April 22, 2003 – Felice Bryant was born Matilda Genevieve Scaduto on August 7, 1925. One half of the wife and husband country/pop music songwriting team who were also at the forefront of the evolution of pop music.
With her husband, Boudleaux, the two wrote numerous Everly Brothers’ hits including the autobiographical “All I Have to Do Is Dream” and “Bye Bye Love”. Their prolific and quality compositions would produce hit records for many stars from a variety of musical genres including Tony Bennett, Bob Moore, Simon and Garfunkel, Sonny James, Eddy Arnold, Charley Pride, Nazareth, Jim Reeves, Leo Sayer, Sarah Vaughan, Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly, the Grateful Dead, Elvis Costello, Count Basie, Dean Martin, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan among many others. They formed one of the most potent songwriting teams in country pop history.
In her late teens, Felice was an elevator operator at the Sherwood Hotel and when she saw him she recognized him immediately – she had seen his face in a dream she had when she was eight years old, and had “looked for him forever.” She was nineteen when she saw him at a water fountain in the hotel, ran up and accidentally drenched him with water and offered to buy him a drink.
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).
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, 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, Bob Dylan (Dylan’s Self Portrait album has one of Felice’s tracks and one co-written with her husband), and others.
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. Fred Foster also noticed that Boudleaux had a secretary, Bobby McKee, and he suggested that Kris Kristofferson use her name in a song, which became Me and Bobby McGee.
The Bryants eventually moved to a home 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, where they had often gone to write songs, including “Rocky Top,” at The Gatlinburg Inn. 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, adopted as a state song of Tennessee in 1982 and the unofficial fight song for the University of Tennessee sports teams. They wrote more than 1,500 recorded songs.
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, in 1991 into 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, Felice the 21st.
Boudleaux Bryant died in 1987. Felice Bryant remained active writing songs and in 1991 the Nashville Arts Foundation honored her with their “Living Legend Award”. She died from cancer on April 22, 2003 at the age of 77.