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Shedd at the WTLS 50th anniversary in 2004

Record producer got start at WTLS

By Michael Butler

Shania Twain, Toby Keith, Reba McEntire, Glen Campbell and the group Alabama - Harold Shedd has worked with them all. What became an incredible career in the music industry all began in Tallassee at WTLS.

"I have nothing but fond memories for WTLS and Tallassee and the surrounding area," said Shedd, who is now 91. "I had a lot of good times and met a lot of good people."

The retired record executive and producer now resides in his hometown of Breman, Ga.

"Tallassee is kind of like a home because it's where I started," he said. "I had a friend who had a full-time job at WTLS. We had been playing music in a band together. We were making a living, but we weren't making any money. He said, 'We've got a weekend spot open. You might want to check it out if you don't mind working on Saturdays and Sundays.'

"We were farmers and sharecroppers. I was a farmer during the week and a radio announcer on the weekend. Radio was different. The format was changing a lot. Reel-to-reel tape was the way of recording. The 78 RPM records were being phased out. We wound up with two fabulous turntables playing 45 RPM records. We went from reel-to-reel to taped cartridges."

The year was 1956. Shedd was hired by Ned Butler. He also worked for Butler at another one of his stations in Talladega.

"Ned was quite the engineer. He built radio stations. He could build any kind of equipment. Ned was a genius in that field. He was a great teacher. He taught us a lot about radio. He taught us a lot about programming and how to do it tastefully. I had a great career in radio - loved every minute of it."

1950s beach pic with Shedd, his wife (left) and WTLS' Betty Butler

After radio, Shedd worked in Memphis for a jingle company.

"We did jingles for radio stations. It led to my acquaintance with Scotty Turner from Nashville, who was a co-writer of songs and worked for United Artists Records. He was intrigued by the jingle business. He said, 'Why don't you move to Nashville.' Having a studio to work full time in was the biggest plus. It allowed us the opportunity to record. We segued into making records from jingles.

"I started producing records independently. After a few successes, I was offered an opportunity at a major label. It led to my career as a record producer. I got the opportunity to record some of the artists I wanted to record. It all came from radio and jingles."

Shedd connected with the group Alabama and produced 23 No. 1 hits from 1980-1988. 21 of those came consecutively, an unprecedented streak in the music industry to this day.

"It's chilling," said Shedd. "The group Alabama was the beginning. We had a wonderful career. I was with them for a decade. One of the main ingredients of making records was having 13 years in radio - being connected to the listeners. It enabled me to do some things that the average guy might not have been able to do."

Alabama was the launching pad, but after becoming head of Polydor Nashville in 1994, Shedd's successes grew even more with the signing of stars like Toby Keith, Shania Twain and Billy Ray Cyrus.

"Billy Ray had that star quality, like Toby and Shania - they are BMI's two biggest money makers. "Should've Been a Cowboy" has been played over seven million times.

"I saw Elvis in 1967 at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta. I had never seen where ladies threw things on the stage that they were wearing. In 1989, I was in Ashland, Ky. to see Billy Ray Cyrus. The ladies were up on tables. I thought we were at an Elvis concert."

In all, records sales are are approaching the billion mark for the artists tied to Shedd.

"Alabama's at about 100 million. Toby Keith is about 100 million. Shania Twain is about 100 million. Then Mel Tillis, Glen Campbell, Reba McEntire, KT Oslin, the Kentucky Headhunters, Billy Ray Cyrus. Add them all up and it's something."

*Full WTLS Interview

From left: Steve Butler, Shedd, John Moore, Kami (Butler) Scarborough, Ned Butler