Bil VornDick: Guiding Light of Music Row

Nashville is still reeling from the sudden and unexpected death of Music Row guiding light Bil VornDick. Renowned for his innovative and distinctive touch in the recording studio, VornDick died at age 72, less than a week after he'd been diagnosed with cancer. To aid his devastated wife and family, music industry marketplace ANALOGr is supervising the online auction of his extensive collection of vintage and modern recording equipment.

Proceeds go to the VornDick family, as well as a contribution to the charity organization he helped found, the Nashville Engineer Relief Fund (NERF).

Learn more about VornDick and some of the people whose lives were touched: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NikwrfT9esE

Known for his hands-on recording-studio skills in acoustic, folk, bluegrass, and Americana, VornDick's recording career includes over 600 albums, five #1 hits in five different genres, over 40 Grammy nominations, and 9 wins. While still a student and playing guitar in rock bands in Virginia, he sold some songs to Cedarwood Publishing on Music Row. Chet Atkins urged him to move to Nashville and helped him enroll in Belmont University. After graduating from Belmont University, he was hired by Marty Robbins to be his chief recording engineer. VornDick became the chief engineer at Stargem Studio, the founder of The Music Shop, and the owner of Music Row Audio and Mountainside Music Group Productions.

Bil VornDick was an active participant in the Nashville music community. He did advisory and/or instructional work for MTSU, Belmont University, Folk Alliance International, the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA), the Recording Academy Producers & Engineers Wing, MerleFest, Telluride, South Plains College, Audio Engineering Society (AES), Kerrville Folk Festival, Vol State and more. He campaigned to save Nashville's famed RCA Studio A from demolition, promoted popularity charts for roots music and championed health insurance for music people. Additionally, Bil was instrumental in the creation of the annual AudioMasters Benefit Golf Tournament, the primary fund-raising event contributing to the Nashville Engineer Relief Fund, which assists members of the greater Nashville audio community in times of personal or family crisis.

Fellow Nashville engineer Chuck Ainlay, who went to Belmont University with VornDick, said, "None of us think that time will come so suddenly when all the proper arrangements need to to be in place. We are gathering together to honor his legacy and to help his widow and family."

One of the many prominent artists who were guided, recorded and produced by VornDick was Alison Krause, who received her first Grammy in 1989 for "Two Highways." She is seen here early in their creative friendship.

Acclaimed virtuoso Béla Fleck, an innovative and technically proficient pioneer and ambassador of the banjo, brought the instrument from its bluegrass roots to jazz, classical, rock and world music. Fleck recalls, "Bil said he wanted to engineer Bluegrass in Nashville, so we hired him. He kicked ass. He was very free with his information. He explained things and made us better musicians and in control of our own music. He made a session fun." 

Artists VornDick worked with included Alison Krause, Béla Fleck, T. Bone Burnett, Bob Dylan, Doc Watson, Charlie McCoy, Jerry Douglas, Marty Stuart, Vince Gill, Rhonda Vincent, and Ralph Stanley to name a few. He helped found IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association), became an adjunct professor for Belmont University, a chairman of Nashville Section of the AES (Audio Engineering Society) and AES Nashville Lifetime Achievment Award honoree. 

VornDick became particularly associated with the "new acoustic music" genre that emerged in the 1980s. He worked with Béla Fleck, Jerry Douglas, Craig Duncan, Alison Brown, Mark O'Connor, Vassar Clements, Edgar Meyer and David Grier, among others. Following his Grammy-winning work with Alison Krauss, he worked with a bluegrass who's-who, including Peter Rowan, The Dillards, The Country Gentlemen, New Grass Revival, The Nashville Bluegrass Band, Del McCoury, Doyle Lawson, Claire Lynch, Rhonda Vincent, The Earls of Leicester, Dan Tyminski, Laurie Lewis, Larry Cordle, The New Coon Creek Girls and IIIrd Tyme Out.

View the VornDick gear collection here: