Lafayette, Louisiana, and Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, majoring in advertising design. She also worked as a reporter at a Louisiana daily newspaper and served as press secretary for U.S. Congressman Speedy O. Long. In honor of her love of gardening, the museum now includes a fresh herb garden onsite, the Liz Thiels Hillbilly Garden, which provides ingredients for the museum’s restaurant.

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