On the way back from the Highlands last week we played through some great old playlists on the iPod. On came The Welcome Wagon and I mentioned that it had been produced by Sufjan Stevens. “What does a producer do, Dad?” came the voice from the back of the car. Good question!
My answer? I told him that the producer was the person responsible for how a record sounds and making sure the music was recorded in a way which best showcased the artist……I could have gone on and on and, even as I talk I’m running caveats in my head. Of course I could have given a quite different answer had I tackled the question in a another era.
I might have said that the producer was the person responsible for finding the act, picking the songs and hiring the musicians. We are all probably only too aware of the stories of George Martin ‘auditioning’ The Beatles and allowing their own songs to be recorded once they’d shown they had the chops to cover a few rock n roll standards. In the 60’s the producer was, very often, also the record label. John Hammond at Columbia and Chet Atkins at RCA had the ability to talent-scout, develop and record their artists. For all you may see record execs interviewed on TV in front of mixing consoles it’s safe to say that none I can think of could begin to use a mixing-desk to create music. In our day we worked with one of the last A&R producers, Muff Winwood – but even Muff had realised he was better at suggesting other producers than taking control of a session himself, despite having some considerable records to his credit.
Above: Owen Bradley and Loretta Lynn
This Tuesday night we celebrate the centenary of the birth of producer, Owen Bradley who did some of these things and so much more. With the help of some of his most famous recordings we will tell the story of his career. Look out for Gene Vincent, Red Foley, Kitty Wells, Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn and enjoy a very special second hour surrounded by The Nashville Sound.
That’s not all….we’ll have new music from Andy Shauf, Emile & Ogden (who are rather worth listening for alone), Frankie Lee and a new artist we’re rather excited about, Nadia Reid. Nadia has made an album that I am listening to in full for the first time. I heard 30 seconds of one track the other day and I quickly realised I needed to hear it again and again. I haven’t tired of it yet and I think you’ll love it too.
It’s a packed show so we’ll need to be starting on time. Join me if you can from five past nine this Tuesday on BBC Radio Scotland.