When veteran music industry creative Jerry Salley was ready to launch a record label, he thought about whom he could trust and who would have the assets he needed to be successful. He reached out to Ed Leonard, president of Daywind Music Group.
Daywind is home to Daywind Records and New Day Records, both Gospel labels.
“I was writing for EMI in 2000, and that deal excluded my Gospel songs,” says Jerry. “So, I signed a publishing deal with Daywind for a few years exclusively for my Gospel songs and fell in love with how they do business. I got to know the family, including Dottie Leonard Miller, who founded Daywind almost forty years ago.”
While the company did it all, from publishing to distribution for Gospel music, they were not applying that to the bluegrass industry.
Dottie said “yes” to forming Billy Blue Records, a boutique mainstream bluegrass label under Jerry’s direction. “It’s a great partnership,” says Jerry, the label’s A & R guy and the creative director. “I basically oversee the whole label but always go to Ed for direction when a big decision needs to be made.” Billy Blue Records will celebrate five years this June.
In a press release, Ed Leonard said, “with the increase in popularity of roots music, we felt it was time to launch a new division providing opportunities and guidance for the talented artists and songwriters in this genre.” The label’s name, Billy Blue Records, was a collaborative brainstorming effort between Ed and Jerry.
"We wanted to build a brand. When we were thinking of names, Ed pointed out there was a huge goat craze going on at the time with things like goat yoga. Plus, they are just cute,” adds Jerry. “We combined billy goat with bluegrass and came up with Billy Blue. It just seemed to work.”
Veteran graphic designer in the music industry for Daywind/Billy Blue and three-time IBMA nominee for Graphic Designer of the Year Carly Webby designed the logo.
As word got out, artists began signing with the label. “The first artist we signed to the label was Appalachian Road Show,” recalls Jerry. “It’s amazing the way it’s all worked out. Soon we had added Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers, Donna Ulisse, Darin & Brooke Aldridge, Alan Bibey & Grasstowne, Jason Barie, Authentic Unlimited, Kristy Cox, The Tennessee Bluegrass Band, and Marty Raybon.”
Jerry produced the multi-artist Bluegrass Gospel project, Country Faith Bluegrass, which includes the Dolly Parton single of the classic hymn, “In the Sweet By and By,” featuring Jerry along with Larry Cordle, Carl Jackson, and Bradley Walker. The song recently won a DOVE award for Bluegrass/Country/Roots Song of the Year. In addition, it received Gospel Recording of the Year at the 2022 IBMA Awards and Collaborative Album of the Year. “It was such an honor to work with Dolly on that album,” says Jerry. “She was such a delight.”
The label also produces videos for its artists. “Videos are becoming more and more popular, and we are fortunate to have great local videographers at our disposal, along with some video capabilities in-house,” says Jerry. “We have been doing interviews and song-by-song tracks for social media. And we produced Joe Mullin’s new video, “Black and White,” a nostalgic tune about the days of black and white TV. The single is on the band’s new album, Let Time Ride, released on March 17.
Also recently released on Billy Blue is Jason Barie’s new album, Radioactive. The album jacket is unique in that it includes a seven-page comic book.
Expanding on what is happening at Billy Blue Records, Daywind Music Group has announced the relaunch of Thoroughbred Records, which fits well with their move into bluegrass. Jerry will also serve as A & R and creative director for the Thoroughbred label, giving artists such as Chosen Road and other strictly bluegrass Gospel artists their own label home.