Born December 24, 1944, in Atlanta, GA; married Patty Loveless (a singer). Education: Attended Georgia State University. Addresses: Office--c/o Lauren Cook, 7321 River Park Dr., Nashville, TN 37221.

Captured between the glossy pages of country music fan magazines and on the covers of slickly photographed albums--with their close-ups of big-haired women and hatted "cowboy" singers--the spirit of the music flowing out of Nashville is generated by thousands of talented musicians, studio technicians, songwriters, and producers. While most never make it into national fanzines, some of these individuals are legendary in the business. One such person is bass player, producer, and songwriter Emory Gordy, Jr. Laying down both electric and acoustic bass tracks on albums for artists as diverse as Dan Fogelberg, Neil Diamond, Emmylou Harris, Tom Petty, and David Grisman during his many years as a studio musician, Gordy has also turned his talents to producing albums for such notable acts as country mainstreamers Alabama, superstar George "the Possum" Jones, bluegrasser Bill Monroe, and Patty Loveless, a neotraditional country chanteuse who also happens to be Gordy's wife.

Born December 24, 1944, in Atlanta, Georgia, Gordy quickly gravitated to anything that made music. By age four he knew his way around a piano keyboard; at six he had begun to tackle the trumpet and would soon learn the banjo, euphonium, guitar, and ukelele. In high school Gordy divided his time and talents between string bands, dixieland bands, and a top 40 garage band, honing his musical skills and learning to arrange music. After graduation he continued his musical studies at Georgia State University, performing French horn in the concert band.

While Gordy would flirt with numerous instruments, when he got his first bass--a Gibson EB-0--it was love at first sight. The relationship would be cemented in 1964, after he was asked to fill in on the instrument during a performance by Tommy Roe at a local sock-hop. A week later he got the proverbial phone call; on the other end of the line was Joe South, an Atlanta-based record producer who had covered Roe on guitar alongside Gordy the week before. South was impressed with the young bass player and invited him to do some studio work. Soon Gordy was working alongside Roe, Razzy Bailey, Mac Davis, and Freddy Weller, as well as touring with Lou Christy, Rufus Thomas, and the Impressions. In addition, his skills as a cowriter helped the hit "Traces," performed by Classic IV, cruise up the charts.

A year spent in Los Angeles--where Gordy supplemented work as a studio musician with engineering and production work for Debbie Reynolds and Liberace--further broadened his experience. Then, in 1971, he had the opportunity to tour as a bass player with pop star Neil Diamond, also alternating his musical talents between a total of nine instruments (including guitar, mandolin, percussion, and vibes) in the recording sessions that led up to Diamond's million-selling Hot August Night.

The exposure he gained while working with Diamond led Gordy to become a much-sought-after sideman. He would soon find himself laying down the bass behind Elvis Presley's vocals on "Separate Ways" and the high-powered Presley classic "Burning Love," as well as performing as part of the King's touring band. Gordy, along with fellow Presley bandmembers, accompanied Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris on Grievous Angel, released the year after Parsons's untimely death in 1973. Harris shouldered Parsons's musical legacy and adopted his band as well; Gordy soon found himself touring the country as a charter member of the aptly named Hot Band. Remaining with Harris until 1977, Gordy continued to get calls from L.A. studios, where he played bass on projects by the Bellamy Brothers, Billy Joel, and Tom Petty. Gordy would go on to play in Rodney Crowell and Roseanne Cash's crack band, the Cherry Bombs, alongside other soon-to-be Nashville luminaries: guitarist Richard Bennett, keyboard player Tony Brown, and Vince Gill on guitar.

By 1979 the stress of backing both Crowell and Cash on their individual tour dates convinced Gordy that it was time for a break. He joined John Denver's band and alternated touring the U.S., Australia, and Europe with studio work in Nashville, where he composed the bass tracks for two of Denver's albums. In 1981, however, Gordy was back at work with Cash and Crowell, a collaboration that would last another year before Crowell opted to become a producer.

Over twenty years of experience as a musician--in the studio, on stage, and on tour--proved to be an asset to Gordy when he made the shift from sideman to independent record producer in the mid-1980s. Similar to the role of a director in a film, the producer is at the heart of any album, helping to define both the artist and the material. Producers sign an act; negotiate for a record label; book studio space; hire the necessary engineers, sidemen, and/or backup singers; assist in the selection of material; deal with the talent through hours of high-stress recording sessions; mix tracks; determine the look of the album jacket; and help to develop marketing strategies. They are constantly under the gun, both from the artists they are helping to develop and the record label looking to turn a profit. Gordy's track record shows he has been able to successfully overcome the pressure: he has produced or coproduced dozens of highly acclaimed albums in over a decade working as an independent in Nashville.

