Terry Bradford has been winning the hearts of concertgoers since 1990, the date of his first appearance on Star Search, the CBS reality talent show that predates American Idol by 19 years. Bradford's winning presence and multi-octave range was put into service to deliver a diverse repertoire that included everything from pop to soul, gospel, jazz, show tunes, and standards from the classic American songbook. In four short weeks he went from new contestant to winner of Best Male Vocalist. He continued his success with work as a studio singer backing vocalist for stars like Whitney Houston, Elton John, and Patti LaBelle; voiceover work and vocal contributions to TV shows including Rugrats, Hang Time, and City of Angels; and soundtrack work on movies like The Lion King, Mystery Men, where he sang lead soprano, 200 Cigarettes, Amistad, and What's Love Got to Do with It. He was Celine Dion's touring duet partner for five years, appearing in two of her DVDs Live in Memphis and All the Way: A Decade of Song & Video singing with her on "Beauty and the Beast." Dion gave him a solo spot every evening, which help win him legions of fans. He also toured with Linda Ronstadt on her Millennium tour, dueting with her on "I Don't Know Much," coincidently one of the songs he sang on his Star Search appearances. He currently runs his own record label and concert production company, putting on inspirational shows that entertain and uplift his audiences. "My music has no particular style, but it does have a goal," Bradford said in a recent interview. "I want to help people to fall in love with themselves. That's the only way to make a real difference in the world; to open up and trust one another. I can sing everything, because I learned in the studio how to do rock, classical, pop, dance, jazz, you name it. I can sing in Japanese, Russian, Spanish, Italian, German, French, and English, but it's not about being a chameleon, the goal is to bring my music to the people and make them happy."
Bradford was born in Montgomery, AL, and raised in Orlando, FL, the second son in a family of five children. He started pounding on the piano when he was only three. Bradford's father played piano, and his grandmother suggested that Bradford Sr. give his son proper piano lessons, if only to make the racket more harmonious. Terry's grandmother was president of her church choir, and taught him to pick out songs by ear, and also introduced him to choral singing. Bradford wasn't crazy about his enforced music lessons, but his grandmother told him that children don't always know what's in their best interest, so she made him practice, training him to sing the melodies of every song and classical piece he played.
Bradford had a natural talent for music and by the age of nine he was playing piano and directing gospel choirs in churches all over Orlando. He'd go to school days and at night play revival meetings and, of course, sing and play every Sunday in church. He had no idea about making music his career, music was just part of the social fabric of his family and religious life.
Bradford to come out to the West Coast and help him put together Spirit, a contemporary Christian music choir. Stevie Wonder was going to produce an album on the group. Meeting Wonder inspired Bradford. He decided to become a professional musician and songwriter. "I was writing songs, doing back up session and working the normal starving artist day jobs," Bradford recalled. One of the first tunes he placed as a songwriter was "Rainy Day Friend" on the Grammy-winning Mighty Clouds of Joy album Changing Times. He also got a gig as part of Jim and Tammy Faye Baker's PTL Singers and did backing vocals for Pat and Debby Boone. He also produced his own cable TV music special, back in the days before cable became what it is today. Wonder introduced him to vocal coach Seth Riggs, who counted Barbra Streisand and other superstars as clients.
Bradford auditioned for Star Search, and after a few passes, finally got a call back in 1990, going on to win Best Male Vocalist on the 1990 season. His win led to better tours as a backup singer and session work with Ricky Martin, Cher, and Eurythmics. He doubled Annie Lennox's vocals on "The King and Queen of America" on their We Too Are One album. Then Celine Dion hired him to be her concert duet partner on her hit "Beauty and the Beast." He stayed with Dion for five years. Every evening she generously gave him a solo spotlight on "Love Can Move Mountains." The experience was so uplifting, Bradford decided to put together his own show of inspirational, elevating music. Between road gigs with Dion and an appearance in her Live in Memphis DVD, Bradford continued his session work including soundtrack sessions for Lion King, Congo, and Miracle on 34th Street and went on the road with Linda Ronstadt on her Millennium tour.
Bradford was also working on his solo career. He cut his first independent album, 1998's Bradford, in his living room with a computer and his piano. Its original compositions included pop, R&B, and jazz-flavored tunes. He sang the vocals with a blanket over his head so he wouldn't disturb his neighbors and programmed the drums, strings, and orchestrations himself. Bradford got the attention of motivational speaker and Yoruba priestess Iyanla Vanzant. He supplied the song "Today" for her audio book Yesterday I Cried. The tune has become a popular wedding song since its release.
Since 1998, Bradford's Terry Bradford Concerts label has released three more CDs. Terry Bradford Live: The Experience, Unanimous, another studio effort of original material, and 2007's In Concert in the Napa Valley, another live set, which was picked up by PBS for broadcast all across the country. By running his own operation, he's free to pursue his one musical path and put out the music that speaks to his heart. With digital distribution, his own web page, and a growing word of mouth buzz, he's building a reputation as a generous, emotive performer. "I have a positive outlook," the singer says. "I like pouring myself into the song. If it's a sad song, I'll cry on-stage and I laugh when it's a happy song. I'm very free on-stage and tell people we can all be tickled together, cry together and sing together. I'm not afraid to let my feelings show. The stage feels like my living room, no matter how big the venue is."