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Ty Bracken Photo Page
Ty Bracken Photo Page
The following is a "brief" beginning to end description of being a band leader
from Appleton, Alabama. To "fill in " the rest would take too long.
There's much more to Ty Bracken than "Meaner Than an Alligator".
Now that I've been inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame Legends #268, I'm
flabbergasted. I've always through the years associated the word "legend" for
someone who has been here, done that, and passed on. I will learn to accept it
with a very humble feeling of appreciation. I have trouble accepting that I
deserve the title legend. I hold that in high esteem and I don't know what I
have done through the years to deserve it, but I certainly accept it, and "I'm
thankful for such an honor", so here's my story.
Ty Bracken BIO
Rockabilly Hall of Fame® Inductee #268
I was born and raised about ten miles north of Brewton, Alabama in a rural
area called Appleton.
I was the eldest of four children. I was born Tyrone Bracken, March 11,
1941. I had a good mama and daddy. My dad ran a rollin' store and tended a
little ten acre farm of corn and cotton. My mama raised us kids, (whipped me
every day) sewed, and boiled our clothes in a iron wash pot. Cooked on a wood
stove, scrubbed the floor with a corn shuck scrub brush, raised a garden,
shelled, and canned peas, beans, tomatoes, okra, corn, and anything else to
try to get us through. We raised our own cows and hogs for milk and meat.
Although we were very poor, a lot of people in that part of the country were,
so I really didn't notice it. I went to school at Cain consolidated school
where Mrs. Elam taught first through sixth grade in one room. There we
learned how to read, write and spell with the old "blue back" spelling book.
I entered into North Brewton School in the third grade. We had no electricity
in that part of the country until I was seven years old. I listened to the
Grand Ole Opera on Saturday nights on an old Philco radio (when daddy could
manage to buy a battery). I discovered a love for music at a very early age.
I picked cotton and finally saved up enough money to order a $12.50 Silvertone
guitar from the Sears & Roebuck mail order catalog. I also learned to play
lots of songs on the piano from the records I bought at Butt's Radio and
Just up the road a bit from us lived the Lowery family. That's where all
the "magic" starting coming together for me. They had a singing quartet
including three guitars. I could listen and enjoy their music forever.
They taught me how to tune my guitar and a few new cords every now and then.
I would play along with the radio or a few records from many different styles
of music I liked. Then it happened! Buford and Junior Lowery and myself
formed a trio for a one night gig to play for a Modern Woodmen Of The World
supper engagement. Buford and I were about fourteen. Junior was seventeen.
They passed the hat for us that night and we each made $3.11 for playing about
twelve songs. From that night on I was "hooked". That was more than I could
make all day in the hot sun picking cotton.
With Woodie Ray Lowery, Grover Hart, Arlton Blair and myself, we formed a
quartet named The Hickory Hollow Quartet. We played for TV, 4-H talent show,
and gospel singings. At age fifteen the group dissolved.
I entered W. S. Neal High School when I was sixteen and in the tenth
grade, . There I met William Golden where we tried to form a FFA quartet, but
it really never got off the ground, so I "did my own thing". I would play
piano or guitar in the high school auditorium as well as play for FFA special
functions on TV. I was also working for my uncle in a grocery store in
Brewton. , I bought a ė50 Ford, joined the "Rod Benders" hot rod club and
would drag race at a small air strip on Sunday evenings.
I played piano at a small church whenever we could get a preacher to come way
out there. I would also slip off to play at the local bars that had a band on
Saturday nights. There I would make $10.00 a night plus tips. The average
pay those days in the normal work force was $5.00 a day, so I was in "high
cotton" making that much money just playing music. I learned to interact with
other musicians and got better as time went on.
To me the fifties was a period of time between 1948 and 1964 ... okay, the
math does not work out, but the fifties are more a state of mind than an
actual span of years.
A time when men were men, and women were women, and we knew the difference. A
time when a girl said "no" and the boys respected that. A time when everyone
knew who they were. A time when you went to school, graduated, (or dropped
out) got a job, got married and had kids, in that order. A time before the
Beatles, hippies, riots in the streets, and Vietnam. A time when you thought
the "middle east" was a place somewhere in Georgia or South Carolina. A time
when there were no security cameras anywhere, but you slept with the doors and
windows wide open, with the keys in the car. We thought a terrorist was just
a mean child . A time when cars were works of art you were proud to show them
off. A time when the music you dug and the cars that was cool were a
lifestyle. A time when drive-in's were either a movie with lots and lots of
kisses, or a fast food place with girls on skates wearing short-shorts or
tight pedal pushers that would hang her trey on your car door. A time of sock
hops, (bring your favorite records) peanut boilings and corn cob wars.
A time before shopping malls and drive-by shootings. There was no Play
Stations, video games, or time out. We had rat killings, shot slingshots, bb
guns, cap pistols and bow & arrows that we made ourselves. We played chicken,
and follow the leader on our bicycles down in the woods (which could get very
Drugs was Castor Oil, Turpentine, Pine Tar, Asafetida, Liniment, Vicks Salve,
Mustard Salve, and Hadicol.
Coke was a bottled soda you got out of a machine for five cents.
