The love of country music was hardly surprising. His hometown of Shreveport was home to the KWKH Louisiana Hayride, a Grand Ole Opry style weekly stage and radio show where talents ranging from Hank Williams and Webb Pierce, to Jim Reeves, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Floyd Cramer ahd George Jones got their starts before going on to wider fame.
Bradshaw's mellow, low-key delivery landed him a contract with Mercury Records in 1975. He recorded a an album in Nashville in December of '75, produced by one of Nashville's best at that time: Jerry Kennedy, who produced recent hits by Tom T. Hall, Jerry Lee Lewis and Faron Young.
Most of the album's songs even then would be considered Classic Country standards. A few were even hits from stars who began at the Hayride, including the Hank Williams-penned title track, "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" and another Hank favorite: "Take These Chains from My Heart," Webb Pierce's "Slowly" and "Four Walls" by Jim Reeves. Others came from non-Hayride stars: "The Last World in Lonesome is Me" (a 1966 Eddy Arnold hit written by Roger Miller) and "Absence" (recorded by Miller himself), "Here Comes My Baby" (Dottie West) and "Less and Less" (a Roger Miller composition recorded by Charlie Louvin).
Mercury released "I'm So Lonesome" as a single in January, 1976. Interviewed by the Associated Press in February, Bradshaw declared, "People say we're just trying to cash in on the Super Bowl. It sure looks that way, but I've been singing most every day of my life. I'm going to be judged harder than most," adding, "Obviously people don't want you to succeed at two things, but I love entertaining. Nobody's going to buy my record if it's not any good."
"I'm So Lonesome" made it all the way to # 17 on Billboard's Top Country Singles charts, though the album, released that summer, didn't chart at all. "The Last Word in Lonesome" got no higher than # 90 and "Here Comes my Baby" fizzled.
Bradshaw did some off-season music gigs, but by 1977 his fledgling country career was over. As the AP reported at the time, part of the problem was an extended bout with tonsilitis that forced him to cancel shows. The same story reported the Mercury Records deal went sour, as Bradshaw said, after he "badmouthed (Mercury) in a Dallas paper." Trust me when I tell you: a good way to get blackballed in Nashville, then and now, is to badmouth your record label, though music was hardly Bradshaw's priority during the 70's
When he returned to music, he focused on gospel. A third single, "Until You," from the album Until You, recorded for the Benson label, charted at # 73 in 1980. He recorded four more albums including Terry and Jake, a 1997 effort with Gospel Music icon Jake Hess, who sang with the Statesmen and the Imperials.
So was he any good? I've listened to enough to say I think he was a damn sight better vocalist than people realized. He sounded a bit tentative at the start (and on the video clips below). But time and experience usually take care of that. Fact is, those recordings sound stronger today, in an era filled with one American Idol and X-Factor mediocrity/no-talent after another, not to mention off-key Nashville "stars" whose bogus "talents" mainly involve creative use of Autotune, which (thank God!) didn't exist in the 70's.
See and hear for yourself. These clips arer from a 1976 episode of the syndicated Nashville program Pop Goes the Country. First, "I'm So Lonesome."
And from the same show, "The Last Word in Lonesome is Me."
This is the gospel single, "Until You," a little heavy on strings.
What did others in the business think of Bradshaw's singing? Well, there weren't many comments, but I stumbled across an opinion on December 17, 1981 when I interviewed the late Cindy Walker, one of the greatest of all country songwriters and a onetime hit singer herself ("When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again") in 1944.
We were discussing songs she wrote for Bob Wills, and she had wonderful stories about that. Thoroughly modest and kind to a fault, she admitted at one point she didn't feel comfortable talking about herself, but she heaped praise on other singers she thought had potential.
One was Terry Bradshaw.
Coming from the lady whose pen created "You Don't Know Me," "Sugar Moon," "Bubbles in my Beer," "Warm Red Wine," "Take Me in Your Arms and Hold Me" and "I Don't Care," that's high praise indeed.