( L-R) Andy Reiss, Harold Bradley, Shane Theriot
My guest today is a now legendary figure in the history of Nashville and a member of the original “A”- team of session musicians. Mr. Harold Bradley. And, as one of the most recorded guitarists in history, if not the most (he has the session logs and union contracts to prove it) he played on thousands of recording sessions, but not just any old sessions, some of the most iconic and timeless songs of all time. I’m talking about songs like Patsy Cline’s “Crazy”, Roy Orbison’s “Only The Lonely”, and “Cryin’”, Tammy Wynette’s “Stand by your Man”, Loretta Lynn’s “Coal Miners Daughter” and so many, many others.
And it’s not just country music that Harold lent his giant musical thumbprint to- how ‘bout Elvis Presley? Oh and remember Burl Ives “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas?” Of course you do. You hear it every time "Frosty the Snowman" comes on every year…That’s Harold. “The Battle of New Orleans” and that intro on banjo? Yep that’s Harold. Brenda Lee’s “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree?”…on and on…He also recorded 3 solo records “Misty Guitar”, “Guitar For Lover’s Only” and “Bossa Nova Goes to Nashville” that are still both musically jaw-dropping and stunning today some 50 years later.
His brother, the legendary producer Owen Bradley, was one of the architects of country music and opened the first studio on what is now known as Music Row in Nashville. It’s all here folks in this interview- Harold, now 92 years young and with a memory as sharp as ever tells us the most amazing stories and recalls his legendary career.
I first met Harold many years ago when we worked together with the great singer Slim Whitman -one of my first gigs when I moved to town.
On the few shows we did together Harold taught me a few things that I still think about- showmanship, the importance of staying in tune, building up a collection of nice instruments and even switching up picks during the same song to get different tones. He made a real impact on a young cat back then.
Even though I hadn’t spoken to him in years, I phoned him and he graciously agreed to meet me and set up a time to chat. I’m so thrilled to be able to have him on Riff Raff. He is such a humble and kind person, always downplaying the impact he made and instead quick to share and give credit to the other musicians, many of whom have now passed on.
You’ll hear him mention the other original A team throughout this interview- Besides Harold, the other 11 people that made up the original A team were guitarists Hank Garland, Ray Edenton, and Grady Martin, steel guitarist Pete Drake, fiddler Tommy Jackson, harmonica player Charlie McCoy, bassist Bob Moore, pianist Hargus “Pig” Robbins, Floyd Cramer, piano, drummer Buddy Harman, and saxophonist Boots Randolph
My old friend Andy Reiss, a great guitatrist in his own right who plays with the Time Jumpers and also a close friend of Harold’s also joined us for this interview.
Recorded at Nashville Musicians Union, Nashville Feb 2018