He is a singer-songwriter and producer born Robert Valentine Braddock in Lakeland, Florida, and growing up in Auburndale, Florida, where his father was a citrus grower. When he was young he learned to play the saxophone and the piano and he wrote his first song when he was just 8 years old.
From the late 1950s to the early 1960s, concentrating on rock and roll, he would tour with local and Southern bands such as the Dynamics, the Starfires, Jumpin’ James Jolly and Big John Taylor’s Untouchables, and in 1961 released his first self-penned song “Walkin’ Papers” which was recorded by the singer Dot Anderson, and followed it in 1962 with “That’s When I stopped Living”/”Fallout Shelter” recorded by Billy Chambers. During these latter years he would also attend the Florida Southern College.
Deciding to re-locate he moved to Nashville, Tennessee, in 1964 and after having been employed in a music store joined up with Marty Robbins to play piano in his band. His songwriting came to the fore in 1966 when his “While You’re Dancing” was recorded by Marty Robbins and made the charts, and at the same time he would work as a session musician and appear in some country music movies.
In 1967 he started recording his own material and his second release, “I Know How To Do It” reached the Top 75 in the chart and he would later see further chart success in 1979 with “Between the Lines “. This would lead him to receiving his first recording contract and publishing contract, which would lead to four others through the course of his career, and catapult him into being a sought after and successful songwriter who would write or co-write 13 chart No. 1s and hits for artists such as George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Tanya Tucker, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Duncan, Nancy Sinatra, The Statler Brothers, Jon Anderson, Tracey Lawrence, Mark Chesnutt, Toby Keith and many more. As a co-writer he has worked with other songwriters such as Curly Putman, Sparky Lawrence and Sonny Throckmorton and in the field of production he discovered and produced the singer Blake Shelton who has gone on to have several chart-toppers.
His repertoire which comprises an estimated 1200 songs with 80 chart hits includes the songs “D.I.V.O.R.C.E.” by Tammy Wynette, “I Wanna Talk About Me” by Toby Keith, “Two Shades of Blue” by Deborah Allen, “Would They Love Him Down in Shreveport” by the Oak Ridge Boys, “Would You Catch a Falling Star” by Jon Anderson, “Fadin’ In, Fadin’ Out” by Tommy Overstreet and “He Stopped Loving Her Today” by George Jones, which was voted “Country Song of the Century” in a Radio & Records Magazine poll.
Winning several awards he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1981 as the youngest living inductee as well as also winning the Music City News Songwriter of the Year and the Nashville Songwriters Association that same year. In 2007 he published his Down in Orbundale: A Songwriter’s Youth in Old Florida.
In 2011 he was an inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Here he is in a discussion of his book “Down in Oburndale” and singing “He Stopped Loving Her Today”…