When a newcomer named Vince Gill went to Music City in 1984, Gordy worked with him on Turn Me Loose, Gill's first step on the way to the country music superstar status that would await him in the 1990s. Alongside MCA's Tony Brown, Gordy also coproduced 1986's Guitar Town, a chart-topping debut effort from Steve Earle that landed the then-fledgling singer best country artist honors in Rolling Stone. Considered by many contemporary critics to be a groundbreaking album, Guitar Town remains notable as "an inspired, muscular and uncompromising piece of music that reverberate[s] with a bold, exuberant, latter-day Duane Eddy-style, larger-than-life electric guitar sound," according to reviewer Bob Allen in the Comprehensive Country Music Encyclopedia. Records featuring the musclebound sound of Aaron Tippin, the country-fired spirituality of Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and Bill Monroe's modern renderings of the sound he created back in the 1940s have all benefited from Gordy's artful handling.

Gordy's abilities were put to the acid test in 1992, after his wife, Patty Loveless, left MCA, the label that had jump-started her on the path to becoming country music's most notable female neotraditional vocalist. Plagued by a vocal chord injury that threatened to cut her career short, Loveless was forced to disappear from view for several months while she underwent laser surgery and a period of recovery. When word gets out that an artist has left his or her label after several successful records, "sobering signals emerge," Rich Kienzle explained in Country Music. "The move can sometimes indicate that the artist has gone as far as he or she can go, and must be on the road downhill."

Fortunately, as Kienzle noted in reviewing 1993's Only What I Feel, Loveless proved to be an exception, "having ... made what will probably be the album of her career." Gordy's work on Only What I Feel put his wife's career back on the fast track, and he did it by drawing on her strength as a traditional singer amidst a wave of "New Country" clones. "Gordy and Loveless make a point from note one," lauded Kienzle: "No way is she yielding to any of the formidable temptations to fit into current trends and lose herself to grab airplay on ... 'hot country' radio."

Although one of Nashville's most influential producers, Gordy remains low-key, preferring to keep out of the spotlight except when backing a headliner on stage. Uncomfortable about discussing his many successes to the point of near-reclusiveness, he prefers to spend his time working on projects where he can gain further experience in his craft. In a rare interview, Gordy modestly speculated on the reason for his success as a record producer. "I have a lot of patience," he explained to friend and fellow musician Steve Fishell in Guitar Player, "because I've been on the other side of the glass, and I know how frustrating it is. I usually sit back, but if it bogs down, I jump in and try to make it move."

by Pamela Shelton

Emory Gordy, Jr.'s Career

Began as bass player in Atlanta, GA, studios, 1964; worked as a studio musician, Los Angeles, CA, beginning 1970; toured and recorded with Neil Diamond, 1971; toured with Elvis Presley, 1973; joined Emmylou Harris and her Hot Band, 1974-77; played with the Cherry Bombs, 1977-79 and 1981-82; toured and recorded with John Denver, 1979-81; worked as a session musician and independent record producer for such artists as the Bellamy Brothers, Vince Gill, and Earl Thomas Conley, Nashville, TN, beginning 1982.

Emory Gordy, Jr.'s Awards

Named bass player of the year, Academy of Country Music, 1986; Grammy Award for bluegrass album of the year, 1989, for Southern Flavor; album of the year award, Country Music Association, 1994, for When Fallen Angels Fly.

