Editor’s note: Fred Carter Jr., Franklin Parish native, will be honored with a Northeast Louisiana Music Trail sign Jan. 29 at Winnsboro’s Gazebo. In the evening, a concert featuring Deana Carter, his daughter, is scheduled at The Princess Theatre.

Fred Carter Jr. was a singer-songwriter, producer, record label owner who Enoch Doyle Jeter called, “the best-known session player of all time, a true country and rock and roll pioneer.”

Growing up in a home where a parent is famous many times leads to disastrous consequences for their children, but not for Fred Jr. and Anna “Sweetie” Carter. The couple raised three children, Ronnie, Deana and Jeff, in a loving, nurturing environment where other famous people would often come to visit and do business.

“We were around music legends,” said Ronnie, the oldest Carter sibling. “Dad was good about bringing people to our house and welcoming them with big, open arms.”

Ronnie remembered as an adolescent playing basketball in his front yard with Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel of Simon & Garfunkel. Fred Carter Jr. played for the duo on many songs, including “Bridge Over Troubled Waters.” He played Simon & Garfunkel’s famous song in Carnegie Hall during Thanksgiving, a performance he was particularly proud of and invited the siblings’ grandparents.

“There was business relationships and there was personal relationships,” Ronnie said. “We had legends in our living room, but our parents never lost their Louisiana roots. Our parents were genuine.”

In another instance, a Sunday morning knock at the Carter home’s front door was from one of the Hollywood’s biggest stars.

“I hear a knock at the door and answer it,” Ronnie said. “It was a scruffy looking fellow that my parents seem it know.”

The fellow Ronnie would find out was Kris Kristofferson who stayed all day, laughing and joking with his father.

Ronnie, being the oldest, called his relationship with his father “unique.” As the oldest sibling, Fred Carter Jr. charged Ronnie with helping answer phones, running instruments to sessions and even scheduling sessions.

“We had two phones in the house,” Ronnie said. “One was for business while the other was personal.”

In 1973, Chet Atkins called the Carter house and 10-year-old Ronnie answered the phone since his parents were unavailable. Atkins asked for his parents but Ronnie answered they were not there. A surprised Atkins went on to schedule a date and time for a session along with the type of guitar Fred Carter Jr needed to use with the young Ronnie.

Ronnie, a 28-year veteran of the Marines and founding member of Department of Homeland Security, remembered his father as “a man of his word” and a mother that was the same way.

“His Louisiana roots mattered a lot, and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Ronnie said.

The Carter’s middle child, Deana, has had a successful music career like her father. Her 1996 debut album, Did I Shave My Legs For This? was certified 5x Multi-Platinum in the United States for sales more than five million.

Deana remembered her father as a honest man who had a great sense of humor.

On Saturday mornings growing up in the Carter home, Deana remembered her dad watching cartoons with them and would play his guitar with Bugs Bunny theme music.

“It drove us crazy,” Deana said, laughing. “He always had a guitar in his lap.”

The Carter’s vacation was trips to Franklin Parish, according to Deana. Every Thanksgiving and other times of the year, Fred Carter Jr. and family came to Winnsboro to visit family.

“He was a family man who loved his family,” Deana said. “He was an original and was a character. He was a gentleman, respectful and was so gifted musically.”

Fred Carter Jr. encouraged his children to “tackle the world,” Deana said. But, he knew not to push too hard but at the same time be encouraging.

“They expected a lot from me growing up,” Deana said. “They expected me to help take care of the house, cook and clean.”

Responsibilities to this day that has helped Deana become a better parent to her son.

“They were great parents,” Deana said. “I still remember the lessons they taught. Beyond the grave they are still parenting.”

Jeff Carter, youngest of the Carter siblings and self-proclaimed Fred Carter Jr. historian, moved with his parents back to Winnsboro in 1988.

“They were semi-retired when we moved back to Winnsboro,” Jeff, who was 13 at the move, said. 

His parents and Jeff moved to his grandparents old house on Fort Necessity road. Jeff graduated from Winnsboro High School in 1993.

His parents eventually moved back to Nashville to be closer to Fred Jr.’s doctors.

“He met mom when she worked at Delta Queen,” Jeff said. “They got married, moved to Nashville and started a family in 1960.”

The Carter’s were three months shy from their 50th wedding anniversary when Fred Carter Jr. passed away.

Jeff is now an attorney representing entertainment business clients, guitar player, song writer and Deana’s band leader.

He remembers his father as not pushing him in any direction musically but still teaching him in his own, unique way.

“I got a lot of stuff from him by Osmosis,” Jeff said. “He taught me a bunch of life lessons centered around the music business.

Fred Carter Jr

Many people in the music industry knew Fred Carter Jr. as “Mr. Fred,” Jeff said. His kind, honest personality created a vast network of friends that expanded across music genres.

At a young age Mr. Fred would play with friends around Winnsboro before joining the United States Air Force. In the Air Force, he was the bandleader for the USO variety show entertaining troops across Europe.

After serving 31/2 years in the Air Force, he roughnecked in the Lake Charles oil field before attending Centenary Music College in Shreveport, according to Jeff.

After Centenary, Mr. Fred was a guitar player on the Louisiana Hayride.

“He tried out as a fiddle player, but they needed a guitar player,” Jeff said.

While on the Hayride, he formed lifelong friendships with many musicians including Slim Whitman, Floyd Cramer, Sonny James, Hank Snow, Faron Young, Johnny Horton, Jim Reeves and many others. 

Carter met Roy Orbison during this time and became part of his band and moved to Hollywood with him. 

Later, he worked with Orbison in Nashville on the Monument Sessions notably heard on "Dream Baby" as the opening guitar. He subsequently worked with Dale Hawkins of “Suzie Q” song fame, and then joined Dale's cousin Ronnie Hawkins  whose group, The Hawks, later became The Bands. During this busy and formative time, Carter also toured and became lifelong friends with Conway Twitty. 

Carter owned Nugget Records in Goodlettsville, Tenn. for many years. Songs including Jessi Colter's "I'm Not Lisa", were originally recorded at Nugget. Willie Nelson recut his famed Phases and Stages album with Carter at Nugget.

He also helped Dolly Parton and Tanya Tucker land their first record deals.

“He just kept going and going and getting more successful,” Jeff said.

Mr. Fred died on July 17, 2010 at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.

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