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Fame & Fortune
Bobby Braddock
Bobby Braddock
Country hits got him into trouble and out of it
Celebrity interview

D-I-V-O-R-C-E made him rich and broke

Ask country songwriter Bobby Braddock how he became a success and he'll spell it out for you: D-I-V-O-R-C-E.

Braddock's 1968 hit, written with Curly Putman and recorded by Tammy Wynette, became the first of his 13 songs to top country charts. Another No. 1 collaboration, "He Stopped Loving Her Today," recorded by George Jones, is considered by many to be the best country song ever written.

Braddock, who grew up in the orange groves of Auburndale, Fla., caught the music bug early and toured as keyboardist with a series of country and R&B bands in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Shortly after moving to Nashville in 1964, his years in the trenches finally paid off when he was hired by Marty Robbins for his touring band. Robbins recorded a Braddock song or two. Encouraged to actually hear his songs on the radio, Braddock threw himself into songwriting. Quick to catch him was producer Billy Sherrill, who frequently selected Braddock's slightly offbeat songs for his then-married headliners George and Tammy.

In 1981, Braddock was inducted as the youngest living member of the Songwriter's Hall of Fame. A quarter-century later, his career is still going strong. It also was a financial pleasure for Braddock to see his tongue-in-cheek classic, "We're Not the Jet Set," featured in a Chevrolet commercial during the Super Bowl.

In his memoir, "Down in Orburndale," Braddock revisits his formative years growing up in the Jim Crow South.

Bankrate caught up with him by phone at his Nashville home.

Bankrate: Your father was a Florida orange grower and the town mayor. Did you ever envision taking over the family business?

Bobby Braddock: No, I never had any kind of vision of that whatsoever. I didn't know what I was going to do, but I had no interest in that. I think my brother had that inclination, but I never wanted to do that.

Bankrate: When did you first start to think about a career in music?

Braddock: I always made up my own words to songs, I guess maybe that was a symptom of it. My brother loved country music, and when I was 10 or 11 years old, I said, well, anybody can write this stuff [laughs]. And I ended up doing it. When I was about 16 years old, I started putting songs together. By the time I was a senior in high school, I felt like that was maybe my calling. Maybe it was presumptuous to think I could actually do that, but deep down inside me that's what I wanted to do. I had confidence in myself as a musician, so I figured if I could hone these skills, maybe that would get me to Nashville, where maybe I could get somebody to listen to my songs.

Bankrate: You almost didn't survive your early years working in mob-owned nightclubs in Miami, right?

Braddock: Yeah. The people who owned the club, they definitely were living in that world. When I started watching "The Sopranos," I thought James Gandolfini looked just like that guy I worked for. I left there in fear of my life anyway, because this woman's husband who had just gotten out of prison was saying he was going to shoot me. That got me out of Miami and I didn't go back for a long time.

Bankrate: Were you on salary?

Braddock: He put me on a very small draw, like $40 a week, and he said, "When you're worth more than that, you don't have to ask me for it; I'll know." And it was only two or three months that he raised it up to $100 a week. That would be like getting $750 now. I was getting a lot of cuts because Buddy was a good song plugger, and Curly Putman, with whom I collaborated a lot over the years -- he also wrote "The Green, Green Grass of Home" -- he was their one song plugger there.

Next: "It was only a few years ago that I got a good credit rating."
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