BMI’s Harry Warner Passes

Former BMI exec Harry Warner with songwriter Jeffrey Steele at the 2005 BMI Country Awards. Photo: BMI

Longtime BMI executive Harry Warner died Wednesday, May 16, at age 83.

The Music Row fixture was also a real-estate entrepreneur and a former manager, song publisher and publicist.

Born Feb. 2, 1935, Warner was a native of Pennsylvania who graduated from Valley Forge Military Academy and served four years in the Navy.

He came to Nashville to attend Vanderbilt University in the 1950s. Warner drove ambulances for Roesch-Patton Funeral Home and married company offspring Margaret Ann Patton in 1960. They raised three children, but later divorced.

Warner also spent time at the advertising and public-relations firm Bill Walker & Associates before being hired by BMI in 1967. By 1972, he was BMI’s Director of Writer Administration.

In the mid-1970s, he was the manager of emerging star Jerry Reed (1937-2008). He also ran Reed’s song publishing company. Among Reed and Warner’s discoveries was Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member Rodney Crowell.

Harry Warner (standing, far right) celebrates Jake Owen’s signing to BMI in 2006. Pictured: Jake Owen (seated) is welcomed by BMI Nashville’s Mark Mason, Paul Corbin and Harry Warner. Photo: Kay Clary

Harry Warner became a close friend of guitarist-producer Chet Atkins (1924-2001), who ran RCA Records. He facilitated the meeting between Atkins and Jerry Bradley, which led to the latter’s being hired as an RCA executive. Bradley eventually succeeded Atkins as the head of the label in 1981.

In addition, Warner was sometimes by Atkins’ side when the latter recorded Reed, whose star-making RCA hits included “Guitar Man,” “Amos Moses” and “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot.” Warner and Atkins also became investors in Music Row real estate, as did their mutual friend Ray Stevens. Son Treg Warner has continued his father’s involvement in Nashville property speculation.

Meanwhile, back at BMI, Harry Warner rose to become the assistant vice president of writer/publisher relations. He remained at BMI until around 2010.

Surviving are his wife Bonnie, daughter Margaretann Seman, sons Treg and Mark Warner, stepdaughter Michael Maxwell Hitchens and two grandchildren.

Services will be private.

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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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