Owen Bradley

William Owen Bradley (October 21, 1915 – January 7, 1998) was an American musician and record producer who, along with Chet Atkins, Bob Ferguson, Bill Porter, and Don Law, was one of the chief architects of the 1950s and 1960s Nashville sound in country music and rockabilly[1]

Owen Bradley
Birth nameWilliam Owen Bradley
BornOctober 21, 1915
Westmoreland, Tennessee, United States
DiedJanuary 7, 1998 (aged 82)
Nashville, Tennessee, United States
GenresCountry music
Occupation(s)Record Producer
InstrumentsPiano
Associated actsErnest Tubb, Chet Atkins, Bob Ferguson, Burl Ives, Red Foley, Kitty Wells, Patsy Cline, Brenda Lee, Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty

Before the fame

A native of Westmoreland, Tennessee, Bradley learned piano at an early age, and began playing in local nightclubs and roadhouses when he was 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 station's musical director, and was also the leader of a sought-after dance band, joined later by vocalists Bob Johnstone and Dottie Dillard, that played well-heeled society parties all over the city. That same year he co-wrote Roy Acuff's hit "Night Train to Memphis". 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 a music arranger and songwriter at Decca Records. He worked for 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,[2] and began pioneering what would become the "Nashville sound".

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 positioning itself to be a center of the recording industry, and not just the traditional home of the Grand Ole Opry. In fact, the Nashville sound began in a Quonset hut attached to a house Bradley owned with his brother Harold at 804 16th Avenue South in Nashville.

This location, which would come to be known as Quonset Hut Studio, is commonly recognized as the birthplace of a more commercial country music that often crossed over into pop. This distinct genre of American music was developed primarily by Owen Bradley's crew of hand picked musicians, including Harold, Grady Martin, Bob Moore, Hank Garland and Buddy Harman, known collectively as Nashville's "A-Team."

The success of Bradley's Quonset Hut Studio spurred RCA Victor to build 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 hokey melodies with more refined lyrics and blended them with a refined pop music sensibility to create the Nashville sound, known later as Countrypolitan. Light, easy listening piano (as popularized by Floyd Cramer) replaced the clinky honky-tonk piano (ironically, one of the artists Bradley would record in the 1950s was honky tonk blues singer pianist Moon Mullican - the Mullican sessions produced by Bradley were experimental in that they merged Moon's original blues style with the emerging Nashville sound stylings). Lush string sections took the place of the mountain fiddle sound; steel guitars and smooth backing vocals rounded out the mix.

Regarding the Nashville sound, Bradley stated, "Now we've cut out the fiddle and steel guitar and added choruses to country music. But it can't stop there. It always has to keep developing to keep fresh."[3]

Starmaker

Owen Bradley's Quonset Hut Studio console, CMHF
Owen Bradley's Quonset Hut Studio console

The singers Bradley produced made unprecedented headway into radio, and artists such as Kitty Wells, Patsy Cline, Brenda Lee, Loretta Lynn, Lenny Dee, and Conway Twitty became household names nationwide. Pop singers like Buddy Holly[4] and Gene Vincent also recorded with Bradley in his Nashville studio.[5] Bradley often tried to reinvent older country hitmakers; as previously mentioned, he tried to update Moon Mullican's sound and produced one of Moon's best performances "Early Morning Blues" where the blues and the Nashville sound complement each other surprisingly well. Also, he produced Bill Monroe in both bluegrass and decidedly non-bluegrass settings (Monroe's covers of Jimmie Rodgers' "Caroline Sunshine Girl" and Moon Mullican's "Mighty Pretty Waltz", for example, feature a standard country band rather than bluegrass). Many older artists recognized they needed to change as they saw former pure honky tonk singer Jim Reeves blend his own style with the newer styles with great success. However, not everyone was as successful as Reeves or Patsy Cline in these transformations. In addition to his production, Bradley released a handful of instrumentals under his own name, including the minor 1958 hit "Big Guitar". In the late 1950s, Bradley produced a radio and TV series with his brother Harold, Country Style, USA, for distribution to local radio and TV stations as a recruiting tool for the US Army.

Bradley sold The Quonset Hut to Columbia (which today is a division of Sony Music Entertainment) 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. The Beau Brummels paid tribute to the studio, through titling their 1968 album Bradley's Barn. The studio burned to the ground in 1980, but Bradley rebuilt it within a few years in the same location.

