Liz Thiels, Former Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum Exec, Dies at 78

Liz Thiels, public Relations professional and former Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum executive, died on Sunday (March 19) following an extended illness. Thiels was 78.

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, where she majored in advertising design. She later worked as a reporter at a daily newspaper in Louisiana, and served as press secretary for U.S. Congressman Speedy O. Long.

Thiels moved to Nashville in the late 1960s and worked as an account executive for Holder, Kennedy & Co. Public Relations. In the 1970s, Thiels became a partner in Nashville’s Exit/In music venue, helping to showcase artists including John Hiatt, Billy Joel, Steve Martin and Linda Ronstadt. In 1974, Thiels was named director of public relations at Sound Seventy Corporation, where she helped broaden the career of Charlie Daniels, as well as his annual Volunteer Jam concerts. In 1979, Thiels co-founded Network Ink, Nashville’s first PR firm specific to the city’s music industry. She became the company’s sole owner in 1985, representing artists including Clint Black, Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire, Kathy Mattea, Brooks & Dunn and Guy Clark.

In 1981, Thiels also started public relations efforts for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and was heavily involved in the capital campaign that helped finance the museum’s move to its current location in downtown Nashville. In 2001, she closed Network Ink to join the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum as its vice president of public relations; she retired as a key member of its executive team in 2015. Along the way, she helped raise the Country Music Hall of Fame’s profile and spearheaded numerous museum events, including the annual medallion ceremony, which is held to induct new members of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

In November 2008, Thiels was honored during the museum’s annual Louise Scruggs Memorial Forum, which honors music industry leaders who represent the legacy of music business manager Louise Scruggs. The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum has honored Thiels’ love of gardening by now including a fresh herb garden onsite, the Liz Thiels Hillbilly Garden, which provides ingredients for the museum’s restaurant.

“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, in a statement. “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.”