Keith Bradford named as Executive Director of Cashbox Magazine Nashville
by Sandy Graham
When you first speak to Keith Bradford, there is a slight accent you can’t quite place – but definitely not a Tennessee trill to his deep, engaging voice. ‘My Grand-parents on my father’s side were born in Canada, Montreal Quebec actually” Keith says. ‘We were surrounded by French music, jigs reels, polkas as my grandmother on my mother’s side was this little old French woman. That influenced my brother, Richard to play the 5 string banjo and learn all those great songs. I on the other hand was 8 or 9 years old when I took up the accordion. My father’s side of the family came from Montreal, my last name is really Guilbault. I adopted the stage name of Bradford as it was easier to pronounce and certainly easier to spell.”
Keith Bradford has the distinct honor of having played with the legendary Country Queen, Kitty Wells. ‘I auditioned in 1976 to work at the new Disney World copycat ‘Opryland’. The auditions were held in New York City; 6700 people came out for all the different auditions, they were looking for soundmen, choreographers, stage directors, you name it. I auditioned as a vocalist and got a part. Only 250 kids got placed from that audition, and I was lucky enough to be one of them.” Keith Bradford tells the story of then working with Kitty Wells. ‘Opryland was over 760 acres and they tried to fashion it after Disney World. The thing was they never considered that weather would be a huge factor. In Florida, they had outdoor shows but Opryland was up against seasonal issues. It took them 20 years to figure it out that they just couldn’t keep up the stamina of the weather against live outdoor shows. Now the Opryland Hotel and Shopping Mall stand on that historical spot. I ended up working for Kitty Wells, bass player, back –up singer and MC to her shows as well as a buffer to the press and others. I spent years on the road with Kitty, and it was a fantastic and wonderful experience and brought me to where I am today.”
Bradford and his other brother, Mike have a wonderful, intimate recording studio, with Mike being the studio engineer and drummer, and Keith running the business side. ‘KMA Records is named after my 3 sons, Keith, Mark and Arvis (Arvis means Joy or Happiness and Keith’s wife wanted to keep her Filipino heritage alive in her boys) and while I was on the road with Kitty, I accumulated over 2,000 business cards of both industry people, musicians, artists, you name it. It was a great base to start off KMA with sending out an introduction to people I had already gotten to know on the road.” The song on the KMA Label, ‘Because of You’ was twice nominated for a Grammy Award in 1999 and 2000 in the Country Song of The Year and lost out to the hit ‘A Man of Constant Sorrow” by The Soggy Bottom Boys from the blockbuster movie, ‘O Brother Where Art Thou’. We are proud of our label and what we do to keep the music going.”
Another fascinating part of the enigma that is Keith Bradford, is his and brother Mike’s trailblazing idea of online radio. ‘NBRN started out two years ago as a television show. We were the Nashville Broadcasting Network www.nashvillebroadcastingnetwork.tv and we are proud to present Country, Bluegrass and Gospel Shows and artists. With the new media license we held, the Nashville Broadcasting Radio Network was born out of necessity. Today we simulcast in Germany, Ireland, Southbridge Massachusetts; we even have a young girl who is on the air in Canada from Lindsay, Ontario.” NBRN is truly a unique station, and I personally would encourage anyone that likes country, bluegrass or gospel to log on to www.nbrn.fm.
I asked Keith Bradford how the opening of Cashbox Magazine in Music City U.S.A. came about. “ Well, I had been sending product to the National Headquarters in South Carolina, and lo and behold, they actually reviewed them. This was so refreshing as nowadays it is very difficult to get radio let alone the media to give any new talent a chance. I started to converse with Bruce Elrod, the President of Cashbox Magazine, and after many months we came to the conclusion that Cashbox Magazine was an icon and it needed to have a presence again in Nashville” Bradford explains.
The new office of Cashbox Magazine is housed in the same building as NBRN and KMA Records, on, of all things Kitty Wells Boulevard.”The house on Kitty Wells Boulevard sat empty for years. Kitty (Muriel Deason is her real name) and her husband Johnny Wright owned a few of the houses on this street, and her grand-daughter Kitty Kat raised her three children here. When she moved out it sat empty for a long time. After years of driving by it, I finally asked Johnny (Kitty’s husband) why don’t you sell it to me and he did. If you look it up on Google it is still listed as East Old Hickory Boulevard, but it has been renamed Kitty Wells Boulevard for years now.”
What does the future hold for Keith Bradford and Cashbox Magazine Nashville? ‘ On May 9th we are hosting a Mother’s Day Celebration at the Nashville Palace. Our partners in Cashbox Magazine from the south and Cashbox Canada are all uniting to celebrate with a Cashbox Magazine Artist Showcase party. The live entertainment will be artists from all over North America who are up and coming or established in their own right. The show is what Cashbox is all about, featuring entertainers who give it their all. We are combining it with a Mother’s Day tribute party, and the admission is free, the show runs from Noon – 6 p.m. with food and fun for all.”
The amazing thing is all of the combinations are about legends, Keith Bradford is a music legend in his own right, the Nashville Palace is right across the street from Opryland, a place where it all started for many, and of course the legendary Cashbox Magazine, which to this day still holds it’s own in the music industry. What was the most refreshing part of speaking to Keith Bradford, is to him, it is all still about the music. He still loves it, lives it, and plays it. Thank goodness in these current times there is still a Keith Bradford doing his best to keep it on the airwaves.
See you at the Nashville Palace May 9 Noon-6 p.m. If you can’t be there, be sure to listen to www.nbrn.fm all the following week. I am sure Keith will have plenty to tell you after this new milestone in music history – Cashbox Magazine returns to Nashville, Tennessee with Keith Bradford at the helm of Executive Director.