Bracken was born in Oklahoma and grew up in Kansas City. He was living in Chicago when he met Vivian Carter in 1944. In 1950 they founded Vivian's Record Shop in Gary, Indiana, and three years later decided to start their own record company, which they named Vee-Jay from their initials. As well as producing and releasing records through his label, Bracken also wrote some of the songs recorded. During the 1950s and early 1960s Vee-Jay became a major independent record label with acts including Jimmy Reed, John Lee Hooker, Gene Chandler, Jerry Butler, The Four Seasons and, for a time, The Beatles. The company folded in 1966.