Later years and honors

In 1974, Owen Bradley was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. He also achieved the distinction of having produced records for more fellow Hall of Fame members (six) than anyone else except Paul Cohen who produced nine - Red Foley, Ernest Tubb, Webb Pierce, Kitty Wells, Maybelle Carter, Mel Tillis, Brenda Lee, Patsy Cline and Bob Wills . He retired from production in the early 1980s, but continued to work on selected projects. Canadian artist k.d. lang chose Bradley to produce 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.

Owen Bradley's final studio, CMHF
Owen Bradley's final studio

His production of Cline's legendary hits like "Crazy," "I Fall to Pieces" and "Walkin' After Midnight" remain, more than fifty years later, the standard against which great female country records are measured today. It is his work with Cline and Loretta Lynn 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 1997, the Metro Parks Authority in Nashville dedicated a small public park between 16th Avenue South and Division Street to Owen Bradley, where his bronze likeness sits at a bronze piano. Owen Bradley Park is at the northern end of Music Row. Bradley also has a section of roadway named after him where Bradley's Barn once stood in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, on Benders Ferry Road.

References

  1. ^ "Owen Bradley".
  2. ^ Billboard - Google Books. Books.google.com. 1958-04-21. Retrieved 2014-07-30.
  3. ^ Du Noyer, Paul (2003). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music (1st ed.). Fulham, London: Flame Tree Publishing. p. 14. ISBN 1-904041-96-5.
  4. ^ "Oh boy: Why Buddy Holly still matters today". London: The Independent. January 23, 2009. Retrieved 12 June 2014.
  5. ^ Carpenter, Cecil. "Gene Vincent Biography". Retrieved 2 January 2015.

Bibliography

  • Oermann, Robert K. (1998). "Owen Bradley" In The Encyclopedia of Country Music. Paul Kingsbury, Ed. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 50–51.
  • Richliano, James Adam (2002). "Angels We Have Heard: The Christmas Song Stories." Star Of Bethlehem Books, Chatham, New York. (Includes interviews with Bradley and chapters on Bradley's involvement in the making of "Jingle Bell Rock", "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree", and "A Holly Jolly Christmas").

External links

Blue Kentucky Girl (song)

"Blue Kentucky Girl" is a song written by Johnny Mullins, and originally recorded by American country music artist Loretta Lynn. It was released in May 1965 as the first single and title track from the album Blue Kentucky Girl. The song reached number 7 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart.

Coal Miner's Daughter (song)

"Coal Miner's Daughter" is an autobiographical 1969 country music song written and performed by Loretta Lynn. Released in 1970, the song became Lynn's signature song, one of the genre's most widely known songs, and provided the basis for both her autobiography and a movie on her life.

Country Partners

Country Partners is the fourth studio album by American country music duo Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn. It was released on June 10, 1974, by MCA Records.

Feelins'

"Feelins'" is a song written by Troy Seals, Will Jennings and Don Goodman, and recorded by American country music artists Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn as a duet. It was released in June 1975 as the first single and title track from the album Feelins. The song was the fifth and final number one for the duo of Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn. The single stayed at number one for one week and spent a total of 13 weeks on the chart.

Home (Loretta Lynn album)

Home is the twenty-fifth studio album by American country music singer-songwriter Loretta Lynn. It was released on August 11, 1975, by MCA Records.

Honky Tonk Angels

Honky Tonk Angels is a collaborative studio album by Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette. It was released on November 2, 1993, by Columbia Records.

Honky Tonk Angels was produced by Parton and Steve Buckingham. The album had been a long-rumored project between the country singers for over a decade and received much publicity and acclaim upon its release, although its only single release, a remake of the longtime country female vocalist staple "Silver Threads and Golden Needles", barely dented the charts (its accompanying video, however, received heavy rotation from CMT and TNN). Record sales, however, placed the album at #6 on Billboard's country album chart, where it spent 24 weeks, and #42 on Billboard 200, the pop album chart becoming Wynette's second-highest ranking album on the pop chart and Lynn's highest on the pop chart until her 2004 album Van Lear Rose. It was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America.The album features many country standards, including "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" (which features a guest vocal appearance by the song's originator and the original country queen, Kitty Wells), "Wings of a Dove" (a 1960 hit for Ferlin Husky), "I Forgot More Than You'll Ever Know" (a 1953 hit for The Davis Sisters (country) a.k.a. Skeeter Davis and Betty Jack Davis), "Put it Off Until Tomorrow" (a 1966 Bill Phillips hit that was Parton's first success as a songwriter), "Lovesick Blues" (a pop standard known for Hank Williams' 1949 rendition; here the trio sings along with a vintage recording of the song by Patsy Cline), and "I Dreamed of a Hillbilly Heaven", Tex Ritter's 1962 classic that features new spoken dialogue.

