Born in Buchanan and raised in Bremen, GA, Harold Shedd played in a local band and served as a disc jockey for 14 years prior to moving to Nashville. In 1979, he was instrumental in signing Alabama for RCA and then produced 21 consecutive number one hits for the band. He also produced albums for Mel Tillis, Louise Mandrell, Glen Campbell and Reba McEntire. In 1988, Shedd joined Mercury Polygram Records Nashville, where during the next six years he oversaw the signing of Kentucky Headhunters, Shania Twain, Billy Ray Cyrus, Toby Keith and Kathy Mattea. Harold Shedd’s keen ear for talent has influenced the country music industry for many decades. It was only fitting his hometown honor him with a tribute fit for a country music king. Harold joined AMG for an interview spanning his iconic career.
You have had such an amazing, storied career. Growing up in Bremen, did you always know you wanted to be a part of the music industry?
It took me a few years to get to music. I went through other channels. I played in bands and then worked in radio broadcasting and television. It took me a few years to actually get to record production and it was truly more of an evolution than a plan. It seemed to go there.
When you made the move from Georgia to selling the station and moving to Nashville, what made you decide to take that risk?
Over the course of time, I worked in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia and Florida. Radio was a lot different then in that you had more to do with the music. You could select music you thought was more relatable to your audience. You learn a lot about music and what people like about music. You had closer communications with your audience. They wrote you letters and you talked to them. People would request a song and you would try to find out why they liked that particular song. It got to the point in the late 60′s that I knew I had to make a move. I did a lot of jingles then for radio and television and moved to Nashville in 1972 with two other guys. We opened a studio and started a jingle production company. The studio and the jingle work just kind of led into the record production.
You produced a record breaking number of #1 hits for the legendary band, Alabama. How did your relationship begin?
I had built a recording studio and during that period of time, we lost the studio. An actor friend of mine, Sheb Wooley from the Rawhide series, and another friend bought it back in 1976. We started doing more jingles and custom work. If someone wanted to do a record, we would help them put it together and do the studio part of it. We would help them with the band and wherever they wanted to play on the session. We worked with anybody who would help us keep the lights on. A couple of friends of mine who were in the distribution business knew what we were trying to accomplish. They had a record out on Alabama called “I Want To Come Over.” They were the Alabama Band then, a couple years after the Wild Country portion of their career. My friends brought Alabama to me, so I got involved with the band and the label. I went to Myrtle Beach to see them and we became friends and still are friends. We had a great run together that is probably unequaled in country music.
There was never really a master plan of how it all came together. It was just people coming together doing what they love….which is music. It was really all about the music then.
Your love for music is what has carried you so far in your career. You produced phenomenal country music artists such as Mel Tillis, Reba McIntire, Glen Campbell. Did you enjoy the production side of the music business?
Oh, I loved it! I still love it. Even at my age, it would be wonderful. It’s a different time and age now. The music that we did back in the early 80′s is not necessarily how they do it now. The great thing is now we have the internet and so many new ways to expose your music besides the radio.
I am sure there are people, including me, who would love to have you back in the studio! You have an amazing ear for talent. How did you find some of the unknown acts you helped sign to Mercury Polygram?
Each story is different. I met Toby Keith through a friend who was a flight attendant for American Airlines. I had a lawyer friend who was on the board of directors for the Country Music Association, he knew Shania Twain’s manager. With the Kentucky Headhunters, I just happened to be at a showcase to see the act that played before them. I stayed around and listened to them and next thing you know we are talking about making a record. They all have their own little interesting stories. That’s the way music is. Music brings so many different kinds of artists and people together. Music does more than words can ever do sometimes.
How does it feel to be honored by your hometown?
I am still trying to comprehend it! I never really dreamed of anything like this back in my Bremen days. I am looking forward to it, seeing old and new friends. There are still some friends around who played music with me in my younger years. I hope everyone who comes has a good time. There will be an awful lot of talent there in the afternoon. I am really thankful for this and I do not take it lightly. It really will be a special day.