Bobby Braddock on New Memoir: 'I Would Rather Have a Bad Reputation Than a Boring Book'
Though Bobby Braddock has enjoyed a long and illustrious career that has included hits from Tammy Wynette, Toby Keith, George Jones and Billy Currington, for the legendary tunesmith it all started with Dot Anderson. Sort of.
In 1961, Braddock achieved his first cut as a songwriter with a song titled "Walkin' Papers." The record was released on D.J. Records, a tiny label located in his hometown of Auburndale, Fla. Braddock joked that the song didn't make his bio sheet for his 2011 induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame nor his induction into to the Songwriter's Hall of Fame this spring. "If I had heard it now, I probably would have thought it was one of the worst things I've ever heard," he admitted. "It was hideous, really bad."
However, it wasn't until he loaded up the car and moved to Nashville in 1964 that his writing career really picked up steam. He went to work for superstar Marty Robbins, who earned a No. 21 peak with his "While You're Dancing," which was the first of a five-decade run of hit records.
Braddock is gearing up for the upcoming release of his second book, Bobby Braddock: A Life on Nashville's Music Row. When asked about the fact that he delves very deeply into some of his relationships -- business and otherwise, he said that one of his family members told him the same thing.
"After he read the book, my brother told me 'Bobby, I don't believe I would have said that," Braddock told Billboard. "But, I figured if I slapped myself around and told all of these bad things on myself, people would know that I'm writing the truth. I think I would rather have a bad reputation than a boring book."
Needless to say, the book is far from boring. In the pages of the release, he touches on many of the friendships he has made in the business -- and those that helped him out career-wise, such as longtime Tree International owner Buddy Killen, of whom he said, "He totally got what I was doing. I think a lot of people who were around me didn't know what to make of my writing. They thought I wrote pretty weird. But, he liked it....and he believed in me. He helped me more than anybody in the business."
What set his writing apart from his contemporaries? In his words, he said, "I was writing songs that weren't typical of what was on the radio and I've always done that. I've had things recorded that I probably shouldn't have. There's always that time when something breaks out of the mold and becomes huge, like 'Girl Crush,' for instance. What a great song that was."
His major break came in 1967, with Tammy Wynette's cut of "D-I-V-O-R-C-E," and he has continued rolling out hits to this decade, such as "Golden Ring," "I Wanna Talk About Me," and "People Are Crazy."
Braddock will be forever linked to George Jones for a string of hits that he helped write for the singer, including his 1980 classic "He Stopped Loving Her Today," a two-time CMA Song of the Year that still tops best song lists of the format to this day. Co-written with Curly Putman, he said he feels the song wasn't exactly his best composition, but in producer Billy Sherrill's hands it was the best recording of one of his songs ever cut.
"Part of it was George -- he happened to do one of his great jobs on the song and Billy's production was perfect," Braddock said. "I wasn't that excited about the song itself until I heard the record. I felt like getting down and chewing the carpet once I did. I thought it was the most wonderful thing I had ever heard. Everything just fell into place and it was a magical moment."
What you might not know about the song is that Jones wasn't the original artist to cut it. That distinction belonged to Grand Ole Opry star Johnny Russell, something Braddock said the singer wished the writer had forgot. "He once asked me to quit telling people that. He'd say 'You're gonna make me look like a loser.' I said 'No, it shows you could pick a hit song.' He actually recorded it twice."
There is no slowdown in sight for Braddock -- who also served as Blake Shelton's first producer -- and he likes it that way.
"I try to say busy," he said. "I just got done doing an R&B album that I'm very excited about. This is the kind of music that I grew up – all different kinds of branches of Blues, from the Delta to Motown and even a little bit of Disco. The musicians have a Memphis background and I've got another idea for a book….and I'm also going to be doing some songwriting over the next month or so, which I still love. If I have a role model from a professional level, it would be Clint Eastwood. He's ten years older than I am and he's on top of his game. 'American Sniper' was huge. So, if I'm his age and still alive, I'd like to be that good in doing what I do."
As for retirement, he said, "Oh, God. That's not in by vernacular or my syntax. No. I couldn't imagine that."