Songwriter Richard Fagan Dead at Age 69

Credits Include Two of John Michael Montgomery’s Biggest Hits

Richard Fagan, co-writer of John Michael Montgomery’s 1995 novelty hit, “Sold (The Grundy County Auction Incident),” died Friday night (Aug. 5) in Nashville of liver cancer. He was 69.

In his 40-year career as a composer, Fagan also penned chart songs for Neil Diamond, Hank Williams Jr., George Strait, Moe Bandy, Mel McDaniel, Shenandoah and Clay Walker.

Born April 24, 1947 in Philadelphia, Richard William Fagan was initially drawn to the city’s doo wop scene and sang in an amateur group while in junior high school. He served a term in the U.S. Army in Vietnam during the early 1970s, after which he returned to Philadelphia to work in music.

There he was discovered by music publisher Tom Oteri, who recorded the first demos of Fagan’s songs in 1976. In 1979, Fagan scored his first success when Neil Diamond recorded “The Good Lord Loves You” for his September Morn album. Released as a single in 1980, it reached No. 23 on Billboard’s adult contemporary chart.

Bob Gaudio, Diamond’s producer, helped get Fagan a recording contract with Mercury Records and produced his only album for that label, Richard Fagan, released in 1979.

After having spent the early half of the 1980s in Los Angeles focusing on pop music, Fagan relocated to Nashville in 1986. He achieved his first country hit that year when “Blue Suede Blues,” co-written with Patti Ryan and Mickey James, went No. 49 for Con Hunley.

Among his other chart laurels were Moe Bandy’s “Americana” (No. 8, 1988 and subsequently a campaign song for George H.W. Bush), Mel McDaniel’s “Real Good Feel Good Song” (No. 9, 1988), John Michael Montgomery’s “Be My Baby Tonight” (No. 1, 1994) and “I Miss You Already” (No. 6, 1997) and Clay Walker’s “Only on Days That End in ‘Y’” (No. 5, 1996).

In 2008, when both men were chemically impaired, Fagan and Oteri, then roommates, got into a physical fight, after which Oteri died. It was first reported that he had been stabbed to death and Fagan was arrested for murder.

Ultimately, however, Fagan, who fled the scene after the fight, was convicted only of drunk driving and sentenced to rehabilitative therapy. He was supported in this lesser sentence by Oteri’s children, one of whom is former Saturday Night Live cast member Cheri Oteri.

Funeral plans have not been announced.

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to CMT.com.