The original songs by Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette appear to be solo performances by each of them with harmony vocals by Parton and "Sittin' on the Front Porch Swing" appears to be a Parton solo. The recording features liner notes written by Ralph Emery.

I've Already Loved You in My Mind

"I've Already Loved You in My Mind" is a song that is written and recorded by American country music artist Conway Twitty. It was released in July 1977 as the first single and title track from the album I've Already Loved You in My Mind. The song was Twitty's 20th number-one country hit in the United States. The single stayed at number one for a single week and spent a total of 11 weeks on the country chart.

I Can't Love You Enough

"I Can't Love You Enough" is a song written by Troy Seals and Max D. Barnes, and recorded by American country music artists Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn as a duet. It was released in May 1977 as the first single from their album Dynamic Duo. The song peaked at number 2 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. It also reached number 1 on the RPM Country Tracks chart in Canada.

I Lie

I Lie is the thirty-third studio album by American country music singer-songwriter Loretta Lynn. It was released on February 1, 1982, by MCA Records.

Lead Me On (Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty song)

"Lead Me On" is a song written by Leon Copeland, and recorded by American country music artists Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn as a duet. It was released in September 1971 as the first single and title track from the album Lead Me On. The song was the second number one on the U.S. country singles chart for the pair as a duo. The single stayed at number one for a single week and spent a total of 15 weeks on the chart.

Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man

Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man is the third studio album by American country music duo Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn. It was released on July 9, 1973, by MCA Records.The album includes cover versions of other artists hits, including the Everly Brothers' "Bye Bye Love", and another well-known song, "Release Me".

Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man (song)

"Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man" is a song written by Becki Bluefield and Jim Owen, and recorded as a duet by American country music artists Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn. It was released in May 1973 as the first single and title track from the album of the same name. The song was their third number one on the country chart as duo. The single would stay at number one for one week and spend a total of 13 weeks on the country chart.

Play Guitar Play

"Play Guitar Play" is a song written and recorded by American country music artist Conway Twitty. It was released in February 1977 as the second single and title track from the album Play Guitar Play. The song was Conway Twitty's 19th number one on the country chart. "Play Guitar Play" stayed at number one for a single week and spent a total of 13 weeks on the country chart.

She's Got You

"She's Got You" is a pop song written by Hank Cochran and was first recorded (in December 1961) and released (in 1962) as a single by Patsy Cline. Musically the song is an upbeat jazz-pop song with country overtones to support it.

Sincerely, Brenda Lee

Sincerely, Brenda Lee is the sixth studio album by American pop and country artist Brenda Lee. The album was released February 12, 1962 on Decca Records and was produced by Owen Bradley. It was the first of two studio albums released by Brenda Lee in 1962 and did not spawn any singles.

Success (Loretta Lynn song)

"Success" is a song written by Johnny Mullins that was originally recorded by American country artist Loretta Lynn. It was released as a single in April 1962 via Decca Records.

There's a Honky Tonk Angel (Who'll Take Me Back In)

"There's a Honky Tonk Angel (Who'll Take Me Back In)" is a song written by Troy Seals and Denny Rice, and recorded by American country music artist Conway Twitty. It was released in January 1974 as the first single from the album Honky Tonk Angel. The single was Twitty's 10th number one on the U.S. country singles chart as a solo artist and 13th overall. It stayed at number one for one week and spent 12 weeks on the chart in all.

To See My Angel Cry

"To See My Angel Cry" is a song co-written and recorded by American country music artist Conway Twitty.

Why Can't He Be You

"Why Can't He Be You"' is a song written by Hank Cochran that was originally recorded by American country artist Patsy Cline. Although the song was not actually released as an A-side single, it did become a minor chart hit was later included on Cline's Greatest Hits album. It has since been notably covered by Loretta Lynn and Norah Jones.

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