When one thinks of Music Row, it is impossible not to conjure up thoughts of Music City’s Royal Family, the Bradleys. Last night, Leadership Music awarded the prestigious Dale Franklin Award to Owen, Harold, Patsy, Connie & Jerry Bradley. The annual award recognizes music professionals who exemplify leadership qualities. The Bradley family is most certainly deserving of that title.
Owen and his brother, Harold, were among the first to build independent recording studios in Nashville and, in particular, built the famous Quonset Hut studios in 1955 at 804 16th Avenue South. The famous studio was the birthplace of the Nashville Sound, rockabilly, and spawned many notable recordings by Webb Pierce, Kitty Wells, Ernest Tubb, the Wilburn Brothers, Bill Anderson, Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty and Patsy Cline. Famous tunes recorded there include Sonny James’s “Young Love” and Gene Vincent’s “Be-Bop-a-Lula” (both Capitol, 1956), Marty Robbins’s “Singing the Blues” (Columbia, 1956), Ferlin Husky’s “Gone” (Capitol, 1957), Conway Twitty’s “It’s Only Make Believe” (MGM, 1958), Mark Dinning’s “Teen Angel” (MGM, 1959), and Johnny Horton’s “The Battle of New Orleans” (Columbia, 1959). Owen passed away in 1998 and is the subject of one of Music Row’s most notable pieces of sculpture just off the circle at Demonbreun. The Curb Foundation is currently renovating and restoring the Quonset Hut Studio for tours and use by students in Belmont University’s music industry program.
Harold Bradley, president of the Nashville chapter of the American Federation of Musicians since 1991, is one of the most recorded guitarist in the history of country music, if not music in general. He was part of Nashville’s original “A Team” (the “Nashville Cats”). Harold played lead on the aforementioned Horton hit as well as Patsy Cline’s famous tune, “Crazy,” written by Willie Nelson. Bradley’s list of appearances on hit recordings are too numerous to exhaust, but include most notably Eddy Arnold’s “Make the World Go Away,” Don Gibson’s “Oh Lonesome Me,” Brenda Lee’s “I’m Sorry,” and Roger Miller’s “King of the Road.” Other hits to which he contributed are Ray Price’s “Danny Boy,” Jeannie C. Riley’s “Harper Valley P.T.A.,” Bobby Vinton’s “Blue Velvet,” Burl Ives’s “Holly Jolly Christmas,” Faron Young’s “Hello Walls,” Tammy Wynette’s “Stand by Your Man,” and Conway Twitty’s “Hello Darlin.'”
Jerry Bradley started with his father Owen in the Bradley Barn, a studio located in the outskirts of Nashville in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee. The Bradley Barn produced such notable artists as Gordon Lightfoot, Joan Baez and other pop acts. Jerry went on to head the RCA label in Nashville, developing the successful “Outlaw” concept with Willie, Waylon, Jessie Colter and Tompall Glasser. From there, Jerry took over the reins of Opryland Music Group and Acuff-Rose Music Publishing for awhile and then went to work in the publishing end of the business.
Connie Bradley, Jerry’s wife, is a leader in the music industry as senior vice president of ASCAP. She has been honored many times, including being named “Lady Executive of the Year” by the National Women Executives and recipient of Nashville Symphony’s 2006 Harmony Award just to name a few. She is frequently identified by Nashville magazines and publications as one of the most powerful people on Music Row, male or female!
Together with last year’s Dale Franklin Award recipient, Ms. Frances Preston, Patsy Bradley was instrumental in starting the Nashville office of BMI, and retired as assistant vice president of that organization.
Other members of the Bradley family currently active in the industry include Clay Bradley, who is a recording executive at Sony Music’s Nashville operation and Bobby Bradley Jr. who is a studio engineer.
Troy Tomlinson, who worked for Jerry Bradley at Acuff-Rose and is now CEO of Sony/ATV Publishing in Nashville, gave one of the most enjoyable keynote speeches of the event, which actually came across as more of a roast! Tomlinson noted that among the five Bradley family members honored — each individually having between 30-50 years of involvement in Nashville, — they have over two centuries of influence on Music Row. Truly a remarkable achievement.
The award dinner was held at Loew’s Vanderbilt. On hand to honor these remarkable leaders were artists influenced by them, including Ronnie Milsap, Kenny Chesney, Kelly Pickler, Gretchen Wilson, Lee Ann Womack and Mandy Barnett. One of the most stirring performances for me was Ronnie Milsap singing his 1977 hit single, It was almost like a song, undoubtedly one of the most well-crafted songs ever.