James Francis “Jim” Vienneau departed this earthly plane peacefully, in the comfort of his Nashville home, on November 9, 2023. He was 97 years old. Leaving behind is his family: his wife of 71 years, Joan Preston; his 4 children, Nancy (Bill Neill) Carole (Daryl Zeller) Barbara (Ted Greene) and James (Adelaide Mallette Vienneau;) his grandchildren, Madeleine, Daniel, Alex and Preston and great-grandchildren, Zachary and Gracie. While grateful for his long and well-lived life, his family misses him terribly and loves him forever.
Born in Albany, New York on September 18, 1926, Jim was the son of Alfred Edmond Vienneau, a salesman for GE/Hotpoint who was originally from New Brunswick Canada, and Mary Kathryn “Marian” Boyne of Philmont New York, a pianist for the silent movies. He was the youngest of three brothers, following Alfred Jr. (1918-1920) and Edmond “Ed” Boyne (1923 -1995.) He grew up in Little Neck, Queens, next door to the best dog in the world, Bingo. He got the Geography medal from P.S.94 but was a sketchy student at Bayside High.
In June 1944, he enlisted in the Navy after getting written permission from his parents—he was three months shy of his 18th birthday. He almost died of scarlet fever in boot camp, but survived to serve in the Pacific as a radioman. After his honorable discharge, he attended Pace College’s evening programs and got his bachelor’s degree in business. Concurrently, he started working at MGM Records in Manhattan, mentored by his maternal uncle, Frank Buckley Walker. (As a talent agent, Walker discovered and signed Hank Williams and Bessie Smith; he came out of retirement in 1946 to co-found MGM Records.)
Jim married his longtime sweetheart, Joan Marie Preston, on August 9, 1952.
Jim met with early and distinguished success as an Artist & Repertoire man and producer, with these huge hits: Mark Dinning’s “Teen Angel,” Connie Francis’ “Vacation” and Conway Twitty’s “It’s Only Make Believe.”
In the early ‘60s, he often commuted to Nashville for recordings. In 1965, MGM transferred him to Music City head their Country Music division. The whole family made the move, and has called Nashville home ever since. In 1972, Jim was named Billboard’s country music producer of the year, a honor (among many over his career) that his humble nature would scarcely acknowledge. He had a long and varied career in the business; some of his other clients of note were Wayne Newton, Mel Tillis, Roy Orbison, Hank Williams Jr., Jeannie C Riley, Marvin Rainwater, Sheb Woolley aka Ben Colder, Billy Thunderkloud and the Chieftones In later years, he worked with a stable of songwriters at Acuff-Rose, which morphed into Opryland Music Group’s Creative Services department, connecting writers such as Buddy Brock, Donny Kees, Kenny Chesney and their work with artists such as Aaron Tippin, George Strait and Lorrie Morgan. He was highly respected and loved by his cadre, who called him “Foggy.” He retired in 1998.
Post-retirement, Jim would faithfully go to the Green Hills YMCA five days a week to workout. He was always fit and athletic. As a young man he was a gymnast who could walk on his hands. He was an excellent swimmer, and enjoyed tennis and golf. He had the distinction of being the oldest guy at the Y; he was 93 years old when the pandemic shut everything down, and hence his Y time. He was an avid fan of the New York Yankees and the Tennessee Titans.
He loved all things chocolate: foremost ice cream, followed by pudding, mousse, and nonpareils. He thought Brown’s Diner made the best burger in the world. He enjoyed grocery shopping and cooking: He could make a terrific batch of meat sauce for spaghetti; broil a juicy sirloin; and simmer a kickass pot roast to rich tenderness. He did not eat fruit and only a few vegetables: it was more a textural thing. “Goojies” he called them. Tomatoes and bananas, for instance, had goojies and were unfit for consumption. Tomato sauce and purée, however, were goojie-free.
You are unlikely to meet a more generous man. He would give you last dime in his pocket. A consummate host, Jim always wanted to make sure you had plenty of whatever food and drink you’d like while in his home. More and Another are really the operative words. “Have some more ice cream! That bowl is small.” “You need another lamb chop!” “How about another drink? I’ll make it a halfie.” Word: when he was ready for the party to be over, he would briefly slip away and then reappear in his pajamas.
You couldn’t leave the house without him giving you a bottle of wine, a WondeRoast chicken, a quart of his clam chowder or famous beef stew. Over the last 3 years, that gift became a bottle of Ensure Plus Dark Chocolate, which essentially sustained him.
One of Jim’s enduring sayings was “Life ain’t easy.” When he reached his 90s, that morphed to “Old age will getcha.”
A private ceremony will be held at the Middle Tennessee Veterans Cemetery. There will be a Celebration of Jim’s life for friends and family in the near future.