Famous Works

Further Reading

Books

Visitor Comments Add a comment…

over 2 years ago

Hey Emory, Am a big fan of you an patty, I am also the farther of your grand child, Emory 2 years ago i fell 55 feet out of a tree an your an pattys music from the cd moutain soul i think saved my life i love yours an pattys music please call me sometime 770-771-8075 ps saw libby at the wedding she looked really good . Bobby

over 2 years ago

Hi Grandaddy Hope you and patty had a Nice Christmas and New Year

almost 3 years ago

hey Emory..I came to your house ,an apartment off of Buford Hwy..and brought my 58 P .. with me in about 67 -68 ..and we just played some music..I was bass player with The Counts from Sou Car. then .. Congrats on a fun career ,very happy for you....

over 4 years ago

hey emory I'm diappointed that in your life story you didn't mention the kommotions.I really enjoyed playing w/you,harry,barry,and ricky.I guess to date that was the best band I ever played in-wow what an experience.What about the little black egg song? Al Sheppard

over 4 years ago

You have been missed at the reunions. Having read some of the comments here, thought I would just say, I dont want anything from you. HoHoHo

over 4 years ago

I just found out all that you have done. We all knew you would stay in music by WOW. I love to say I am soooooooooooo impressed God bless you Donald Sellers VERY BAD SAX PLAYER

over 4 years ago

Emory, it was a real honor to have met you and your lovely wife at the Georgia Music Hall of Fame inductions in 2005. I'm so pleased they honored her, and it was wonderful to see her onstage singing "Georgia On My Mind". You seemed like you couldn't have been prouder, and we were so glad to have been there. Georia is lucky to have not only such incredible talent here, but wonderful people as well.

over 4 years ago

Hey Emory This is Gil, your amp tech from Wizard electronics. Wow that 1959 Fender Bassman you brought in for repair is totally trashed buy I can bring it back to life. I've already subsituted some test parts and I can't believe it but it still works! Our parts manager Jim is getting the pricing for the replacement parts pricing now and I will have a final estimate ready for you soon. It still sounds good!!!!!!!!! regards' Gil wizard amp tech.

almost 5 years ago

I have followed your music since the beginning. I didn't catalog any of it until one day I sat down and wrote down my favorite albums for my sons. You'd touched or built all of those works (from vinyl to Itunes). I didn't buy the works necessarily because you were on them which makes it plain to me that the fact they emerged as my life-time favorites was due to your talent and obvious devotion to your craft. Proud to know you, proud of you as creative force. Godspeed and keep working for some quiet and private fans.

almost 5 years ago

Hey Emory I enjoyed reading your bio. I stii wish I had that old Fender you borrowed a couple of times traded it for a gibson lg3 years ago been through some others too I wish I still had. Any way good to read about you and wish you the best Hollie

about 5 years ago

I enjoyed our ride on the Santa Train a few years ago with you, Patty and the rest of the group. Sometimes I used to wave from my train at a little blonde girl across the river from the tracks at EC, KY. Then I didn't see her there anymore. Looking forward to the release of Mountain Soul II 9/29. I have a question about a song which wouldn't be appropriate to post here because of the protected material. Please reply if you can. Thanks.

about 5 years ago

Hey! Long time no see no hear. Avery and I wondered what happened to you in your career. I remember the first time I saw you with Avery at Middle GA College playing your guitar in the dorm room. We had some great times together traveling with the Ensemble some years later. Avery is in Anamoose, ND and I am in Gray, GA. He has been married for 42 years and has no children. I have been married for 42 years, also. We have 3 children and 9 grandchildren. I am a retired 31 year teacher (elementary and special ed.) I teach courses at the local technical college at night. Congratulations to you and all your success. I enjoyed reading this article and it has definitely described you and your personality as I remember you. Take care. Carole

about 5 years ago

Emory, I was very priveledged to see you play and Patty sing at the 2009 Equiblues Festival in Saint-Agreve, France last week...brilliant!

over 5 years ago

Hello, i wanted to say that my mother emily cochran lawson was your first cousin. Unfortunatley she passed away several years back and your mom sent me and my siblings a very gracious letter. I know she has sinced passed and for that i am truly sorry. My mom had only kind words for her. She would tell me stories of her youth which included her family. I just wanted to relate that memcory. thanks ann marie lawson peck fnp-c

over 5 years ago

Hello Emory I have tried for years to find out who played bass on "Burnin' Love". I had it narrowed down to you and Jerry Scheff and I saw the your interview with Dave Pomeroy and Richard Bennett told me it was you also. That bassline made me want to pick up the bass. I aslo admire your work as a producer. Also Tommy Cogbill is one of my heros. I never met him but a lot of session players in the Shoals told me a lot about him.

