Music Row veteran Bil VornDick died on Tuesday (July 5) at age 72, less than a week after he’d been diagnosed with cancer.
He was a producer/engineer who was renowned for his recording-studio skills, particularly in folk, bluegrass, Americana and acoustic-music circles. VornDick worked on albums that earned more than 40 Grammy nominations and nine wins.
His clients included Alison Krauss, Doc Watson and Charlie McCoy. He had served two terms as the chairman of the Nashville chapter of Audio Engineering Society (AES).
Born William Thomas VornDick, he was raised in northern Virginia. While still a student and playing guitar in rock bands there, 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.
In 1979, he became an early graduate of Belmont’s music-business program. Country superstar Marty Robbins heard him working on demos for Loretta Lynn’s publishing company and hired him as his studio’s chief engineer.
VornDick subsequently 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.
He 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.
He also had credits with mainstream Nashville country artists. VornDick worked on records by Lynn Anderson, Trace Adkins, Jo-El Sonnier, Janie Fricke, Marty Stuart, Gene Watson, Asleep at the Wheel, Jimmy C. Newman and Sweethearts of the Rodeo, in addition to Robbins.
Bil VornDick was an active participant in the Nashville music community. He did advisory and/or instructional work for MTSU, Belmont, Folk Alliance, the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA), the Recording Academy, MerleFest, Telluride, South Plains College, AES, Kerrville Folk Festival, Vol State and more.
He campaigned to save RCA Studio A from demolition, promoted popularity charts for roots music and championed health insurance for music people.
In recent years, he became widely admired in the Americana field. That genre’s Jim Lauderdale, Maura O’Connell, T-Bone Burnett, Jesse Winchester, The Fairfield Four, John McEuen, Leon Redbone, Robert Earl Keen, Webb Wilder, Robin & Linda Williams, Hazel Dickens and Charlie Haden all worked with him.
In 1998, he produced the epic Clinch Mountain Country, a 36-song tribute that featured legendary Ralph Stanley dueting with Bob Dylan, Vince Gill, Dwight Yoakam, Patty Loveless, Porter Wagoner, Ricky Skaggs, Connie Smith, the Kentucky HeadHunters, Diamond Rio, Joe Diffie, George Jones, Vern Gosdin, John Anderson, Hal Ketchum, Gillian Welch, BR549, Junior Brown and more. It was named Rolling Stone’s Top Country Album of the Year, got nominated for a Grammy and earned two trophies from the IBMA.
Bil VornDick was cherished for his personality as well as his studio skills. He was invariably kind, wise, welcoming, gentle and generous.
Yesterday, social media was alive with praise from folks who’d known him or worked with him. Among the hundreds posting tributes were O’Connor, Andrea Zonn, Mike Bub, Garth Shaw, Alison Auerbach, Steve Marcantonio, Yarn, Sharon Corbitt, Wally Wilson, Wanda Vick, Marcy Marxer, Tim McFadden, Louisa Branscomb, Steve Betts, Michael Snow and Rodney Dillard.
Funeral arrangements have not been announced.
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