I graduated from W .S. Neal (they didn't have "no kid left behind" back then,
they would leave your butt behind), moved to Birmingham Alabama and started
playing music on weekends while going to business college and working as a
meat cutter for A&P. There I played in a band at the National Guard Armory
(they had a dance every Sat. night). There I met, or played with a lot of
national known artist of the time. (Jerry Lee Lewis, Mark Denning, Don
Gibson), and many, many others.
I then moved to Pensacola, Florida where I started working at Monsanto nylon
plant. I also worked with a band called The Rockettes playing on weekends
and on Wed. nights for the shift parties that were popular at that time. Then
with the Brewton, Army National Guard during the Berlin Crisis.
I auditioned for Amos Brannon who owned Red Wing Records, whom signed me to a
three year contract. I released "Two People Fall in Love" b/w "Sleeping in a
Car". He then put me with Johnny McGee and said we would become the duo
of "Ty B. and Johnny". We then released two singles, one of which was "Meaner
Than an Alligator". That got the record company enough money to take us to
Nashville Tenn. We recorded at Columbia with the best musicians money could
buy: Harold Bradley, Bob More, Bill Purcell, Buddy Harman, and Charlie Bragg
doing the engineering. We recorded six songs in a three hour session. Red
Wing released "Boney Maronie" b/w "Doubtful Baby" from that session.
Johnny and I, along with Jimmy Collins and Johnny Lowe, formed "The Ravons
Band". We played radio shows, fairs, shift break parties, and of course we
played the honky tonks on weekends.
Johnny and I were strong alpha males, so he decided to break it off and move
away to Gadston, Alabama. One by one the band members dropped off to "do
their own thing". That was the end of "Ty B. & Johnny". (Even though our
records are still selling strong in the U.K. by rockabilly collectors)
Little Jimmy Dickens got me a guest appearance in Nashville on WSM's "Friday
Night Frolic" and the next night on the "Grand Ole Opera", which I will never
Oh well, I said one monkey don't stop no show. When you gotta go, go ahead
and go. So I reorganized the group and renamed the band "The Ravens Band".
I settled on playing keyboards. I played for twenty one years at The Wagon
Wheel in Atmore, Alabama with many, many different and very good musicians.
(Anyone who has tried to keep a band together for a lifetime knows what I'm
We opened shows for Conway Twitty, Michael Twitty, David Houston, Ray Price,
Percy Sledge, Gail Garnet, Chad and Jeremy, and many others. We also worked
with Ace Canon. He is still as good as ever.
In 1978 I decided it was time to add a female violist to the band. I hired a
very talented singer by the name of Glenda Morris. Bingo, that was what I
needed to help keep me in the music business the rest of my life. We later
became partners for life with marriage. (I had two failed marriages previously)
I built a recording studio in Pensacola and started producing for other groups
as well as our own. The Wagon Wheel was torn down. We continued to play and
was never out of a job. Whenever one gig was finished, another would pop up.
Hilton, Navy Balls, State of FL, Clubs, etc.
After a few years I built a new studio in the Pace-Milton, Florida area. I
had started out with 8 tracks in the first studio, but now I had 16 tracks of
digital recording with many MIDI instruments and sequencing. That has now
been upgraded with computers using the latest recording and editing software.
My, my, how I've seen the recording industry technology
change up through the years.
In March 2001, I was presented with a "Lifetime In Music Award".
Glenda and I have recently retired from the nightclub music business. My
health started to fail. The night we retired we had a full house with no
standing room. Tears were flying and streaming everywhere. I had 42 years as
the leader of The Ravens Band. "NEVERMORE".
We are back to our roots now. Church and Gospel Music. Glenda has recorded
two gospel CD's since we retired. She sings specials from time to time and I
help out with the sound when the regular sound man is out.
She is still as great as ever. I'm very proud of her.
I am still producing. I have played on, or produced hundreds of songs. Our
band and Glenda have appeared many times on local TV shows. I have credits
of producing the theme music tracks for over one thousand UZ TV shows. I have
produced many number one and top ten songs for the show (local and world wide
web) with UZ TV owner, Phil Thomas Katt. I am also credited for producing the
#1 song of the year on UZ for 2002.
We have five children and eleven grandchildren which "I am very proud of".
We know that without those beautiful people and fans out there supporting us
we would not have been in the music business this long.
I must say when we were on that stage, there was a great feeling that we had
with the audience that makes you want to keep on doing it no matter how tired,
or how much you hurt from toting the equipment all those years. I want to feel
like when I walk away from the stage that people who paid to sit in that seat,
or dance to our music can say "they gave it all they had", and just hope and
pray that's enough.
I am thrilled to still be in the music business after all these years,
producing for Glenda and a few other talented clients. That keeps me busy.
Whatever you may have heard about the life of a musician, It's probably all
true. It's been one "heck of a ride", and I'm tired.
"Thanks for the many fans we have had. Thanks for the fine musicians I have
worked with down through the years. Thanks for the memories. Thanks to you
Glenda for helping me keep going, and for your great talent".
As Willie Nelson and Jimmy Elledge once sang: "Ain't it funny how time slips
"Thanks for the Rockabilly Hall Of Fame Honors",
-Ty Bracken, RHOF #268
Posted October, 2005
©Rockabilly Hall of Fame ®