Bobby Braddock, the co-writer of such country classics as “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” and “Golden Ring,” as well as the composer of “Time Marches On” and “I Wanna Talk About Me,” is marking two important occasions this week. First, George Jones’ recording of “He Stopped Loving Her Today” is being recognized on the 40th anniversary of reaching No. 1 at country radio. In addition, he’s published a new book, Country Music’s Greatest Lines: Lyrics, Stories & Sketches from American Classics.
“As a decades-long inhabitant of Music Row, I know a lot of the stories behind the songs and have had the privilege and honor of stumbling into more than a few songwriting sessions where music history was being made,” Braddock says. “I often thought that those attention-getting lines that are an important part of country hits would be an interesting topic for a book.”
A remarkably productive and consistent composer, Braddock had at least one No. 1 single in each of five successive decades, beginning with the 1960s, making him one of CMT’s Country Legends We Love.
Robert Valentine Braddock was born August 5, 1940, in Lakeland, Florida. His early passion for music saw him performing in both country and rock and roll bands when he was still in his teens. He moved to Nashville in 1964 and after working briefly in a music store took a job as pianist in Marty Robbins’ road band in 1965.
His first success as a songwriter came when Robbins recorded his “While You’re Dancing,” which reached No. 21 in 1966. The following year, Braddock signed a recording contract with MGM Records, on which he charted two low-ranking singles. He would go on to record for Columbia, Mercury, Elektra and RCA Records, but never with any conspicuous chart success.
Apart from his co-written triumphs, Braddock wrote on his own a steady stream of hits for a range of artists, among them “Womanhood” (for Tammy Wynette), “(We’re Not) the Jet Set” (Jones and Wynette), “Her Name Is…” (Jones), “Time Marches On” (Tracy Lawrence), “I Wanna Talk About Me” (Toby Keith), and “Would You Catch a Falling Star” (John Anderson).
“He Stopped Loving Her Today,” co-written with Curly Putman, has been voted the best country song of all time in various polls, even though Jones recorded it reluctantly and predicted it was too morbid to sell. Released in 1980, it won Jones a best male country vocal Grammy and was the Country Music Association’s song of the year for both 1980 and 1981. “He Stopped Loving Her Today” has been preserved by the Library of Congress in the National Recording Registry since 2008.
Tammy Wynette earned a milestone No. 1 hit with Braddock and Putman’s “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” in 1968 — and married Jones a year later. One of country music’s defining duets, Jones and Wynette’s “Golden Ring” from 1976, was written by Braddock and Rafe Van Hoy.
Braddock is also known for writing humorous and quirky songs, perhaps best illustrated by “I Wanna Talk About Me” and the Statler Brothers’ recordings of “Ruthless” and “You Can’t Have Your Kate and Edith Too.” In addition, he was an early champion of Blake Shelton and produced his first five albums.
In 1981, Braddock was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, then into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2011. He joined the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2015.
Braddock’s prior memoirs include Down in Orburndale: A Songwriter’s Youth in Old Florida (2007) and A Life of Nashville’s Music Row (2015).
Pictured at top: George Jones and Bobby Braddock attend the 2011 Country Music Hall of Fame Medallion Ceremony induction at Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
Edward Morris contributed to this story.