Bio and Career Summary: Ed Morris
Bil VornDick’s artistry as a producer and engineer has helped earn his clients over 46 Grammy nominations that encompass 9 that won—among them Alison Krauss’ very first Grammy. He has worked on many albums during his 40 years in music. These include projects for such other Grammy recipients as Ralph Stanley, Marty Robbins, Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas, Mark O’Connor and jazz bassist Charlie Haden, as well as for legendary troubadour Jesse Winchester and bluegrass empress Rhonda Vincent. His credits appear on No. 1 albums in 5 different musical genres.
A native of Northern Virginia, VornDick played in junior high rock bands and experimented with recording other acts while he was still in high school. At 19, he signed as a songwriter to Nashville’s fabled Cedarwood Music. But it took a chat with Chet Atkins at dinner, following one of the great guitarist’s concerts in Washington, D. C., to convince VornDick he should actually move to Music City. Then head and chief producer of RCA Records’ country division, Atkins told VornDick about a new music business program Belmont College was launching at its Nashville campus. Fascinated by the curriculum’s potential, VornDick enrolled at Belmont and remained there until he completed his bachelor’s degree in 1979. He has continued his affiliation with the school, designing and teaching advanced recording classes and serving on the institution’s advisory board.
Not long after VornDick graduated, Grand Ole Opry star Marty Robbins (soon to be elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame) hired him as his chief recording engineer. This post enabled VornDick to meet and engineer records for some of the biggest names in country music.
One of VornDick’s most ambitious undertakings came in 1998 when Rebel Records tapped him to produce and coordinate the guest talent for Ralph Stanley’s groundbreaking 2-CD album, Clinch Mountain Country. In this capacity, he recorded Stanley’s duets with Bob Dylan, George Jones, Porter Wagoner, Vince Gill, Patty Loveless, Alison Krauss, Ricky Skaggs, Marty Stuart, Dwight Yoakam, Vince Gill, Tim O’Brien, Kathy Mattea and a host of other notables. Rolling Stone proclaimed Clinch Mountain Country its top country album of the year and the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) awarded it both album of the year and recorded event of the year trophies.The 36-song, 32-artist set was also a Grammy finalist.
VornDick has been particularly active in trade and professional organizations. He is one of the authors of and committee members for the AES/NARAS archival document “Recommendation for Delivery of Recorded Music Projects.” He is a founding member of the IBMA and the Nashville Engineers Relief Fund (which sponsors the Audio Masters Golf Tournament to raise money for recording engineers in need). And it was his idea to create the Sound Health Insurance cooperative to make health insurance available to members of such music-linked organizations as the Country Music Association, the Gospel Music Association, the IBMA, the American Federation of Musicians, the Folk Alliance and the Audio Engineering Society (whose Nashville chapter VornDick chaired for 2 terms). Sound Health Insurance is now available to members in 46 states.
VornDick’s dedication to the music industry is further evidenced by his advisory, administrative and/or instructional work for Belmont University, South Plains College, Middle Tennessee State University, the North American Folk Alliance, IBMA,the Recording Academy, MerleFest, the Telluride Music Festival, Kerrville Folk Festival , SAE, Vol State, AES and the Swannanoa Gathering.