over 5 years ago

HEY SONNY, HOPE YOU DON'T MIND ME CALLING YOU THAT. I DON'T KNOW IF YOU REMEMBER ME. AUNT BETSIE PARTIALLY RAISED US AS LITTLE KIDS. THAT WAS YOUR GRANDMOTHER. WE ARE KIN SOME HOW. AUNT EMMA AND AUNT BETSIE AND MY GRANDMOTHER NELLIE BODERFORD MYRICK WERE RELATED. YOU WERE OLDER THAN WE WERE. I'M FIFTY, JOHNNY MY BROTHER IS FIFTY TWO, WE USE TO SEE YOU WHEN YOU CAME TO VISIT AUNT BETSIE. YOU ALWAYS HAD YOUR GUITAR. AUNT VIVIANS GIRLS ANN AND PAM AND JOHNNY USE TO GET CHASED UP THE PEAR TREE IN THE PASTURE ACROSS THE ROAD FROM YOUR GRANMOTHERS HOUSE BY BLACKIE THE COW. JENNIE USE TO BE THE PET ONE. WE WOULD RIDE HER BACK. UNCLE EMORY AND AUNT CHRISTIE ALWAYS BROUGHT US COLORING BOOKS AT CHRISTMAS AND SOMETHING ALWAYS WHEN THEY CAME TO OCHLOCKNEE. I HOPE YOU REMEMBER ME.

almost 6 years ago

I tuned the piano Belonging to a base player for Neil Diamond in the early 80's. Would that have been you? It was in Lake Arrowhead California. Thank you, David Anthony

almost 6 years ago

emory i sure would like a copy of little black-egg with w/a little white speck I got to play on with you,harry,barry,ricky in some studio in 1965.

almost 6 years ago

Old neighbor from Margaret Place way back a long time ago. About to attend the 45th high school reunion of the WFHS class of 1963 and somebody shared a group photo from our 1957 Boy Scout camp at Bert Adams. There, prominently in the middle, is Emory Gordy. That photo brought back some wonderful childhood memories and prompted this Google search. Who would have ever "thunk" when you were blowing on a trumpet that was bigger than you were........Congratulations on a story book, outstanding career and life.

about 6 years ago

EMORY, YOU TAUGHT ME MY FIRST BASS LINE AROUND 1964-SHE'S A WOMAN BY THE BEATLES.We were either in your basement or at Holly Mcmanus'house in Smyrna. By the way I bought an EBO at the Music Mart later and they told me it was yours. It still had a song list taped on the back. I think you were working with that white soul singer in Atlanta about that time. I'm still playing and I never fail to tell anyone that will listen that Emory Gordy gave me my first bass lesson. Sammy Pate CHS CLASS OF 65 PS- Hi Ted

about 6 years ago

I was looking into getting tickets for your wife's show in Lancaster PA at month end and thinking about it brought back memories of your work so many years back with Mike Sharpe. Those old Liberty LP's with you and Bob Lee sharing bass, JR & Paul on guitars and Harvey Middlebrooks on keyboards still sound great. Bob Richardson certainly recorded some wonderful product for Bill Lowery during that era. So many of the young men who played for them in those days went on to accomplish so much. It's a joy to think back to that oh so innocent era of the late 60's and early 70's in Atlanta. So sad that Bob and Bill and now Mike Clark have all left us. But the memories of that time endure, as does the music. So glad they put you in the GA Music Hall of Fame.

about 6 years ago

CHS 1962 Emory, I have followed your success and I still remember the good times in school. Hope you are doing well. Cheryl and I are still married, 43 years this month. TED

over 6 years ago

Hey Mr. Gordy Sir! Wow! You sure have an impressive musical history. Just ran across this page while perusing the internet. Hope you remember me - from the tang-su-do classes out in Dallas. Hope you're doing well! David Walton

over 6 years ago

Emory, does anyone else in your family have musical skills? I have noticed it seems to run in the genes.

over 6 years ago

EMORY GORDY JR. TO ME IS THE MASTER. I CAN LISTEN TO HIM AND PATTY WORK TOGATHER CD AFTER CD. I HEAR NEW TEXTURES EVERY TIME I LISTEN. IF YOU TWO EVER STOP MAKING RECORDS IF WILL BE THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED FOR ME. PLEASE KEEP FINDING THESE GREAT GREAT SONGS AND PUSHING THE ENVELOPE OF SOUND. THANKS KEITH LOGAN

over 6 years ago

Hey Emory, This is your little cousin Debbie-Junes daughter. Just went to Aunt Vivian's 90th birthday party. Had a great time. Sorry you weren't there. See Ya Deb