On Wed., Feb. 25, the Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business welcomed to the “Insider’s View” stage the talented Kennedy family. Led by father Jerry, an inaugural inductee in the Musician’s Hall of Fame, the Kennedy men have all significantly impacted the music industry, and all three sons attended Belmont.
Jerry Kennedy spent more than three decades successfully playing guitar, producing records and working in A&R. He eventually became vice president of Mercury Records’ Nashville division in 1968 before starting his own company. His career credits include working on projects with such diverse and luminary names as Bob Dylan, Elvis, Joan Baez, The Statler Brothers, Kris Kristofferson, Reba McEntire, Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison. “Some of the most creative, talented people I worked with later in my career were people who graduated from here,” he said. “Stay here until you get it done, and believe in what you’re doing.”
Eldest brother Gordon is an accomplished guitarist and songwriter with album cuts that include Eric Clapton’s “Change the World,” which won the Song of the Year Grammy in 1996. Gordon recounted how the song was first written in 1991 as a demo for a group he was in, but the deal fell through. Wynonna then had the song on hold, but her recording schedule was postponed. It was five years after it was written that the song finally struck Grammy gold with Clapton’s performance. “You step back and say, ‘God what do you have in mind here?'” Gordon noted. “Because God’s plan is so much better than anything I could have dreamed up.”
The younger Kennedy brothers also made their own marks on the music business. Bryan began his industry career plugging songs for his father, before writing several hits for Garth Brooks’ records, including three No. 1 radio songs: “Good Ride Cowboy,” “Beaches of Cheyenne” and “American Honky Tonk Bar Association.” Youngest brother Shelby served as a key A&R man for Lyric Street records, directing the likes of Aaron Tippin, Rascal Flatts and SheDaisy, and later represented Writer Relations at BMI. In addition to serving as an adjunct in the Curb College, Shelby now serves as Sr. VP/COO of Cherry Heart Music.