Country music executive Jerry Bradley dies

 July 18, 2023

Nashville recording executive Jerry Bradley, a force in country music for decades, has died at the age of 83.

As head of RCA's Nashville branch, Bradley helped shepherd country's turn toward pop in the 1970s and 80s. He oversaw the careers of stars like Dolly Parton and shaped the influential "outlaw" brand of the genre.

Bradley died at home in Mt. Juliet, Tennesse on Monday, his family said.

Country music executive dies

Born in Nashville in 1940, Bradley got off to an auspicious start: his father, record producer Owen Bradley, was a titan of the industry who pioneered the slick "Nashville sound" with Chet Atkins, and his uncle Harold was a guitarist in Nashville's famous A-Team of session musicians.

Jerry Bradley began as a recording engineer in his father's studio, working with the likes of Loretta Lynn, Dinah Shore, Gordon Lightfoot, and The Who.

Eventually, he left the family business and joined RCA. He began as an assistant for Atkins before taking over the company's Nashville branch, which he led from 1973 to 1983.

At RCA, Bradley steered country music in new directions with the "outlaw" brand. The compilation Wanted: The Outlaws, featuring songs from artists like Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, was the first country album to go platinum.

Bradley was also responsible for signing Alabama and Ronnie Milsap, and he had a hand in developing stars like Dolly Parton and Charley Pride.

“I wasn’t so much a musical leader,” Bradley said. “I was more of a coach.”

Hall of Famer

After leaving RCA, Bradley led the Opryland Music Group, where he signed Kenney Chesney.

Bradley retired in 2003 after the publisher was bought by Sony, and he was later inducted into the Country Hall of Fame for his contributions to the industry.

“This business has given me a wonderful life. I’m grateful for the people I’ve met, the songs I’ve heard and the part I play," Bradley said at the time.

Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, said country music "gained newfound respect and commercial clout" thanks to Bradley, while Chesney said Bradley "had a profound and unmeasurable impact on my life."

"But not just in my life. ... He helped change the lives of so many people that had a song in their heart. Jerry’s impact on our creative community will be felt for years," Chesney said.

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