Bradley L. "Slim" Williamson was born in Arcade, GA
November 21st, 1927. As you can imagine times were pretty tough back
then. The country was on the verge of the Great Depression and the
future looked pretty bleak. He only went as far the 8th grade in
elementary school before quitting to help provide for the family. By the
time he was 14 years old he was working 12 hour days in a local grocery
store. Yep, Slim was no stranger to hard work.
He began his musical career fairly early in life, teaching himself to
play guitar on cold winter nights. Before long he was fronting his own
country music band. One night while his band was performing on the radio
it was learned that the announcer had forgotten his commercials. Slim
saved the day by saying he would do the commercials. He made up spots
for Kelvinator, the shows sponsor, and went on to do his show. The
commercials went over well and soon he was offered a position as a DJ.
Before long he gave up his singing career and became a full time
broadcaster. Shortly thereafter, on July 13th, 1948 he married his one
and only wife, the former Mirl Eddins.
1957 Slim was a DJ for a radio station in Winder, Georgia, WIMO. He met
a young man who was 19 years old who wanted nothing more than to make a
record. He didn't know where to start, had no money, and a top it off,
he had a heart disorder; so severe in fact that the doctors had given
him only six months to live. The young boy's name was Leon Holmes.
Slim wasn't in much better shape financially, but being the kind of man
he is, he wanted more than anything to make this boy's last days
happier, so he recorded Leon Holmes and the Georgia Ramblers at the WIMO
studio. He took the tape down to Nashville and saw Don Pierce of Starday
Records. Don told him that he didn't really want to release the record
on Starday and suggested that Slim form his own label. Slim formed Peach
Records and Starday pressed and distributed the records under their
Custom Package Series. Well, as expected, the record didn't set the
charts on fire but, it was a pretty good record. Miraculously, Leon
lived a good many years past the six months the doctors gave him and
recorded several more records for Slim.
Peach Records released quite a few records in it's time (1957-197?).
Artists that Slim recorded were Del Reeves, Ott Stephens, Lewis Pruitt,
etc. Although Slim owned Peach Records, a lot of his masters were leased
to other labels. Actually that was his main purpose with the label. A
demo was pressed on Peach and passed to the DJ's. If the record got a
lot of airplay one of the major labels would pick it up and release it.
Decca, Chancellor, VeeJay, Reprise, and Columbia, to name a few, all
leased masters produced by Slim on his Peach label. In 1958 Slim formed
Yonah Music, Inc. to publish some of the songs he was cutting. His first
big hit as a publisher came with "Softly and Tenderly" written by Red
Bailey & Jim Howell and sung by Lewis Pruitt, released on the Decca
label (Decca 31095). It earned Yonah the first of many BMI awards.
was a Disc Jockey for about 8 years at various radio stations and was
once Mr. DeeJay USA on Nashville's WSM radio where his son Cliff would
occasionally help him with his DJ duties. They were known as Big Slim &
Little Slim in those days. Soon he would own his own radio station, WPEH
in Louisville, GA.
WPEH was a marvel in itself. From ground breaking to first broadcast, a
mere 30 days elapsed. The fastest in history that a working radio
station had been built. WPEH went on the air September 10th 1960.
It was here that Slim met Ott Stephens. Ott was born in Ringgold, GA
Sept 21, 1941. He started playing at an early age and soon found himself
on TV with the Willis Brothers. The next step was to get a record out
and that's where Slim came in. Ott's first release was "Victim Of A
Holiday Weekend" b/w "Why Does Everything Go Wrong" on Peach Records
(Peach 742). It wasn't a top hit, but it did well enough to encourage
him to do more. Early in 1961 Ott went to work for Slim at WPEH as a
disc jockey. It was a shrewd move on Ott's part as it brought him closer
to the record business and allowed him to see first hand what made a hit
record. Although Ott never had a huge hit himself, he was part of
Chart's hit making machine until 1968.
early in 1960 Slim formed Yonah Records. It is unclear to me at this
time why Yonah was formed since Peach Records was already in place, but
it could be attributed to the fact that Peach was partnered with Starday
and either Starday rejected them or Slim wanted them separate for some
reason. The material was very good, so I don't think that Starday would
have rejected it. It could also be that Peach was winding down by then
also, and Slim wanted a fresh start. Whatever the reason, the first
Yonah record was "Darling I Will" b/w "Georgia Waltz" by Leon Beaver(s)
and the Little Beavers. Leon's son, Rockabilly Hall Of Famer Stan
Beaver, scanned the labels and sent them to me along with MP3's of both
sides. You can enjoy his generosity by clicking on the labels to listen
to the songs!
While at WPEH in Louisville, GA, Slim had the great fortune to find Jim
Nesbitt waiting in his office one night in March of 1964. Jim had just
came up from South Carolina where he had recorded what he felt was a hit
record. He knew of Slim's reputation as a producer and had heard Slim
was releasing some records on the Chart label. He hoped to get Slim to
release it in hopes of being picked up by one of the majors. After Slim
listened to the tape he agreed with Jim - they had a hit! The next step
was to get it released. He talked to Gary Walker who owned Chart
Records. Slim had used Gary's label a few times in the past to release
some records. A deal was made where Jim's record was released on the
Chart Label. Soon it was climbing the charts!
