Jerry Bradley (music executive)

Jerry Bradley (born January 30, 1940) is an American music executive known for his role in country music. As head of RCA Records in Nashville from 1973 to 1982, Bradley was involved in the marketing and creation of the first platinum album in country music, Wanted! The Outlaws, which reached that mark in 1976. Bradley was inducted in the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2019.

Early life

The son of Owen Bradley, who later created the Decca Records Nashville studios (later MCA Nashville, now part of Universal Music Group), Jerry started his high school years at Montgomery Bell Academy, but then switched to Hillsboro High School over a disagreement with Montgomery Bell and their administration. After graduation, Bradley served two years in the United States Army and learned the proper chain of command.

Learning the music business

After his Army discharge, Bradley returned to work with his father Owen at the first Bradley Barn recording studio in Mount Juliet, Tennessee (East of Nashvile). Jerry would learn the music business at the Forest Hills Music Studio, the official name of "Bradley's Barn", during the 1960s. While there, Jerry saw the recording of three future Country Music Hall of Fame inductees take place (Brenda Lee, Loretta Lynn, and Webb Pierce). Other artists who recorded at the Bradley Barn during the 1960s were Joan Baez, Gordon Lightfoot, Warner Mack, and Dinah Shore. Some of those sessions lasted until after midnight, forcing Jerry to sleep on a couch at the Bradley Barn to be ready for the next recording session to occur at 9 a.m. the following day.

Transition to RCA

While also at the Bradley Barn, Jerry befriended Chet Atkins of RCA Nashville (now part of Sony Music Group). Atkins, a record producer and head of RCA Nashville, was a creator of the Nashville Sound in the 1960s along with Jerry's father Owen. Jerry told his father about a possible job at RCA Nashville to which Owen replied "You already have a job." Owen then advised Jerry on the RCA position "If you aim for another position, make sure it's an opportunity to advance".

RCA Records

Accepting the position as a staff assistant to Chet Atkins of RCA in 1970, Jerry assisted Atkins in communications and paperwork with RCA's main office in New York. Jerry would also assist Atkins in the recording studio. In 1973, Atkins stepped down as head of RCA Nashville following a bout with cancer. Jerry succeeded Atkins in the position. During Jerry's tenure at RCA, he played a role in the early careers of Ronnie Milsap, Dolly Parton, Charley Pride, and Alabama. The biggest role in country music Jerry would play though was in legitimizng the Outlaw movement prevalent during the 1970s, led by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson among others. Jerry collected previously recorded songs from Jennings, Nelson, Jessi Colter (Jennings' wife), and Tompall Glaser (the last from Polydor Records); and created them into the album Wanted! The Outlaws with the cover showing it in an Old West poster. Released in 1976, it was the first platinum country music album certified by the Recording Industry Association of America.

After RCA

After stepping down from RCA Records in 1982, Jerry would become head of the Opryland Music Group, an organization created from Gaylord Entertainment's purchase of Acuff-Rose Music in 1985. While at Opryland Music Group, Jerry was head of 16th Avenue records which produced some of Pride's albums after he left RCA. Jerry stayed has head of Opryland Music Group until his 2003 retirement when Sony Music Group purchased Opryland Music Group's publishing.

Service with CMA

Jerry served as president of the Country Music Association (CMA) Board in 1975. He was also instrumental in the creation of Fan Fair (now the CMA Music Festival) and in managing the historic RCA Studio B in downtown Nashville.

Personal life

Besides Jerry having musical talent along with his father Owen, Jerry's uncle Harold was a well-known session guitarist who was part of the Nashville A-Team players. Jerry's wife Connie worked for the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) offices in Nashville from 1980 until her 2010 retirement and was CMA Board president in 1989. Another uncle, Charlie, and a cousin, Bobby, were noted recording studio engineers. Jerry's aunt Ruby Bradley Strange was a pioneering office manager on Music Row while his sister Patsy was an executive for Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI). His son Clay is an artist manager.


In 2019, Jerry was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame with Brooks & Dunn and Ray Stevens. This made Jerry the third member of his family inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, after his father Owen (1974) and uncle Harold (2006).