Pop, country songwriter Felice Bryant, 77, dies

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

— Felice Bryant, who with her husband wrote "Bye Bye Love" and other Everly Brothers hits and the hand-clapping bluegrass standard "Rocky Top," died Tuesday. She was 77.

Bryant, who had been diagnosed with cancer, died at her Gatlinburg home, said Caroline Davis, spokeswoman for the songwriters licensing agency BMI.


AP File Photo

Songwriter Felice Bryant, left, is inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame by Barbara Mandrell on Oct. 2, 1991, in Nashville, Tenn. Bryant died Tuesday at her home in Gatlinburg, Tenn. She was 77. Among her songwriting credits is "Rocky Top," which has become the fight song for the University of Tennessee.

Her husband, Boudleaux, who died in 1987, and she wrote or co-wrote 800 recorded songs cut by more than 500 vocalists. Their songs have accounted for approximately 500 million in sales.

Some of their other big hits include the Everlys' "Wake Up Little Susie," "We Could," recorded by various artists including Jim Reeves and Al Martino, and "Raining in My Heart," recorded by Buddy Holly, Dean Martin and Ray Price.

Others who recorded songs by the Bryants included Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead, the Beach Boys, Tony Bennett, Simon & Garfunkel, Ray Charles, Roy Orbison and Sarah Vaughan.

The couple began writing songs together when Boudleaux Bryant set his wife's poetry to music. Their first major success was "Country Boy" by Little Jimmy Dickens in 1948.

They were among the first in Nashville to make songwriting a full-time career. The Bryants were elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1991 and inducted into the National Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1986.

"Rocky Top," written in 10 minutes in 1968 and recorded by the Osborne Brothers, became a state song in 1982, joining "Tennessee Waltz" and others. It has been the fight song for the University of Tennessee athletic teams since the early 1970s, whipping football crowds into a frenzy at Neyland Stadium.

The song, with a bouncy beat, is about a secluded spot in the Smoky Mountains where there's no "smoggy smoke" or telephone bills. "Corn don't grow at all on Rocky Top, dirt's too rocky by far," the song says. "That's why all the folks on Rocky Top get their corn from a jar."

Her husband did most of the melody writing and she provided the lyrics. Alone, Boudleaux Bryant also wrote "All I Have to Do Is Dream" and "Devoted to You," both recorded by the Everly Brothers, and "Love Hurts," recorded by Orbison.

Survivors include two sons.