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Boudleaux Bryant 6/1987

boudleaux-bryantJune 25, 1987 – Diadorius Boudleaux Bryant was born on February 13, 1920 in Shellman, Georgia. he was trained as a classical violinist and during the 1937–38 season he performed with the Atlanta Philharmonic Orchestra, yet was more interested in country “fiddling.”

He joined Hank Penny and his Radio Cowboys, an Atlanta-based western music band and slowly started moving towards jazz, when in 1945 he 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, still a teenager, she sang and directed shows at the local USO.

Bryant and Scaduto eloped two days after meeting. Their song, “All I Have To Do Is Dream,” is autobiographical for Felice. She was working as an elevator operator at the Sherwood Hotel in Milwaukee, 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.

By himself and as a couple they went on to become one of the greatest songwriter teams in country pop music history. His wife Felice Bryant died in 2003. The husband-and-wife country music and pop songwriting team are best known for songs such as “Raining In My Heart”, “Wake up little Susie”, “Rocky Top,” “Love Hurts” and numerous Everly Brothers hits, including “All I Have to Do Is Dream” and “Bye Bye Love”.

Beginning in 1957 they came to national prominence in both country music and pop music when they wrote a string of hugely successful songs for the Everly Brothers and hits for others such as Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly. Their compositions were recorded by many artists from a variety of musical genres, including Tony Bennett, Sonny James, Eddy Arnold, Bob Moore, Charley Pride, Nazareth, Jim Reeves, Leo Sayer, Simon & Garfunkel, Sarah Vaughan, The Grateful Dead, Elvis Costello, Count Basie, Dean Martin, Ray Charles, Gram Parsons, Bob Dylan and others.

In those days the Bryants lived not far from Nashville on Old Hickory Lake in Hendersonville, Tennessee, near friends Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash. In 1978 however, 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 and by the late ’80s, it was estimated that Boudleaux and Felice’s warehouse of songs, had sold over 300 million copies worldwide. In 1972 they had been inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, in 1986 into the Songwriters Hall of Fame; and in 1991 the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.

During their career, the Bryants earned 59 BMI country, pop, and R&B music awards. Boudleaux Bryant is the third most successful songwriter of the 1950s on the UK Singles Chart, his wife Felice the 21st.

Boudleaux died on June 25, 1987 at the age of 67.

Interesting Sideline Anecdote:

“The title came from [producer and Monument Records founder] Fred Foster. He called one night and said, ‘I’ve got a song title for you. It’s “Me and Bobby McKee.”’ I thought he said ‘McGee.’ Bobby McKee was the secretary of Boudleaux Bryant, who was in the same building with Fred. Then Fred says, ‘The hook is that Bobby McKee is a she. How does that grab you?’ (Laughs) I said, ‘Uh, I’ll try to write it, but I’ve never written a song on assignment.’ So it took me a while to think about.

“There was a Mickey Newbury song that was going through my mind—‘Why You Been Gone So Long?’ It had a rhythm that I really liked. I started singing in that meter.

“For some reason, I thought of La Strada, this Fellini film, and a scene where Anthony Quinn is going around on this motorcycle and Giulietta Masina is the feeble-minded girl with him, playing the trombone. He got to the point where he couldn’t put up with her anymore and left her by the side of the road while she was sleeping. Later in the film, he sees this woman hanging out the wash and singing the melody that the girl used to play on the trombone. He asks, ‘Where did you hear that song?’ And she tells him it was this little girl who had showed up in town and nobody knew where she was from, and later she died. That night, Quinn goes to a bar and gets in a fight. He’s drunk and ends up howling at the stars on the beach. To me, that was the feeling at the end of ‘Bobby McGee.’ The two-edged sword that freedom is. He was free when he left the girl, but it destroyed him. That’s where the line ‘Freedom’s just another name for nothing left to lose’ came from.

“The first time I heard Janis Joplin’s version was right after she died. Paul Rothchild, her producer, asked me to stop by his office and listen to this thing she had cut. Afterwards, I walked all over L.A., just in tears. I couldn’t listen to the song without really breaking up. So when I came back to Nashville, I went into the Combine Publishing building late at night, and I played it over and over again, so I could get used to it without breaking up. Songwriter and keyboardist Donnie Fritts came over and listened with me, and we wrote a song together that night about Janis, called ‘Epitaph’. “‘Bobby McGee’ was the song that made the difference for me. Every time I sing it, I still think of Janis.”- Kris Kristofferson

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