Harold Bradley, who crafted ‘the Nashville Sound’ and played on numerous hit records, dies at 93

Harold Bradley
Harold Bradley attends the Country Music Hall of Fame Medallion Ceremony in Nashville in 2007.
(Mark Humphrey / Associated Press)

Country Music Hall of Fame guitarist Harold Bradley, who played on hundreds of hit country records including “Crazy,” “King of the Road” and “Crying” and helped create “The Nashville Sound” with his brother Owen, has died at the age of 93.

His daughter Beverly Bradley said he died Thursday morning in Nashville, where he was born.

The Bradley brothers had a huge impact on Nashville during the 1950s and beyond, with Harold Bradley serving as a member of the “A Team” of session musicians and his brother leading Decca Records.

Bradley was born in 1926 and switched from banjo to guitar at the urging of his brother. He was a teenager when he started playing professionally, touring with Ernest Tubb and making his debut on the “Grand Ole Opry.”


He served in the Navy during World War II, and after his discharge he came back to Nashville to become an in-demand session player. He played on songs for Hank Williams, Eddy Arnold, the Everly Brothers, Burl Ives, Red Foley, Anita Bryant, Patsy Cline and Roy Orbison.

Many consider him to be one of the most recorded musicians ever, appearing on multiple Elvis Presley records. Some of the most well-known hits he played on include Arnold’s “Make The World Go Away,” “Harper Valley P.T.A.” by Jeannie C. Riley, Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man” and “Battle of New Orleans” by Johnny Horton.


Bradley also played on Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” and “I’m Sorry.” Lee’s first records were with Owen Bradley on Decca Records.

“When I was 10 years old, the Bradleys welcomed me into their family,” Lee said in a statement. “Harold Bradley is a big part of all of my memories. Harold is a big part of who I am today. He molded me from a little girl into one of his girls, along with Tammy, Patsy and Loretta. I’ll miss him dearly.”

In the 1950s, the Bradley brothers started a recording studio on what is now Music Row, just the second studio to locate there. There was a surplus Army Quonset hut that they turned into the now-historic studio where they also filmed TV performances.

Harold Bradley was also the longtime president of Nashville’s Local 257 of the American Federation of Musicians. He was also the first president of the Nashville chapter for the Recording Academy. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2006.

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