Felice and Boudleaux Bryant

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Felice Bryant (born Matilda Genevieve Scaduto, August 7, 1925 – April 22, 2003) and Diadorius Boudleaux Bryant (/ ˈbdɛl/;[1] February 13, 1920 – June 25, 1987) were an American husband and wife country music and pop songwriting team. They were best known for songs such as "Rocky Top," "Love Hurts," and numerous hits by the Everly Brothers, including "All I Have to Do Is Dream" and "Bye Bye Love."[1]

Beginnings[edit]

Boudleaux Bryant was born in Shellman, Georgia in 1920 and attended local schools as a child. He trained as a classical violinist. Although he performed with the Atlanta Philharmonic Orchestra during its 1937-38 season, he had more interest in country "fiddling."

He joined Hank Penny and his Radio Cowboys, an Atlanta-based western music band. In 1945 Bryant met Matilda Genevieve Scaduto, whom he called Felice, while performing at a hotel in her hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She was born in the city in 1925 to an ethnic Italian family. She used to write lyrics to traditional Italian tunes. During World War II, she sang and directed shows at the local USO.[2]

Bryant and Scaduto eloped two days after meeting.[2] Their song, "All I Have To Do Is Dream," is autobiographical for Felice. She was working as an elevator operator at the Sherwood Hotel when she saw Bryant. She has said that she "recognized" him immediately; she had seen his face in a dream when she was eight years old, and had "looked for him forever." She was nineteen when they met.

Songwriting career[edit]

During the first years of their marriage, the Bryants struggled financially, living in a mobile home, where they wrote upwards of 80 songs. They tried to sell their compositions to a number of country music artists but were either ignored or rejected until Little Jimmy Dickens recorded their song "Country Boy." It went to #7 on the country charts in 1948 and opened the door to a working relationship with Fred Rose at Acuff-Rose Music in Nashville, Tennessee.

In 1950, the Bryants moved to Nashville to work full-time at songwriting. Some of their compositions from the early 1950s included the swinging "Sugar Beet" (recorded by Moon Mullican) and the bluesy "Midnight" (recorded by Red Foley).

The Bryants wrote more songs for Dickens as well as for popular country artist Carl Smith. At the same time, they released four 45-rpm singles of their own to modest success.

Beginning in 1957, the Bryants came to national prominence in both country and pop music when they wrote a string of hugely successful songs for the Everly Brothers[1] and hits for other singers such as Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly. Their compositions were recorded by many artists from a variety of musical genres, including Tony Bennett, Frankie Laine, Sonny James, Eddy Arnold, Bob Moore, Charley Pride, Nazareth, Jim Reeves, Leo Sayer, Jerry Lee Lewis, Simon & Garfunkel, Sarah Vaughan, The Grateful Dead, Elvis Costello, Count Basie, Dean Martin, Ray Charles, Gram Parsons, and Bob Dylan. (Dylan's Self Portrait album has a song by Felice and another she co-wrote with her husband).

In 1962, The Bryants wrote "Too Many Chicks," a song that became a hit for Leona Douglas, the first African-American woman to record as a country and western singer. Leona was discovered by Fred Foster of Monument Records. Foster also noticed that Boudleaux had a secretary named Bobby McKee. He suggested that Kris Kristofferson use her name in a song, which was written as "Me and Bobby McGee."[3]

The Bryants eventually moved to a house not far from Nashville on Old Hickory Lake in Hendersonville, Tennessee, near friends Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash. In 1978, they moved to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. They had often stayed at The Gatlinburg Inn, where they wrote numerous songs, including "Rocky Top." They purchased the "Rocky Top Village Inn" in the town next to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In 1979 they released their own album called A Touch of Bryant. "Rocky Top", written in 1967, was adopted as a state song by Tennessee in 1982, and as the unofficial fight song for the University of Tennessee sports teams. The Bryants wrote more than 6,000 songs, some 1,500 of which were recorded.[2]

During their career, the Bryants earned 59 BMI country, pop, and R&B music awards. In 1972 they were inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, in 1986 into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and in 1991 into both the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.

Boudleaux Bryant is the third most successful songwriter of the 1950s on the UK Singles Chart, and Felice Bryant is the 21st.[4]

Deaths[edit]

Boudleaux Bryant died in 1987. Felice Bryant remained active writing songs; in 1991 the Nashville Arts Foundation honored her with their "Living Legend Award." She died in 2003. They are interred together in the Woodlawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Nashville.

Selected list of songs[edit]

Little Jimmy Dickens[edit]

Everly Brothers[edit]

NOTE: A couple of these songs scored high on Billboard's "Hot 100" Pop, C&W, and R&B lists. "Wake Up, Little Susie" and "All I Have to Do Is Dream" both charted at No. 1 in all three categories, the latter in all three at the same time.[5]

Buddy Holly[edit]

Gram Parsons with Emmylou Harris[edit]

Emmylou Harris[edit]

  • "Sleepless Nights"
  • “Like Strangers”
  • "Love Hurts"

Ricky Van Shelton[edit]

  • "Loving Proof"

Other artists[edit]

Various songs of theirs, especially "All I Have to Do Is Dream", "Bye Bye, Love", "Love Hurts" and "Wake Up, Little Susie", have been covered by numerous other artists over the years. "Rocky Top" is played by the Pride of the Southland Band at University of Tennessee sporting events.[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 9 - Tennessee Firebird: American country music before and after Elvis. [Part 1]" (audio). Pop Chronicles. Digital.library.unt.edu. 
  2. ^ a b c "Felice Bryant", Songwriters Hall of Fame, accessed 24 June 2016
  3. ^ "Kris Kristofferson tells the story behind 'Me and Bobby McGee'". Performingsongwriter.com. Retrieved 2014-07-26. 
  4. ^ "CHART GALLERY 10 CHARTS 41-61". Dave McAleer. Retrieved 2014-07-26. 
  5. ^ BPI Communications and Joel Whitburn's Record Research Publications
  6. ^ Bill Williams, Our Stories: Rocky Top. WBIR.com, 19 November 2008. Retrieved: 20 September 2009.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Kingsbury, Paul. (1998). "Felice and Boudleaux Bryant". In The Encyclopedia of Country Music. Paul Kingsbury, Editor. pp. 63–64.

External links[edit]