Connie Bradley, Longtime ASCAP Nashville Head and Music Row Trailblazer, Dies at 75

Photo Credit: Donn Jones/CMA

Jerry Bradley, the 2019 non-performer inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame with his wife, Connie Bradley on Monday, March 18 at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, TN.

Bradley was bestowed with the Country Music Association’s prestigious Irving Waugh Award of Excellence in 2018.

Connie Bradley, a more than three-decade veteran at ASCAP Nashville who is now considered a pioneer among women executives in the country music industry, died Wednesday (March 24) at age 75.

"As head of ASCAP's Nashville office for more than three decades, Connie Bradley was a mentor to so many of country music's greatest songwriters and an indelible part of ASCAP's history,” said ASCAP chairman and president Paul Williams in a statement on Bradley's death. “She was a maverick leader in country music with an enormous heart who passionately advocated for the songwriters she loved so much. ASCAP and country music lost an iconic leader today. Our hearts go out to her family and the large community of songwriters who loved her.”

Photo Credit: Hunter Berry/CMA
Kenny Chesney congratulates Connie Bradley as she is awarded the Irving Waugh Award of Excellence on Tuesday, August 14, 2018 at CMA’s office in Nashville, TN.

During her long tenure at ASCAP, Bradley became known as a staunch advocate for music creators. Upon being awarded the Country Music Association’s prestigious Irving Waugh Award of Excellence in August 2018 by Kenny Chesney, the country star remarked, “I’ve been very blessed to have won Entertainer [of the Year] four times with this organization and one of the years that I won, I actually saw Connie standing in the audience, and I thanked her by saying she was one of the best friends that a dreamer could ever have.”

“She was one of the many trailblazers, along with Frances Preston and Jo Walker Meador, for women in the Nashville music business," said CMA CEO Sarah Trahern in a statement. "Her passion for artists, songs and the Country Music industry as a whole paved the way for so many. Personally, I will miss her class, her stories and her humor."

Bradley was born Oct. 1, 1945 and raised in Shelbyville, Tennessee. After attending college at Middle Tennessee State University, she began working in the mortgage industry and, later, as a receptionist at Nashville’s News Channel 5.

After pivoting to music, Bradley had stints at Famous Music/Dot Records and RCA Records before being hired in 1976 as a membership representative at ASCAP, where she quickly worked her way up to senior vp and Nashville head. Under her leadership, ASCAP signed a cavalcade of major stars, including Chesney, Dierks Bentley, Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Reba McEntire, Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts, George Strait and Sugarland.

Between 1983 and 2012, Bradley served on the CMA board of directors, where she was elected both president and chairperson. In 2012, she was honored at Nashville’s SOURCE Awards, which recognize women in country music, for being “a vital source in the success of Music Row and the Nashville entertainment industry.”

She became part of Nashville royalty after marrying husband and former RCA Records head Jerry Bradley, whose father, the legendary record producer Owen Bradley, is widely considered one of the key architects of what would later become known as the “Nashville Sound.”

But Bradley has since become a Nashville legend in her own right, and her legacy at ASCAP is literally written on the walls: The board room at the Nashville office was named after her in 2010, the same year she departed the organization.

Bradley is survived by her husband, Jerry Bradley, and son Clay Bradley, who works as an executive at BMI.

Kenny Chesney: The Billboard Cover Shoot