Joy Ford and her late husband, Sherman Ford, founded Country International Records in 1974 and, in the early 1980s, bought the building that houses the business. In her youth, Joy was a country singer and performed with Loretta Lynn in small country festivals throughout the South. In addition to forming Country International, Joy and Sherman built the Bell Cove Club in Hendersonville, Tenn., just outside of Nashville. Many country music legends performed at the club, including bluegrass founder Bill Monroe, who had a regular gig there before he passed away and whom Joy and Sherman befriended. John Carter Cash celebrated his 21st birthday at the club, with the Carter and Cash families in attendance.
While never a big player on the country music scene, Country International has had a steady and nurturing influence on many country singers and songwriters. The label has recorded and published songs that have made the Billboard Country Top 100 and several country songwriters such as David Allan Coe and Otis Blackwell, the author of such legendary hits as Great Balls of Fire, All Shook Up and Return to Sender, have worked with Country International and have written songs at its headquarters. Pictures of these stars, along with several others, line the walls of the small but proud building.
Sherman Ford died in 1999, but Joy has carried on the business and is still actively involved in working with and nurturing younger artists in addition to keeping the legacy of the business alive. The company’s headquarters is located right on Music Row so it is often used as a place to hold meetings and to write songs. The building even has a room dedicated to songwriters working on new material.