Kenny Chesney led a troupe of country stars appearing Tuesday night (Aug. 26) at a sold-out dinner honoring Nashville’s Bradley family at Loews Vanderbilt Hotel. Brenda Lee, as host, set the tone for the tribute by opening the proceedings by expressing her personal gratitude especially to family patriarch Owen Bradley as a father figure to her, adding “I’m so glad to salute the Bradleys as the first family of Music Row.” The event highlighted the presentation of Leadership Music’s Dale Franklin Award, named after the organization’s founding executive director.
Bradley, the late producer and Nashville music industry pioneer, is credited as one of the primary builders of the country music industry in Nashville. He and his brother Harold operated a studio in Nashville beginning in 1951 and then opened the first recording studio on Music Row in 1955. Many members of the Bradley family have been instrumental in Nashville’s music industry and prominent in the community. In addition to Owen and Harold, others being honored included Owen’s daughter Patsy Bradley, a long-time BMI executive; Owen’s son Jerry, now retired as a record label head; Jerry’s wife Connie, the present senior vice president of ASCAP; and third-generation family member Clay, who now works at BMI.
Owen Bradley, a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, produced many artists who themselves have been inducted into the Hall, including Lee, Patsy Cline, Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn, Marty Robbins, Webb Pierce, Kitty Wells and Ernest Tubb.
Fellow Hall of Fame member Harold Bradley continues as president of the Nashville chapter of the musicians union and is credited as the most recorded instrumentalist in history. He is often referred to as the “Dean of Nashville Session Guitarists.”
Retired BMI president/CEO Frances Preston honored Patsy Bradley for her devoted service to BMI and her work on behalf of the American Cancer Society and reminisced about their travels.
Jerry Bradley, who began his career in music publishing, succeeded Chet Atkins as head of RCA Nashville. Under his reign, Wanted: The Outlaws became the first platinum-selling album in country music history. He later headed the Opryland Music Group. Ronnie Milsap, who sang, “Almost Like a Song,” remembered that Jerry was one who believed in him and signed him to RCA.
Kellie Pickler, who sang “Red High Heels,” as a tribute to Connie Bradley, thanked her for taking “great care of me as a songwriter and as a friend.”
Chesney entertained the crowd, estimated at just under 600, with “Better As a Memory” and talked about what “great teachers” the Bradleys are.
Lee Ann Womack performed Loretta Lynn’s “You Ain’t Woman Enough.” Gretchen Wilson sang “Crazy,” made famous in the Owen Bradley-Patsy Cline production. Mandy Barnett, who Owen Bradley produced shortly before he died in 1998, sang a very vibrant version of “Crying” in his honor.