Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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BRADLEY, Owen

(b 10 October 1915, Westmoreland TN; d 7 January 1998, Nashville) Musician, record producer, studio owner; pioneer of recording in Nashville. Music director and pianist for WSM radio in Nashville, Bradley co-wrote Roy Acuff's 'Night Train To Memphis' '42, recorded 'Zeb's Mountain Boogie' '45 as Brad Brady and his Tennesseans, combining talking railway blues, wild steel-guitar and some boogie-woogie piano, a country-jazz take on 'Pine Top's Boogie Woogie', with solo bits on trumpet, clarinet, fiddle and Zeb Turner's electric guitar. A studio group, the Owen Bradley Quintet, made the USA country chart with 'Blues Stay Away From Me' '49, then the pop chart with 'White Silver Sands' '57, 'Big Guitar' '58, but found his greatest fame as a producer. Asked by Decca to take over their production chores in Nashville, he was music director '47-58, A&R director '58-68 and carried on, producing over the years Red Foley, Ernest Tubb, Webb Pierce, the Wilburn Brothers, Kitty Wells, Brenda Lee, Gene Vincent, Marty Robbins, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Bill Anderson, Conway Twitty and many more.

He had his first studio '52 in rooms rented from the Teamsters' Union but moved when they raised the rent; built the Bradley Film and Recording Studios '55, later famous and better known as the Quonset Hut, with his brother Harold (b 2 January 1926), a well-known guitarist. It was attached to their house, on 16th Avenue South, now famous as Music Row; he recorded Buddy Holly there '56, and sold it to Columbia when he moved to a farm just outside of town in the early '60s, and built a new studio soon known as Bradley's Barn. It burned down 20 October 1980 and he rebuilt it on the same spot. Bradley was Billboard's Country Music Man of the Year '61. Owen and Harold produced a TV series, Country Style, USA; Owen led the soundtracks for the biopics on Cline and Loretta Lynn, Sweet Dreams and Coal-Miner's Daughter. None were more successful producing country music, but in later years Bradley was criticized for making it too slick, his famous 'Nashville sound' leading to 'countrypolitan'.

His son Jerry (b 30 January 1940) began as a publisher with Forrest Hills Music, discovered Gary Stewart, and was later executive producer at RCA and head of Nashville operations from '75.