Jerry Bradley, Who Helped Remake Country Music, Dies at 83

After apprenticing with two of country music’s most celebrated producers, father Owen Bradley and guitarist Chet Atkins, record executive Jerry Bradley challenged his legacy and rocked the industry. died Monday at his Mount Juliet home. , Tennessee, near Nashville. he was 83 years old.

His death was announced by BMI Nashville’s Senior Director of Media Relations, Ellis Cough-Campbell. No cause was given.

Mr. Bradley was best known as the driving force behind it. “Wanted! Outlaws.” Groundbreaking 1976 compilation featuring music by Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Tompole Glaser and Jennings’ wife Jesse Colter.

Brutal and irreverent, the record was an extraordinary success and was certified by the Recording Industry Association of America as the first million-selling album in country music history. It also disrupted the Nashville status quo, posing a threat to the supremacy of the slick Nashville Sound associated with Bradley’s father and Atkins’ work.

The term “outlaw” came to prominence in the country scene in the early 1970s, when publicist Hazel Smith and others used it to describe the do-it-yourself, anti-establishment ethos of Nelson and Jennings. I started. But it was Jerry Bradley, then head of RCA Records’ Nashville division, who had the vision to package the emerging outlaw aesthetic and bring it to a wider audience.

This included modeling the album cover after a Western-style “Most Wanted” poster with mugshots of the four singers on the record. And in honor of the Outlaw movement’s young, rock-minded audience, Bradley commissioned Rolling Stone journalist Chet Flippo to write the liner notes.

Discussing Bradley’s accomplishments as part of the 2003 BBC documentary series Lost Highway: The Story of Country, Flippo said, “To make Nashville look fashionable for the first time, the album looks and “Marketing was very important,” he said. music. “

Building on the unprecedented success of “Wanted!”, Mr. Bradley signed future superstars such as Ronnie Milsap, Eddie Rabbitt and the band “Alabama” during his nine-year tenure with RCA. I called. Each of these artists released a slew of his No. 1 hits on the label while reinvigorating country airplay with a broader pop, rock and soul sensibility.

Mr. Bradley also oversaw the careers of several prominent country stars during his time at RCA. He produced Charlie Pryde’s chart-topping hits in his late 1970s and produced Dolly Parton’s first million-selling album, Here You Come Again (1977). supervised the He was also responsible for Elvis Presley’s return to the top of the country charts for the first time in nearly two decades in the mid-’70s, reestablishing ties with major country audiences shortly before his death.

“I’ve been more of a coach than a leader in music,” Bradley said in an interview marking his 2019 induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, acknowledging his accomplishments.

Jerry Owen Bradley was born in Nashville on January 30, 1940, as one of two children of William Bradley, known as Owen, and Mary (Franklin) Bradley, known as Catherine. Was born. A former orchestra leader, his father became one of the chief architects of the Nashville Sound through his work as a producer for the likes of Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn. his mother was a housewife.

Jerry graduated from Hillsborough High School and raced sports cars at the Nashville Speedway as a teenager.

After attending Peabody College in the early 1960s, he began working for his family’s music publisher, Forest Hills Music. He also began spending time at Bradley Byrne’s recording studio, where, under the tutelage of his father and uncle Harold (both of whom are also members of the Country Music Hall of Fame), Joan Baez and Brenda Lee’s sessions. and Dinah Shore contributed to them from time to time.

In 1970, eager to forge his own path in the music industry, Mr. Bradley went to work for Chet Atkins at RCA, where he became the liaison to the label’s headquarters in New York. Three years later, when cancer curtailed Atkins’ activity, Bradley succeeded Atkins as head of RCA’s Nashville operations.

Bradley left RCA in 1982, taking a short hiatus to become General Manager of Opryland Music Group. The company had recently acquired Acaf Rose, a music publisher with a catalog of celebrities such as Hank Williams, Roy Orbison and Everly. brothers. Bradley never rested on his laurels, recruiting a new generation of songwriters, including Kenny Chesney, before his 2002 retirement.

A long-time board member of the Country Music Association, Mr. Bradley played a key role in the development of the CMA music festival. Held annually in Nashville since the early 1970s (then called Fan Fair), the event sees about 400 artists performing in front of his 100,000 or so fans over four days. show off the performance.

Bradley has a daughter, Lee Jankif. son Clay. 5 grandchildren. 5 great-grandchildren. and his sister Patsy Bradley. His wife of 42 years, Connie (Darnell) Bradley, a prominent country music executive, passed away in 2021. Her marriage to Gwynne Hastings Kellum, the mother of her children, ended in divorce. She passed away in 2001.

“Greatness does not come by blood. It is achieved by action and invention,” said Kyle Young, chief executive of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, during the Bradley Hall of Fame induction. He spoke while looking back on his entrepreneurial spirit.

“Jerry Bradley had his father Owen and his uncle Harold portrayed as North Star,” Young continued. “He understood that their gifts and manners could not be imitated or reproduced. He would have to find his own way.”

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