Jerry Bradley, Renowned Music Executive And Country Music Hall Of Fame Member, Passes Away At 83


Jerry Bradley, the music executive whose presence was felt on Music Row for decades, passed away on Monday, July 17. He was 83 years old.

Born in 1940, Bradley was educated in Nashville and served in the Army from 1960 to 1962. Following his discharge, Jerry told his father, Owen Bradley, that he’d like to join him in the music business. Owen taught him audio engineering skills at Bradley’s Barn studio beginning in 1965. With his uncle Harold Bradley, Jerry launched the family’s Forrest Hills Music publishing company.

But Bradley was keen to establish his own Music Row identity. In 1970, he became the assistant to legendary RCA chief, producer and guitarist Chet Atkins, another member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Bradley eventually assumed the label’s administrative and business tasks so that Atkins could concentrate on music. He arrived at the company just as Atkins protégée Jerry Reed achieved the hits “Amos Moses” (1970) and “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot” (1971).

Soon after, in 1973, Bradley became the head of RCA’s Nashville operation. During his tenure, Ronnie Milsap, Dolly Parton and Reed achieved pop-crossover stardom, and Elvis Presley returned to the Country hit parade. In addition, he signed Alabama, and was at the helm of the label as the group achieved stardom with its first chart-topping successes.

Under Bradley’s leadership, the label became one of the first in Nashville to achieve autonomy from New York, free to sign artists, design album graphics and create marketing materials without oversight.

Bradley signed Milsap in 1973 just as he crossed over to the pop charts with “It Was Almost Like a Song” (1977) and “(There’s) No Gettin’ Over Me” (1981). Parton had ambitions beyond Country Music. Bradley helped her achieve these with “Here You Come Again” (1977) and “9 to 5” (1980). Thanks to Bradley’s RCA team, Presley commanded the Country spotlight in the mid-’70s with “I’ve Got a Thing About You Baby,” “Help Me,” “T-R-O-U-B-L-E” and more.

As a record producer, Bradley worked with such Country Music Hall of Fame members as Eddy Arnold, Floyd Cramer, Charley Pride and Dottie West.

He began producing Pride in 1973. They had more than a dozen No. 1 records together, including “Someone Loves You Honey” (1978) and “Mississippi Cotton Picking Delta Town” (1974).

He also oversaw the creation of Country Music’s first certified-Platinum album, Wanted! The Outlaws, ushering in an entire era of Country Music with its stars Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Jessi Colter, and Tompall Glaser leading an “outlaw” movement.

In 1980, he signed Alabama to RCA and launched the act’s historic string of hits. The label’s promotion of such No. 1 smashes as 1980-81’s “Tennessee River,” “Feels So Right” and “Why Lady Why” led to Alabama’s superstardom, Country Music Hall of Fame induction, and more than 75 million in sales.

Following his time at RCA, Bradley was named the head of the newly formed Opryland Music Group (OMG) when the Gaylord company bought Acuff-Rose Publishing in 1985. During his 1986-2002 spell at the Opryland Music Group, Bradley produced Pride’s “Shouldn’t It Be Easier Than This” (1987), “I’m Gonna Love Her on the Radio” (1988) and more. He also signed such artists as John Conlee and Neal McCoy. For OMG’s 16th Avenue label, Bradley continued to produce hits for Pride. Among the publishing company’s success stories were Kenny Chesney, Skip Ewing, and Aaron Tippin, all of whom became top recording artists. He retired in 2003.

Bradley was also a longtime member of the CMA Board of Directors, serving as CMA Board President in 1975 and playing a crucial role in creating CMA’s Fan Fair experience. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in the Non-Performer category in 2019.

The 2019 Country Music Hall of Fame inductees were announced on Monday, March 18 by WSM’s Bill Cody in Nashville: Jerry Bradley (Non-Performer Inductee), Ray Stevens (Veterans Era Inductee) and Brooks & Dunn (Modern Era Inductee).