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Harold Ray Bradley


Nov. 17, 1926 — Jan. 31, 2019

ountry Music Hall of Fame guitarist Harold Ray Bradley, 93, died Jan. 31, 2019. He was the vice president of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) for 11 years, and in 2010 became vice president emeritus. He held the position of Local 257 president for 18 years — from 1991 to 2009. His musical career had its genesis in the beginnings of Music Row itself; in 1954 he and his brother Owen built Bradley Film and Recording Studios, later known as the Quonset Hut Studio. It became the anchor business for a thriving recording industry in Nashville that continues to this day. Bradley played on an enormous number of country music classics as a member of the storied A-Team that recorded during the ‘50s and ‘60s with a list of artists that included practically every Nashville star of the era. He was a 71-year member of the Nashville Musicians Association and in fact held one of the longest — if not the longest — memberships of the local; he joined Nov. 17, 1942. Bradley was born Jan. 2, 1926 in Nashville, Tennessee to Vernon and Letha Maie Owen Bradley, one of six children. As a child he played tenor banjo, but later was given a six-dollar guitar his father bought him in a junk store. His elder brother Owen advised him to switch to guitar, and by high school he was playing in Ernest Tubb’s band — the Texas Troubadours — and also in his brother’s dance band. He found a kin26 THE NASHVILLE MUSICIAN

dred soul who shared Bradley’s love of jazz in the Troubadours — Billy Byrd. He became a mentor to Bradley and the two frequently jammed together. In 1944 Bradley joined the Navy and after his discharge he attended Peabody College, and also played with Eddy Arnold and Bradley Kincaid at the Grand Ole Opry. His first session was Pee Wee King’s “Tennessee Central No. 9,” recorded in Chicago, Illinois, in 1946. In 1952 Bradley married Eleanor Allen, and the family grew to include two daughters. Over their 66-year marriage, Bradley always cherished family time, and said he would practice his guitar while his wife and children went to the grocery store to have time to spend with them when they returned. Along with his guitar chops, he was known for his invention of a style called “tic-tac bass” played on a hybrid instrument — the six-string bass guitar. Local 257 President Dave Pomeroy talked about the new development Bradley brought to Nashville sessions. “As what became known as the ‘Nashville Sound’ was coming together, Harold invented a new style of playing. His percussive and melodic style of playing will forever be known as tic-tac bass. When someone asks, ‘What is tic-tac bass?’ I point them to Patsy Cline’s ‘Crazy.’ The combination of the attack of Harold’s muted picking and the sustain of Bob Moore’s string bass dancing with Buddy Harman’s drums is pure magic. Harold was a true professional in

the studio who led by example, and his calm, confident demeanor helped keep everyone around him focused and on top of their game,” Pomeroy said. A small sampling of the 100s of top-selling records Bradley played on in addition to Cline’s “Crazy” include her hits “I Fall To Pieces” and “Sweet Dreams,” Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man,” Roy Orbison’s “Crying,” Brenda Lee’s “I’m Sorry,” “King of the Road” for Roger Miller, “Harper Valley P.T.A.” by Jeannie C. Riley, Conway Twitty’s “Hello Darlin’,” Jimmy Dean’s “Big Bad John,” and the Christmas classic “Jingle Bell Rock,” which opens with his distinctive guitar riff. He recorded three solo albums in the ‘60s for Columbia: Misty Guitar, Guitar for Lovers Only, and Bossa Nova Goes to Nashville. In 1978 Bradley helped organize a concert by Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty and Tom T. Hall at the White House to honor the Country Music Association. In 1999 he coproduced Mandy Barnett’s second album, I’ve Got a Right to Cry. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2006, and became a member of the Musicians Hall of Fame in 2007. In addition to his many years of service to the AFM and Local 257, Bradley became the first president of Nashville’s chapter of NARAS in 1965 and was honored with a special Grammy Trustees Award in 2010. Guitarist Andy Reiss talked about Bradley’s role in the Nashville community as a mentor. “Harold Bradley was the epitome of a Southern gentleman, always kind, gracious, generous, and well presented. His role as one of the primary builders of Music Row, as one of the first Nashville session players, and as a leader of the Local 257 is well documented, but what may be less known is his love of teaching and mentoring. I was lucky enough to have been one of his mentorees. Mr. Bradley got me involved in many tours and recording sessions, giving me tips and setting me straight along the way! I for one will always be profoundly grateful for the impact he had on my career and my life,” Reiss said. Bradley was an avid tennis player who was a founding member of the Music City Tennis Invitational in 1973, an event that benefited Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. His athletic prowess extended to other sports —

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The Nashville Musician — April - June 2019  

The official journal of the Nashville Musician Association, AFM Local 257. This issue features Del McCoury, Tracy Silverman, and more.

The Nashville Musician — April - June 2019  

The official journal of the Nashville Musician Association, AFM Local 257. This issue features Del McCoury, Tracy Silverman, and more.