Producing platinum-selling albums wasn't always in the plans for David Foster, but it didn't take long for him to make the shift from playing on other people's sessions to producing other artists.

"I was always planning for the next phase," he tells Variety. "As a rehearsal pianist, I was strategizing to become a studio musician. And when I was a studio musician, I was strategizing to become an arranger and a producer."

Seeing session players have their day in the sun -- and then not -- carried little appeal. "My idols growing up had gone from single scale to double scale and triple scale, and then back to single scale. That wasn't the life for me."

So in 1979, after building his rep playing on other people's hit records, Foster made a conscious decision to give up working as a session player and begin producing. "I went from making six figures in 1978 to making just $5,000 the first year producing. That was pretty intense."