OWEN BRADLEY Biography - Producers, publishers & editors


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Name: Owen Bradley                                                                           
Born: 21 October 1915                                                                       
Died: 7 January 1998                                                                         
Owen Bradley (c. October 21, 1915 - January 7, 1998) was an influential American             
record producer, who, along with Chet Atkins and Bob Ferguson, was one of the               
chief architects of the popular 1950s and 1960s "Nashville Sound" in country                 
A native of the Nashville suburb of Westmoreland, Bradley learned piano at an               
early age, and began playing in local nightclubs and roadhouses when he was just             
a teenager. At 20, he got a job at WSM-AM radio, where he worked as an arranger             
and musician. In 1942, he became the stations musical director, and was also the             
leader of a sought-after dance band that played well-heeled society parties all             
over the city. He kept the band up until 1964, although in the intervening                   
decades, his work as a producer would far overshadow his own performing career.             
In 1947, Bradley took a position as an assistant producer and songwriter at                 
Decca Records. He worked with Paul Cohen on recordings by some of the biggest               
talents of the day, including Ernest Tubb, Burl Ives, Red Foley and Kitty Wells.             
Learning from Cohen, he eventually began to produce records on his own. When his             
mentor left the label in 1958, Bradley became vice president of Decca's                     
Nashville division, and began pioneering what would become "The Nashville Sound."           
Country music had long been looked on as unsophisticated and folksy, and was                 
largely confined to listeners in the less affluent small towns of the American               
South and Appalachia. In the late 1950s, Bradley's home base of Nashville was               
poising itself to be a vibrant, affluent, urban city with a burgeoning music                 
recording industry, and not just the traditional home of the Grand Ole Opry. In             
fact, a Quonset hut attached to a house Bradley owned with his brother Harold at             
804 16th Avenue South in Nashville.                                                         
The Quonset Hut is commonly recognized as the birthplace of rockabilly music.               
This distinct genre of American music developed primarily by Owen Bradley's                 
uniquely creative crew of hand picked musicians, Grady Martin, Bob Moore, Hank               
Garland and Buddy Harman—Nashville's revered "A-Team." The success of Bradley's           
Quonset Hut studio spurred RCA Victor to built its famous RCA Studio B. A                   
handful of other labels soon followed setting up shop on what would eventually               
become known as Music Row. Bradley and his contemporaries infused hooky melodies             
with more refined lyrics and blended them with a refined pop music sensibility               
to create the Nashville Sound, also known as "countrypolitan." Light, easy                   
listening piano (as popularized by Floyd Cramer) replaced the clinky honky-tonk             
piano. Lush string sections took the place of the mountain fiddle sound; steel               
guitars and smooth backing vocals rounded out the mix. As one of the architects             
of the Nashville sound, Owen Bradley was one of the most influential country                 
music producers in history.                                                                 
The singers Bradley produced made unprecedented headway into pop radio, and                 
artists such as Patsy Cline, Brenda Lee, Loretta Lynn, and Conway Twitty became             
household names nationwide. Pop singers like Buddy Holly and Gene Vincent also               
recorded with Bradley in his Nashville studio. In addition to his production,               
Bradley released a handful of instrumentals under his own name, including the               
minor 1958 hit "Big Guitar." With his brother Harold, Bradley produced a half-hour           
television series, "Country Style U.S.A.", during the late 1950s.                           
Bradley sold The Quonset Hut to Columbia (which today is a division of Sony BMG)             
and bought a farm outside of Nashville in 1961, converting a barn into a demo               
studio. Within a few years, the new "Bradley's Barn" became a legendary                     
recording venue in country music circles. It burned to the ground in 1980, but               
Bradley rebuilt it within a few years in the same location.                                 
In 1974, Owen Bradley was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. One                 
additional claim to fame is that he produced records for more fellow Hall of                 
Fame members than anyone else: six. He retired from production in the early 1980s,           
but continued to work on the selected projects. Canadian artist k.d. lang chose             
Bradley to producer her acclaimed 1988 album, Shadowland. At the time of his                 
death, he and Harold were producing the album I've Got A Right To Cry for Mandy             
Barnett, who is best known for her portrayal of Patsy Cline in the original                 
Nashville production of the stage play Always...Patsy Cline.                                 
His production of Cline's legendary hits like "Crazy," "I Fall to Pieces" and "Walkin'       
After Midnight" remain, more than forty years on, the standard against which                 
great female country records are measured today. It is his work with Cline for               
which he is best known, and when the biopics Coal Miner's Daughter and Sweet                 
Dreams were filmed, he was chosen to direct their soundtracks.                               
In the 1980s Nashville's Hillsboro High School established the annual Owen                   
Bradley Achievement Award for the student that most excels in the school's                   
unique recording arts vocational curriculum. Many of the awards recipients have             
gone on to success in the Nashville recording industry and beyond. Past winners             
include prominent sound engineer Kurt Storey, and writer/musician Walton                     
In 1997 the Metro Parks Authority in Nashville dedicated to his honor a small               
public park between 16th Avenue South and Division Street, where a bronze                   
likeness of the legendary producer can be seen. It is directly opposite a                   
monumental public statuary by Alan LeQuire called "Musica," that has become the             
icon of Music Row, the area he helped to make famous.