The markedly old-fashioned "Rocky Top," a banjo tune made famous by the Osborne Brothers and immortalized by University of Tennessee football fans, only dates back to 1967: The year when the husband-and-wife songwriting team of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant penned the song during a visit to Gatlinburg, Tenn.
That ageless classic, plus quite a few popular hits that sound more like something from the '60s, highlight a catalog of songs impacting seemingly every style of popular music.
Diadorius Boudleaux Bryant (Feb. 13, 1920 - June 25, 1987) was born in Shellman, Georgia and came of age in Atlanta, where he worked as local radio star Hank Penny's fiddler. While playing a tour stop near Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1945, he met Matilda Genevieve Scaduto, the future Felice Bryant (Aug. 7, 1925 - April 22, 2003).
The young couple struggled to sell their songs until Little Jimmy Dickens found success in 1948 with "Country Boy." Within two years, the Bryant family lived in Nashville as full-time songwriters.
Soon, the couple hosted dinners at their home where Fred Rose of Acuff-Rose fame and other influential publishers listened to new songs after eating Felice's famous pasta sauce. These dinner meetings resulted in country chart entries for the likes of Sonny James, Carl Smith, Jim Reeves, Eddy Arnold, Red Foley and others.
Yet the Bryant's greatest gifts to popular music came when they began writing songs for country-bred, pop-friendly duo The Everly Brothers. Oldies radio fixtures "Bird Dog," "Bye Bye Love," "All I Have to Do is Dream," "Take a Message to Mary" and "Wake Up Little Susie" were written by one or both members of the Bryant family.
An equally influential artist straddling the line between country and pop-rock, Roy Orbison, cut Boudleaux's "Love Hurts" in 1961. The song, first cut by The Everly Brothers, fit the repertoires of a wide range of artists, from Traffic co-founcer Jim Capaldi to icons of hard rock (Nazareth) and pop (Cher).
Additional artists to record Bryant family compositions include Simon & Garfunkel, Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, Charley Pride, Buddy Holly, Ray Charles, Tony Bennett, Dean Martin, Frankie Laine and Bob Dylan.
For their impact on popular music, Felice and Boudleaux were inducted into Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and the Country Music Hall of Fame.
The Bryant's had two sons, Dane and Del Bryant. Del worked at one point as head of BMI and played a role in the Country Music Hall of Fame's presentation of the House of Bryant archives through the exhibit We Could: The Songwriting Artistry of Boudleaux and Felice Bryant.