Patsy Cline’s Producer And Much More: Remembering Owen Bradley

The producer of Patsy Cline’s timeless hits and songs by Loretta Lynn, Kitty Wells, Brenda Lee and many other greats was born on October 21, 1915.

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Owen Bradley - Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Owen Bradley - Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

A member of the country music elite, a man who can truly be said to have helped shape the Nashville sound, was born on October 21, 1915. Owen Bradley, producer of Patsy Cline’s timeless hits and songs by Loretta Lynn, Kitty Wells, Brenda Lee, and many other greats, came into the world in Westmoreland, Tennessee, a mere 40 miles from Nashville.

Bradley may be far from a household name in the wider world of rock and pop, but his productions at Decca Records have touched millions of country music devotees, especially via his work with Cline. “Crazy,” “I Fall To Pieces,” “Walkin’ After Midnight,” “She’s Got You,” and all of Patsy’s other classics were produced by Bradley, who became an extraordinarily influential figure in the Nashville scene of the 1950s and 60s.

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Owen was the go-to producer around town in a literal sense because of the pre-eminence of his Quonset Hut studio operation, situated on 16th Avenue South and run with his brother Harold. Employing what became known as the town’s “A-team” of session players – guitarists Grady Martin and Hank Garland, bassist Bob Moore and drummer Buddy Harman – the studio became hugely in demand in country music and beyond. It also recorded seminal rock’n’roll sessions by the likes of Buddy Holly and Gene Vincent.

A lap of honor with k.d.lang

Bradley was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1974 and became a revered elder statesman around Nashville, emerging from semi-retirement to produce certain bespoke projects such as k.d. lang’s 1988 album Shadowland. One of its highlights was the remarkable collaboration “Honky Tonk Angels’ Medley,” for which the producer was reunited with lang’s three guest stars, Loretta Lynn, Brenda Lee, and Kitty Wells.

In the 1990s, Bradley went into semi-retirement, but there were still new productions for Lee, Pete Fountain and Marsha Thornton. He died on January 7, 1998, but the legacy of his sound and influence reverberate around his beloved Nashville to this day.

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  1. R

    October 21, 2015 at 8:46 pm

    According to the Ellis Naseur biography he wrote about Patsy Cline this guy was a crook and she didn’t have a good relationship with him at all.

    • Bill

      March 16, 2016 at 11:40 pm

      You’re thinking of Bill McCall, who owned 4-Star Music and cheated Patsy out of a lot of money. Owen was the Producer.

  2. Jo Anne Stone

    October 22, 2015 at 12:32 am

    Great story.

  3. Frank Gidlow

    October 22, 2015 at 6:18 am

    When Owen Bradley recorded Buddy Holly in Nashville, Buddy was forced to use the ‘A team’ even though the members of The Crickets went there with him.The sessions were a failure and his contract was cancelled.The next year when “That’ll be the Day”, recorded at Norman Petty’s studios became a hit ,Decca soon released an album of the second rate Nashville sessions which suddenly became good enough for release.Funny that!

  4. scottski

    October 22, 2015 at 5:11 pm

    I have always wanted to know who the backup singers were on so many of those celebrated sessions.
    Those harmonies made for a signature sound.

    • Bill

      March 16, 2016 at 11:42 pm

      The Jordanaires provided the background on all of Patsy’s sessions but one from 1959-63. The Anita Kerr Singers were on several sessions in 1957-58.

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