Music is like a flower that can grow anywhere, under any conditions. For Dale Ann Bradley, the minimal approach to music of her Primitive Baptist upbringing in Bell County, Kentucky, was all that was required to start a flourishing career as a singer. Although no musical instruments were permitted at the church which she attended, Dale Ann’s love for music began at an early age. Growing up singing all the church songs acapella likely helped her develop her vocal gift and grew her ability to pull every emotion out of a song.
Of course, for anything to grow, it needs a little water and nourishment. Dale Ann recalls her great uncle’s part in cultivating her musical gift. After finding success in the big city, he bought her an 8-track tape player as well as tapes from her favorite entertainers.
She was around fourteen when she received her first guitar. “It was a little plywood, small body guitar, but it had six strings and I made a pick from a milk jug. Drove everybody crazy.” Music had taken a firm root in Dale Ann’s soul: “I never thought of doing anything else.”
A beloved high school music teacher had a big influence, giving Dale Ann her first major performing experience. He and his wife sang weekly during the summers at Pine Mountain State Park and invited Dale Ann to join them. This band became known as Back Porch Grass, and it helped Dale Ann grow her musicianship to the next level. Regional gigs and a couple of 45 RPM singles resulted. Through the band, she met her future collaborators, the New Coon Creek Girls, as well as Harold McGeorge, whose help brought her to the door of Kentucky’s famous Renfro Valley, home of her first extensive entertainment contract.
While at Renfro Valley, she performed on all shows and recorded on The Sunday Morning Gatherin’, the second oldest radio show in America next to The Grand Ole Opry. Dale Ann also recorded two solo albums during her tenure at Renfro Valley. “I can’t put a price on all I learned at Renfro Valley,” Dale Ann says. She joined the New Coon Creek Girls while at the Valley, performing with them until 1997 and recording four albums.
About her songwriting, Dale Ann says “Something has to just kind of stay with me quite a while, then it just kind of comes together…I love melodies. It seems like the melodies are what brings the lyrics.” When putting together an album, she adds, “I try to get as many experiences and feeling in there as I can.”
Dale Ann’s latest album, Kentucky For Me, is a very special one for the singer, as it is dedicated to her home state, and features a number of Kentuckian musicians. “This is my love song to Kentucky,” she says.
By Dan Walsh