Cliffie Stone Family Photos
Cliffie Stone and Owen Bradley at Country’s Grandest Homecoming: The Country Music Hall of Fame’s 25th Anniversary Celebration on CBS-TV in Nashville (April 1992). In the past, Cliffie had the opportunity of visiting and seeing Owen in action at his “Bradley Barn” recording studio. In the above photo, they are joyously talking about new recording and production techniques. Owen was born on October 21, 1915, in Westmoreland, TN. As a youngster, he studied and became an excellent keyboardist. As with most teenage musicians, he honed his piano craft at local nightclubs and honky-tonks in the area. In 1935, Owen was hired as one of WSM’s musicians and arrangers, which was a major boon to his career. All artists and musicians wanted WSM’s exposure because it was a 50,000 Watt AM radio station, which operated at 650 kHz and its clear channel signal could reach a good portion of North America, especially at night. (WSM was founded in 1923 by the Nashville-based ‘National Life and Accident Insurance Company.’ The owners used the first letter of their three word advertising motto, “We Shield Millions” as their call letters; and their WSM’s original diamond-shaped antenna is in the Country Music Hall of Fame’s museum.) The Grand Ole Opry was broadcast on WSM-AM from the Ryman Auditorium every Saturday night, which not only made them famous but also one of the longest-running radio programs in history; and Ernest Tubb’s WSM radio show followed right after the Opry. This is why all country artists and musicians wanted to be invited to perform and possibly become a member on the Opry, which was an honor. Owen certainly had the talent and being a staff musician at WSM’s studio gave him priceless exposure to further his career. In 1940, Owen and his musician buddies, Beasley Smith and Marvin Hughes wrote the classic “Night Train to Memphis” which Roy Acuff recorded in 1940. By 1942, Owen became WSM’s musical director, and in this time frame, Owen became the bandleader of the most requested and sought-after dance bands in Nashville’s high society circle (which he’d relinquish in 1964 in order to focus on his demanding production schedule.) Owen left WSM radio in 1947 after being hired by Paul Cohen as a songwriter and first-call session piano player at Decca Records. Consequently, Owen played piano on the recordings of current popular country artists such as Ernest Tubb, Kitty Wells, Red Foley and Burl Ives. Paul Cohen became Owen’s music mentor and by working closely with Paul, Owen learned how to produce records, etc. In this same time frame, Owen was also the piano player for awhile in Ernest Tubb’s Texas Troubadours after Moon Mulligan left. (Owen would later produce a blues album with Moon who was a talented piano player/blues singer.) In 1958, Owen became Vice President of Decca’s Nashville division after Paul Cohen left. With the advent of Rock ‘n Roll, country music records weren’t selling like they used to, so Owen (Decca), Chet Atkins and his A&R man, Bob Ferguson at RCA, and Don Law (Columbia) were among the creative pioneering architects of the lush “Nashville Sound.” The Nashville sound was basically comprised of violins and string sections, which replaced the fiddle/banjo; and the smooth easy-going piano riffs of Floyd Cramer, which replaced the honky-tonk piano (an example is Floyd’s piano intro that begins Patsy’s recording of “Crazy”); and the pop-style backup choruses performed by the likes of the Jordanaires and the Anita Kerr Singers, which took the place of steel guitars to round out the arrangement. The first traditional country artists to successfully use the ‘Nashville Sound’ and cross over to the pop genre were Jim Reeves, Eddy Arnold (produced by Chet at RCA), and Patsy Cline who sang her unique version of ‘Crazy,’ which was produced by Owen Bradley. Consequently, these artists reached another plateau when their records became huge hits and crossed over to Pop/Adult Contemporary, which dramatically expanded their audiences! It also expanded the record labels’ bottom line because record sales were booming. In this time frame, Owen and his talented guitar player brother, Harold, bought a house on 16th Avenue South in Nashville, which had a Quonset hut attached to it. Owen and Harold renovated the Quonset Hut into a first class recording studio. And with Owen’s A-Team musicians (which included Harold Bradley, Floyd Cramer, Hank Garland, Buddy Harman, Bob Moore and Grady Martin), Owen’s vital contribution to the ‘Nashville Sound’ started here. It was at the Quonset Hut Studio where Patsy Cline and Owen’s A-Team musicians recorded the classic songs such as “Crazy,”  “I Fall to Pieces,” “Walkin’ After Midnight” and “Sweet Dreams” as well as other country stars. Following Owen’s lead, big name music labels also bought homes on 16th street and turned them into offices, which includes RCA Victor who built their historic RCA Studio B; and this resulted in 16th Avenue South becoming known as the famous and historic “Music Row.” Later, Columbia Records bought Owen and Harold’s Quonset Hut recording studio and office in 1961; Owen then bought a farm for his growing family outside of Nashville and converted his farm’s barn into a first class studio, which would become known as “Bradley’s Barn.”  The up-and-coming country stars that Owen produced included the likes of Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, Brenda Lee, Bill Monroe (bluegrass) as well as pop singers such as Buddy Holly and Gene Vincent and the list goes on. Owens’ production talents also included a radio and TV series venture with his brother, Harold, called “Country Style, USA,” which they distributed. Since Owen’s name was synonymous with Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn, he was hired to be the musical director of both of their biographical motion pictures – Loretta’s “Coalminer’s Daughter” (Sissy Spacek won an Oscar for Best Actress in 1980) and Patsy’s “Sweet Dreams” (Jessica Lange received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in 1986). In the early 1980s, Owen retired from production; however, he kept his production skills intact by intermittently working on selected projects, such as K. D. Lang’s album. Owen was inducted into the “Country Music Hall of Fame” in 1974. Two years later, he received the Academy of Country Music’s “Pioneer Award” (1976). In 1997, Nashville’s “Metro Parks Authority” dedicated a small piece of land between 16th Avenue South and Division Street (which is entrance to “Music Row”) to be named the “Owen Bradley Park.” A bronze likeness of Owen sitting at a bronze piano is truly a befitting way to honor the enormous historical contributions that he made to country music.

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