Jerry Bradley Obituary – Death: Legendary Nashville Country Music Executive, Jerry Bradley Passes Away At 83
Jerry Bradley Obituary: Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Jessi Colter, and Tompall Glaser’s Wanted! The Outlaws, the genre’s first platinum-selling record, were produced by Jerry Bradley, a towering Nashville music producer, who has passed away, according to The Tennessean. He was 83.
Bradley’s family acknowledged his passing but did not give an explanation.
Bradley was born into the world of country music; his father, renowned producer Owen Bradley, was a key figure in the development of the “Nashville Sound” in the 1950s and 1960s.
Early in his career, Jerry worked alongside his father, Owen, in the Bradley’s Barn studio outside of Nashville, helping Owen record everyone from Loretta Lynn and Webb Pierce to Joan Baez and Gordon Lightfoot.
Bradley was concurrently collaborating closely with Chet Atkins, a top executive at RCA Nashville and a world-class performer, songwriter, and producer in his own right.
In order to establish himself in the music business, Bradley formally joined RCA in 1970 as Atkins’ assistant. Three years later, Atkins left RCA after being diagnosed with cancer, and Bradley took over as the label’s president.
Bradley helped RCA Nashville not only maintain its status as a dominant country label but also break into the pop mainstream. He signed musicians with broad appeal, such as Ronnie Milsap and Alabama, and assisted in guiding the recording careers of country music icons Charley Pride and Dolly Parton. But possibly his greatest accomplishment was putting together the ground-breaking album Wanted! The Outlaws in 1976.
Without taking anything away from the songs or musicianship on Wanted!, the album was unquestionably more of a business venture than a creative one. The advent of outlaw country, pioneered by Waylon Jennings’ 1973 album Honky Tonk Heroes (issued on RCA) and Willie Nelson’s first three acclaimed studio albums for Atlantic, particularly 1975’s megahit Red Headed Stranger, served as the inspiration for Bradley’s concept. with Jennings’ approval
Nelson had recently departed the label for Atlantic in search of more creative freedom, so Bradley set about creating a compilation under this outlaw moniker by fusing Jennings’ older songs with recordings he had done while working at RCA. While arranging to get a handful of Glaser’s songs from Polydor, Bradley also grabbed some old recordings Colter had recorded for the label early in her career (she later went to Capitol).
When Wanted! was first published in January 1976, it was an immediate smash hit. For six weeks, it led the Billboard country albums list. By the end of the year, the Recording Industry Association of America certified it platinum, making it the first country album to sell a million copies.
Bradley described how the concept for the compilation came up in an interview with the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2012. Bradley remembered, “I took up this Time Life [magazine] old Western stuff and started thumbing through it. I think that’s where the term ‘outlaw country’ came from. I thought, “Man, that’d make a good album cover!'” because it featured an image of an old wanted poster.
Early in the 1980s, Bradley departed RCA and eventually joined the helm of Opryland Music Group, a brand-new publishing house created following Gaylord Entertainment’s acquisition of Acuff-Rose Publishing. In addition to overseeing a back catalog filled with songs, Bradley expanded the company’s roster by hiring a variety of new musicians, including signing Kenny Chesney to his first publishing contract.
Bradley left the music industry in 2003. In 2019, he was admitted to the Country Music Hall of Fame.