Bradford Woodhouse Braley
1905 - 1992
Brad Braley and his wife, Olive, household names to listeners of the Voice of Prophecy broadcasts in the middle decades of the 20th Century, were known for their duets on organ and piano. Brad was organist and accompanist for the VOP for nearly nineteen years. Olive was known for both her musical assistance and her gift for giving readings.
Brad was born in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, where both of his grandfathers had been sea captains. Brad's musical abilities became evident at an early age and were encouraged by his father, owner of a music store. Following eight years of concert piano study, he began playing organ music to accompany silent movies in New England Paramount Theaters, an activity that continued for ten years, until he became a Christian and decided to dedicate his talents to church music.
He became organist and choir director at the Boston Temple of Seventh-day Adventists but was paid for his janitorial work rather than his musical contribution. He spent his evenings at the Gardner Organ Company, learning how to install organs. In the early 1930's sound movies had rapidly replaced the silent screen images, and theaters began removing their Wurlitzer pipe organs, selling them to churches for ridiculous prices. Gardner Organ Company specialized in reinstalling them in churches.
Braley was assigned to do an installation of one of these organs at Southern Junior College, now Southern Adventist University. While working there he met and began courting Olive Rogers, a music and speech teacher. They married in December 1944.
At the end of the school year they moved to Atlanta, where they lived for two years. From 1947 to 1949, they played organ and piano in evangelistic meetings in the St. Louis area and then moved to La Grange, Illinois, where they both taught at Broadview Academy until 1955, when they were hired by the VOP. While teaching at BA, they studied at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago.
In his work as organist and accompanist for the VOP musicians, and hers as an assistant, they traveled extensively throughout the United States, Canada, Central and South America, and Europe. They recorded several albums for Chapel Records and were part of what was known as the VOP "B" group, which included Del Delker and H.M.S. Richards, Jr. They and the "A" group, H.M.S. Richards and the King's Heralds, each traveled over 12,000 miles each summer, performing on behalf of the VOP at camp meetings.
When at home, they attended the Eagle Rock Adventist Church in Los Angeles, California, where both played their instruments and she conducted the choir for twelve years. They also operated the Braley Music studio in Glendale, where they gave private lessons in organ, voice, piano, and speech. They frequently played for weddings and other church functions, including the church's General Conference Sessions, at which Brad was the official organist from the late 1940's to the early 1980's. He wrote the theme song, Christ, Our Hope Forever, for the 1985 session in New Orleans.
Although Braley officially retired in 1973, he continued to assist occasionally in the VOP program. He and Olive also continued as organist and pianist in their home church and frequently performed for weddings and other events.
He and Olive were members of the American Guild of Organists and the International Platform Association.
At the time of his death, Del Delker gave the following tribute:
In public appearances, he was often featured as an organ soloist or in duets with Olive at the piano. Brad had his own unique style with hymns and gospel songs that can only be described with words like warmth and pathos. He never pounded the keys, but rather "caressed" them like no one else I have ever known. My heart was warmed and I could sense God's precious Holy Spirit as Brad weaved his magic with those long nimble fingers.
Brad was a natural, playing as easily in the key of G flat as C (Unfortunately, many songs feel just right for me in G flat!) When he accompanied me, he breathed with me, and his accompaniments would make the words of my song more meaningful.
He wasn't usually flashy or flamboyant. Instead he concentrated on expressing the mood of the words being sung or spoken. . . He was truly a minister of music, not just a performer.
The Braleys were living in Glendale when he died in February 1992 at age 86, and she died four months later at age 92.
Sources: Eldyn Karr, “ Their
Romance Began with a Theater Organ,” the Voice
of Prophecy News, December, 1986; sketch by Ray Glendrange,
given at the time of Olive Braley's death; tribute
given by Del Delker at the memorial service for Brad Braley; additional materials provided by the VOP (2005);
Social Security Death Index.