Slim told Gary that he hadn't much money, but was confident that Jim's
record was a hit. He offered to buy the label since Gary was using it
primarily as a springboard to the major labels. Since Gary hadn't much
money either he offered Chart to Slim for $350.00, the cost of
registering the label with the musicians union. Peach wasn't affiliated
with the union and Slim realized that if Jim's song was to get the
attention it deserved it would have to be done with a union label. Slim
and Ott Stephens went in partners and bought Chart Records in March,
1964. Jim Nesbitt's "Lookin' For More In '64" was a huge success, just
as predicted. Slim needed to get the record out to the public so he made
a deal with Sounds Of Nashville to press and distribute the record. The
song that launched Chart Records for Slim hit the charts and stayed
there for a 27 week run making it all the way into the Top 5.
Over the years Slim's interests in the radio business prospered. In 1965
Slim & Ott bought WLOV in Washington, GA.
On the strength of "Lookin' For More In '64" Slim decided to move the
operation to Nashville, TN. He first set up offices in the RCA Victor
building then later moved to the Capitol Records building where it
remained until, as far as I know, Chart closed it's doors. Slim moved
his family to Nashville late in 1965 and Ott remained in Louisville, GA
to oversee the radio stations. He had planned to move to Nashville as
soon as he could, but he never got around to it. In October 1965 Slim
signed Lynn Anderson to the label and as they say, the rest is history!
Slim sold Chart and his publishing companies in April, 1974 and moved
back to his home town in Georgia but the music bug kept biting him. In
August,1975 he formed Scorpion Enterprises, Inc and again brought a
small independent label to the top. Scorpion Records was voted the
number one independent record label in 1977. He had Jim Nesbitt, Jean
Shepard, Roy Drusky, and Ronnie McDowell to name a few. Ronnie's song
"The King Is Gone" brought fame to both himself and to Scorpion Records,
selling a reported 3 million copies.
But Slims interest in the record business didn't last too long. Times,
and the industry, had changed. He no longer enjoyed being part of the
combine that had become country music. The music was becoming more and
more pop sounding and traditional country music was slowly being phased
The biggest blow came when Ronnie McDowell left Scorpion. All the hard
work Slim had put into Ronnie was just starting to pay off, but the
promise of a bigger and better career lured Ronnie away. Slim was tired
of building artists only to have one of the major labels lure them away
from him. First Lynn Anderson and now Ronnie McDowell. Slim decided it
was time to bow out. Before the decade was up Slim closed the doors to
Scorpion Records and to the music business. He vowed to never again
become involved in such a venture. In fact, he was so dismayed with it
all that he took practically all his memoirs of his recording days and
buried them somewhere on his farm in Arcade. I don't mean he dug a hole
and put the stuff in it, I mean he took a bulldozer and 'dozed it all
under. His BMI, SESAC, & ASCAP awards. Most of his records. Everything.
Gone. At least he thought he had gotten rid of it all.
Slim formed Arcade Homes, Inc. in Arcade/Jefferson, GA and decided to
develop land instead of talent. He has done as well in that area as he
did in the record business. He applied the same logic to real estate as
he did to music; work hard, be fair, and be honest. Slim's philosophy
seems to be "don't try to sell someone a bill of goods that isn't as
good as what you say it is". It works in every walk of life. Real
Estate, Music, Finance, you name it.
When I first called Slim back in August of 2001 to ask him about his
"little" record label, he told me about having buried it all somewhere
on his farm. About 2 weeks later I called him again he said he had been
cleaning out his barn and what did he find? A stack of stuff that had
been covered with hay and other things. Turns out that stack contained a
bunch of Chart, Scorpion, Peach, Great & Music Town records. It had been
22 years since he closed the doors on that part of his life. Finding all
those records made him realize just how much that part of his life meant
to him. He has wished time upon time that he had not let his emotions
get the better of him when he threw it all out, but even though he may
not have some of the material things from that era anymore, he will
forever more have the knowledge that he made a difference in the lives
of so many. His little record company brought to the fore front of
American country music what no other record label could. And not because
of the company itself, but because what the company stood for. What
Slim, Cliff, Joe, Ott, Lloyd, and all the other employees at Chart stood
for. . .giving you a chance. Chart had more young artists than any other
country music label at that time. He gave them a chance. They gave the
world some of the best country music it have ever heard. Slim gave them
a chance, they didn't let him down.
Slim has decided to finally retire and enjoy the fruits of his long
years of labor. Sometime this year, 2002, he will close the doors yet
again on a chapter of his life. This time, though, he's ready. A whole
new life awaits the Williamsons. One that will hopefully be free of the
worries and hassles that running a business brings. He and his wife of
almost 54 years, Merle, plan to see as much of the USA as they can. I
wish them all the happiness in the world.